The Dark Side of Hip Hop: Drug Use and Abuse in Rap

Anti Drug Rap Music and Hip Hop

Rappers have long drew inspiration from drug use and abuse. From codeine syrup (or lean) to molly, drugs have become part of hip-hop culture.

Previous research has found that alcohol and illicit drug use as well as aggressive behaviors are related to music preference. Bivariate analyses showed that club music, rap, heavy metal, and punk were significantly associated with levels of substance use and aggression.

De La Soul – No More Heroin

De La Soul was one of the first hip-hop groups to incorporate socially conscious themes in their music. They did so with clever wordplay and a quirky sense of humor.

The group’s debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, was a breakthrough. Its conceptual themes and collage-sampling technique inspired a generation of rappers, from alternative MCs like Public Enemy to gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A.

The MCs’ 1996 album Stakes Is High marked a turn toward more serious themes, and the production of Dilla’s avant-funk brilliance was a clear indicator of where their sound was headed. The album’s cover, featuring a planter full of dying daisies tipped over, was also iconic.

MC Jazzy Jeff – Don’t Mess With Her

DJ Jazzy Jeff has worn the title “The Magnificent” with pride since he founded his own production company, record label, and studio in 1990. He has been on the grind ever since, showcasing Philadelphia’s finest and working with hip-hop legends such as LL Cool J, Jean Grae, Floetry, and Last Emperor.

He became an international star with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, scoring scads of hits. But this album shows Jeff’s ability to hold his own without a partner. The production is refreshingly organic, utilizing a soulful blend of drums, strings, and keys. He enlists a mix of in-house and underground luminaries to sink their teeth into this gourmet meal.

Melle Mel – Don’t Get High

Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” was one of the first Hip Hop records to offer social commentary on inner-city poverty, but it was Melle Mel’s plummy, authoritative performance and adlibs that made the record a hit. It was the first time a rapper had sung on a rap record.

But when Sugar Hill owner Sylvia Robinson tried to get a rapper to record this follow-up, they weren’t interested. “White Lines” was too slow and depressing to fit with rap music’s upbeat party vibe.

Fast forward to this year, and Pusha T is using a remix of “White Lines” for the movie Cocaine Bear. The song is perfect to bring the film’s plot of cocaine-filled duffle bag falling from a plane and being ingested by a bear to life.

Young MC – Don’t Mess With Drugs

Young MC’s debut album Stone Cold Rhymin’ was full of fun radio friendly tracks. But this one has a more serious message about the path drugs can lead you down.

The song narrates the story of a guy who seems to be hapless with women, but then gets lucky by dancing with a girl in the park and later becoming the best man at her wedding. The catchy beat and uplifting lyrics made it popular with people of all ages and helped make rap music more acceptable to a wider audience.

In 2008 Young MC released the online collection of B-sides, Demos and Remixes entitled “Engage The Enzyme”. Many of the songs were licensed for use in film and television including the popular EA Sports Tiger Woods ’09 video game.

MC Shan – Don’t Mess With Drugs

MC Shan is one of Queensbridge’s most important emcees. He blazed his way through the scene in the late eighties, crafting classic albums like 1987’s inarguable classic Down By Law and 1989’s Born To Be Wild.

He also crafted this early warning track, which tackles the early crack cocaine epidemic head on with impressive lyrical gymnastics over a catchy go-go beat. The only problem is that the rhymes would have shined brighter without this corny hook. Still, crate diggers will appreciate this song. Also, it’s great to see the legendary MC in full Juice Crew soldier mode. He even gets cameos from Roxanne Shante and Biz Markie!

Biz Markie – Don’t Mess With Drugs

The self-proclaimed clown prince of Hip Hop was a notorious collector of pop culture memorabilia, boasting of his massive collection of Rock ’Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Mad magazines, trading cards, 12-inch singles, karate movie posters and lunch boxes. He was also a talented rapper-DJ, known for his beatboxing skills and turntable mastery.

Biz Markie broke into mainstream music with this classic from his sophomore album, The Biz Never Sleeps. The track gives three examples – in typical Biz Markie fashion – of how drugs can mess up your life. A dope Marley Marl beat and classic Biz Markie bars make this a must listen.

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