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A High Note: Drug Misuse in Popular Rap Music

But African-Americans are 20 percent more likely than the general population to endure a severe mental health disorder, such as major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Lil Wayne isn’t the only rap artist to deal with drug dependence. A number of rappers of all backgrounds have grappled with substance use disorders. In songs and interviews, Jay-Z has discussed the ubiquity of drugs he saw while growing up in Brooklyn in the 1980s. The streets of New York were rife with illicit substances, and Jay-Z saw evidence of crack use everywhere.

  • A few famous rap stars who are sober even inspired other hip hop stars to kick their addictions for good.
  • In his song “Finish Line/Drown,” he explained how his addiction to Xanax led to memory problems and lost opportunities in his career.

Xanax is a benzodiazepine that is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. The drug slows brain activity, helping people feel relaxed. Because of its euphoric properties, a host of rappers over the years — from Eminem to Kanye West — have espoused the drug in music.

Famous Rappers Who Overcame Drug Addiction

I sit on the couch and play PlayStation with my friends. Maybe I’ll be freestyling in a park, but in terms of making albums, it’s going to be impossible. Eminem has spoken candidly about his past struggles with substance use.

  • After the incident, he picked himself up and got sober in 2008.
  • Several other rappers, from Macklemore to Kendrick Lamar, have relayed the dangers of drug abuse through song.
  • The singer had long suffered with prescription drug abuse and had used a number of aliases to access the drugs he took.
  • In spite of the never-ending generational divide amongst Hip Hop fans, the common enemy of addiction continues to cut through the lives and careers of rap legends young and old.
  • The song is primarily about the deadly pull of hard drugs, and the self loathing that accompanies abuse.

While cocaine dominated the first half of the 2000s, another trend was brewing. Three 6 Mafia’s “Sippin’ On Some Syrup” and Big Moe’s City Of Syrup set the stage for hip-hop’s new drug of choice—lean. DJ Screw passed away in 2000 and UGK’s Pimp C died from a codeine overdose in 2007, right around the time Lil Wayne was diving in head first. While it’s a misguided notion to squarely place blame on rappers, or the even broader stroke of “Hip Hop” for brandishing drug culture, a positive reflection in the public eye shouldn’t go unnoticed. People of all backgrounds can experience mental illness.


To make matters even more dire, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been solely blamed for making the nation’s drug epidemic “worse,” so reports the American Medical Association. To close out 2021, President Joe Biden launched dual executive orders to combat what they call a “billion-dollar business” responsible for the deaths of 100,000 Americans in just the span of a year. Yet, this country has seen “war on drugs” initiatives crash and burn in the past — a point JAY-Z so confidently pointed out in 2016.

  • Due to the large drug use prominent in Hip Hop culture, many rappers have been in and out of rehab in an effort to achieve sobriety.
  • In 2005, Eminem went to rehab and successfully achieved sobriety after spending time there.
  • As Gucci said, “that shit ain’t no joke.” He claims to barely remember all the things he’s done, and he’s going into rehab while under incarceration.
  • Eminem has spoken candidly about his past struggles with substance use.

“Not Afraid” is a single from his Recovery album, and is a triumphant anthem about overcoming struggles to stand proud. Eminem has used much of his music as an outlet for the inner demons and personal challenges he has faced. You know who else beat addiction and got his own television show? Not that he’s totally out of the red zone (he recently had to close down a bunch of fast-food chicken restaurants), but at least he’s no longer battling an addiction to crack. In the early ’90s, Flav caught some flak from his fellow Public Enemy members for showing up late to shows, but they didn’t even know the real problem.

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T.I is the mastermind behind the paper trail album. OxyContin was the substance of interest and it affected him to the point that he had to seek help in rehab. That was when he realized, smoking and drinking was bad for his life. In 2008 during his interview with Howard Stern, he said drinking has no benefits, and if someone can forgo it, it would be better for their health and life. T.I also hinted that recovery requires different ways, so you need to be cooperative to ensure you have the best outcomes. Rehab is not for anyone but for the addict to rejuvenate his system and become a sober person.

rappers with drug addiction

We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help. Macklemore penned this tribute to his friend Kevin, who passed away from an overdose of prescription pain pills in 2010. The song appeared on his album sober rappers “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made”, and contains numerous references to Oxycontin and the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. Addiction is an isolating disease that draws us further and further away from those closest to us.