Recent Deaths in the Hip Hop Community
By: Brandon Llamas
“To everyone who sell me drugs, don't mix it with that bullsh*t. I'm hoping not to join the 27 club,” said musician Mac Miller on “Brand Name” off his 2015 album GO:OD AM. On September 7, 2018, Miller overdosed and passed away at 26-years old.
“Until I can stop thinking about my dead homies an the trauma that I been thru in my life that’s when I’ll stop (taking drugs),” said another musician, Fredo Santana, in response to an infamous anti-drug tweet from rapper Russ. On January 19, 2018, Santana, after struggling with kidney and liver failure, suffered a fatal seizure and passed away at 27-years old.
“Running away from you takes time and pain, and I don't even want to. So, I'm getting high all week without you, popping pills, thinking about you,” said yet another musician, Lil Peep, on “U Said” from his 2017 album, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1. On November 15, 2017, Peep overdosed and passed away at 21-years old.
These are only a few of the many talented artists that prescription drugs such as Xanax, Codeine, and Oxycontin have taken the lives of. In the past decade or so, these drugs have reached massive amounts of popularity, and the consequences are becoming more and more apparent.
The motives for altering one's mind to such an extent range from heartbreak to enlightenment, which make it a difficult issue to tackle. One could make the argument that, in regulated doses, drugs can increase creativity or productivity, which make them worth the health hazards. Another could argue that the risk for dependency is too high for artists in compromised mental states, and that they should be avoided at all costs. It comes down to personal ability to handle oneself, and seeking support when it is needed.
The environment which many musicians operate in today is one that normalizes self-medication and pushing the boundaries of the mind and body, as the general masses are familiar with rappers talking about drugs. It is easier for an artist to find more commercial success with a story people are accustomed to hearing, which puts pressure on artists who want to tell their own story, but also want to support themselves financially.
“Not enough attention is brought to it (substance abuse). It’s constantly glorified throughout the community. People paint it out to be this very elegant and normal thing that a lot of rappers do, and participate in, when it’s very harmful... I don’t think enough light is shown on how destructive it is,” said junior Bruno Francis-Hall, an independent musician himself.
It is all too easy to listen to a musician speaking about their experiences with drug use and to dismiss it as glorification, regardless of their intentions. Artists that speak on past, current, or future experiences in their music may be using it as a reflection of the culture around them, so to write them off as another strung-out rapper would be incorrect.
However, many walk a very fine line between promotion and condemnation, such as rapper Lil Xan, who claims that he is part of an anti-Xanax movement after struggling with addiction, but takes his name from the drug itself. While his intentions as an artist may be positive, the negative repercussions are obvious, and the anti-criticism attitude that many artists on the rise hold make it difficult to understand the impact they have on their audience.
Senior A.J. Neff, another musician, discussed this topic.
“I think it really is because with social media, people can glorify drugs, you know, posing with the lean bottle, posing with the perc’s and the oxy’s. We have the very impressionable youth, like us high schoolers, watching this whole rap game, wanting to be like… these people who are rapping. A lot of these rappers will get more views on their Instagram than their music, and what gets the clicks… are the drugs and the fun, the parties.”
“I think kids don’t realize how sad addiction is, and how serious addiction and depression are, and I think it’s important to look at the root. Not bashing on people who are addicted to drugs, but look at where that originally came from, and why you started doing them,” he said.