In recent years, much attention has been paid to the prevalence of lyrics glorifying the use of drugs in Rap music. In addition to decades of references to alcohol and cannabis, over the last few years, a number of artists have rapped about MDMA (aka Molly) and other substances, including prescription-strength cough syrup mixed with another beverage. Overdoses related to the use of codeine and other prescription cough medications have taken away beloved members of the Hip-Hop community like Pimp C and A$AP Yams, and the drug’s ubiquitous presence has led to major outlets running headlines like “How Lean Killed Hip-Hop” and “How Lean Is Killing Both Rappers And The Culture Of Hip-Hop.”
From a broader perspective, drug use in general has always been a staple of Hip-Hop (and a source of repeated critique), but by no means is that a characteristic of the Rap genre. Marijuana, cocaine, pharmaceuticals, hallucinogens, and other intoxicants (not to mention, alcohol) go hand-in-hand with music of all kinds. Country, Jazz, Pop, Electronic, Rock, Folk, and any lyrical subgenre imaginable include mention of getting high, but it’s Rap that gets a bad rap. But a new study seems to prove that, compared to other genres listed, Rap music mentions drug use the least.
As seen on Okayplayer, an addiction-focused website conducted a study comparing lyrics to the world’s most popular genres to gain insight into which type of music contains the most frequent mention of drugs. Mining data from Songmeanings, a song lyric and meaning platform that allows users to track artists, Addictions.com examined whether drug references have become more common over the decades since we began recording music. Their examination found that, during the years spanning 1970 and the late 2000s, “the number of illicit substances mentioned in song lyrics spiked,” and ” drug use is still mentioned far more frequently in music today than the years before MTV.”
The following terms, both slang and otherwise, were included in the study:
acid, Adderall, addy, ativan, bars, blotter, blow, blues, blunt, bud, buddha, chronic, cid, cocaine, coke, crack, crank, dank, dope, dose, doses,dro, ecstasy, gak, h, heroin, hydro, ice, joint, key, lean, lortab, LSD, lucy, Marijuana, MDMA, meth, methamphetamine, microdot, molly, morphine, oxy, oxycontin, perc, Percocet, Percocets, piff, pill, pot, powder, purp, Promethazine, roxy, speed,sizzurp, spliff, syrup, tab, tabs, tar, tweak, upper, Valium, vicodin, weed, white, x, and Xanax.
As explained by the website, all collected mentions were re-examined “to make sure the lyrics were in fact about drugs and not another definition of these nicknames.” The data was then regrouped into categories: pills (which includes all opiates except heroin, benzodiazepines, sleep medication, and ADHD medication), heroin, marijuana, LSD, cocaine (which includes both crack cocaine and cocaine), ecstasy (This includes MDMA and molly), and meth.
In addition to the genres above, the study examined “Other” and found that Country, Jazz, and Pop music lead the pack when it comes to frequency of illicit substances being mentioned in lyrics. Electronic, Rock, Other, and Folk music all mention drugs more than Rap lyrics, according to the study, but that isn’t the whole story. As a whole, Country music appears to mention drugs more often, but when it comes to the number of drugs mentioned in music, Rappers lead the way. “An analysis on the number of drug references by artists shows Hip-Hop dominating the field, even with drugs not typically associated with the scene,” says the report, pointing to the fact that Rap music mentions more different kinds of drugs than any other genre.
Of those rappers, Eminem, The Game, Lil Wayne, Jay Z, Tech N9ne, Too Short, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Redman are cited as mentioning drugs the most in their lyrics. While Redman may be thought of as one of Rap music’s most outspoken proponents of marijuana use, Slim Shady’s frequent mention of other forms of drugs – mostly prescription pills – earns him the dubious honor of besting all others on that list. However, he’s still not the Hip-Hop artist with the most drug mentions overall. That honor belongs to the Kottonmouth Kingz, who mention illicit drugs – overwhelmingly marijuana – more than Jay Z and Redman combined.
Another, less surprising, revelation to come from this study is that “over 30% of all drug mentions” in the music analyzed in the study refers to marijuana in one way or another, making Mary Jane the single-most talked about substance in music. At 22%, cocaine is runner-up and followed by acid, pills, methamphetamines, heroin and ecstasy.
For more information, read the full study from Addictions.com, which also provides support for those suffering with addiction.