la chula crew foundation No Chula left behind
la chula crew foundation No Chula left behind
“Life can bring much pain, there are many ways to deal with this pain, choose wisely” - from the intro to J. Cole's 5th studio album, KOD.
The music industry is the most common culprit for the glorification and condemnation of drugs. Artists such as J. Cole who created the album KOD, meaning Kill Our Demons, Kids On Drugs, and King Overdosed, and artists like the late Mac Miller who had a love-and-hate relationship with drugs and described how his mental health and drug addiction intertwined throughout his albums. It emphasizes the pain addiction can bring when it is used as a solution. There are many types of addictions, however, the one I will be discussing today is in my opinion the most prevalent addiction in society, drug addiction.
“So what we get drunk, so what we smoke weed, we’re just having fun, we don't care who sees” - young, wild, and free by Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg ft. Bruno Mars
If music is a reflection of society then there is a divide present. One side stands the Glorification of Drugs which is seen throughout multiple song lyrics in the hip-hop/rap genre. Music can sometimes act as an accidental advertisement to those listening. Drugs have been accidentally advertised as either a peaceful escape from life's problems or as the best way to enjoy life in general.
Albums such as the Chronic 2001 by Dr. Dre mention the use of marijuana through chilled and innovative instrumentals, acting as an anthem for smokers throughout California. The original intention when creating this album was for Dr.Dre to reinvent his sound and story and along the way, he created an anthem for smokers all around California, with the album going down in history as a classic installment to the hip hop/ rap genre. It is a fun listen with both a nostalgic and refreshing feeling. However, with lines like “Treat rap like Cali weed, I smoke till I sleep” and the most iconic line “Smoke weed everyday” from the song, The Next Episode, it is bound to give the message to young listeners that smoking weed is fun and will make you feel how this album makes you feel, even if it wasn't the original intention. It can also trigger cravings in those who are recovering and who grew up listening to that music.
“I don't know what happened to me, But as soon as it hit I was f*ckin free, it took me somewhere off the map, and I don't think ill ever find my way back” - Vitamins by Mac Miller - Macadelic album - 2012
Other artists such as Mac Miller had many references to drugs as an escape from his problems and negative thoughts. For most artists drugs act as a coping mechanism to their problems which they then rap about, expressing their journey through life. Earl Sweatshirt rapped about coping with his grandmother's death by drinking alcohol in his song “Huey”; Kid Cudi rapped about depending on marijuana to function in his song “Marijuana”; Mac Miller rapped about finally feeling free from negative thoughts in his song “Colors and Shapes”. Without any context to these songs or artists, the use of drugs seems to be a peaceful and easy solution to life's problems, however, what the listeners don't see is the mental toll this addiction weighs in their lives. Without context, artists sharing their way of coping with life's problems can glorify drugs and their effects on a person, disregarding the negative aspects, even if it wasn't the intention. For artists like Mac Miller, it begins to be a problem when the audience begins to glorify the artist’s struggles and almost dehumanize him.
“Someone can be like ‘you are the greatest thing ever’ (or) ‘you suck’, like that's how I started my day” - Mac Miller in Apple Music Interview
A huge reason why Mac Miller turned an eye to drugs was because of the criticism he received after releasing his debut album, Blue Side Park (2011), An album about him enjoying life and being a kid. The criticism began to take a toll on his mental health, causing him to experiment with different types of drugs. He then developed a strong dependency on lean during his tour for his mixtape, macadelic (2012). “I love lean; it’s great… I was not happy and I was on lean very heavy,” Miller says. “I was so f*cked up all the time it was bad. My friends couldn’t even look at me the same. I was lost.” As years passed he had this on-and-off battle with drugs. In 2018, he and Ariana Grande parted ways, followed by a car incident in which Mac Miller received a DUI, he then disappeared from the public eye. 3 months after he had released his second latest album, Swimming, where he raps about his mindset, his failures, his accomplishments, and his ways of coping. In an interview with Apple Music, following the album, Mac Miller explained how the public eye has taken a toll on his mental health still. “It was just too much”, Miller says, “Like I'm looking in the internet and I'm like, like I already had my own feelings and emotions and thoughts of what I went through… so why the f**k am I gonna have room for all of these.” That had been his last interview before his accidental overdose.
Whenever we make a decision there will always be a consequence whether good or bad. Using drugs for fun can lead to social dependency, using drugs to cope can lead to dependency, glorifying the use of drugs can lead to ignorance, and glorifying artists’ struggles can lead to dissociation from their clear cry for help. The effects of drug use have been reflected on the other side of music, which would be artists expressing their condemnation towards drugs.
“I know you say it helps, and no, I'm not tryna offend, But I know depression and drug addiction don't blend” - Friends by J. Cole
As J.Cole raps about the many reasons why a person would even consider turning to drugs to cope, such as societal expectations in lower class communities or the use of drugs in different cultures to bottle up emotions; neglecting problems; influenced by Music; Traumatic events; and influence from others around, he begins to describe the effect it has on his friends' mental health. He explains to the friend that he empathizes with their situation, however, J.Cole would rather see his friend use a different coping mechanism than see them lose themselves and possibly even kill themselves. As J. Cole emphasizes that no matter what they do, drugs are only a temporary distraction in which their problems will inevitably catch up with them, and advises his friend to face his problems rather than run away. Instead of helping a person's mental state, drugs alter the reality that they live in into a fantasy world full of euphoric feelings and numbness, though the comedown is a fall that a drug can only make worse, eventually leading to a strong dependency in needing to feel high all the time. The come down is the consequence as well as the deterioration of one's body when avoiding the comedown, It can only go away once you face it.
“But white lines be numbin them dark times/ The pills poppin, I need to man up/ Admit it’s a problem, I need to wake up/ Before one morning I don't wake up”- Perfect Circle/ Godspeed by Mac Miller
The most powerful lines Mac Miller wrote when realizing how powerful his addiction was, sadly foreshadowing the way he would eventually pass away. Mac Miller had taken the first step in this song by realizing he has a problem and is now seeking a change in the way he copes, explaining that he wanted to become sober again. Though, as life threw more obstacles at him he began to lose hope in seeking change within himself. Before passing away, he was in the works on his posthumous album, Circles, an album full of raw expression of his inner thoughts and perspectives on life and death. He threw lines in there such as “There's a whole lot for me waiting on the other side” and “I cannot be changed, I cannot be changed, no. Trust me I've tried, I just end up right at the start of the line, Drawing circles.” Before he could release the album himself he had passed away; listeners viewed this album as his final thoughts before being consumed by his addiction. It is a fact that Mac Miller never sought help for his drug addiction nor his mental health, leading Mac Miller to take it into his own hands which led to the event that feared him the most. As J. Cole said, “Depression and drug addiction don't blend/ Reality distorts and then you get lost in the wind.”
When rappers explain their hatred or use of drugs it is almost all the time associated with mental health. The effects drug abuse has on mental health can be detrimental which many artists can agree on, however, they also explain how it is the only way they know how to cope. The consequence is clear when taking this route and artists across the hip hop/ rap genre have rapped about these consequences or suffered a permanent one.
“I gotta leave this house 'cause part of me/Dies when I see her like this/Too young to deal with pain/I'd rather run the streets than see her kill herself” - Once an Addict by J.Cole
Not only do drugs affect a person's mental state, but they can also deteriorate their relationships with others. As rappers have expressed their concerns for loved ones and how it has affected them mentally when seeing them drowning in the addiction. In J. Cole's song, “Once an Addict”, he explains how difficult it is to see his mother under the influence every night and how she uses him to project her pain. In the rapper NF’s song, “How could you leave us?” He portrays his hatred towards pills because they took away a mother who he felt was absent most of his life because of her addiction. Both of these perspectives are powerful representations of what it feels like to live with someone who has been a victim of addiction. As the addiction becomes severe, it becomes difficult to differentiate who you are living with, the drug or the loved one. The difficulty in differentiating the two causes a relationship to bruise with those living with them. As we begin to feel helpless when we see those we love in pain, everyone in the same household would have to deal with the consequences.
Through my experience, Music has depicted the cause and effects that surround drug addiction in our society. As I have a father who has been struggling with addiction since I was born, living with him I have had to suffer those consequences explained by J. Cole. My father has explained to me that music has given him temptations to relapse, specifically the album Chronic 2001 because it was the music he grew up with that he associated with smoking. I also have older cousins who explained to me that to have fun in a social setting it is recommended to drink or smoke, though, it is the same cousins that cannot enjoy a family outing sober. With one of my cousins, I noticed that after an intense argument with their father, they would cope by smoking, however, I couldn't blame him, he was never given the proper guidance nor has someone explained to him there are other ways to cope, the only influences he had was his surroundings, which involved substance abuse. I grew up with those around me smoking marijuana and drinking as young as the age of 13, at some point, I believed it to be normal. Each experience in my environment has been reflected through music, each song having more than 100,000 listens shows how others have been exposed to the same glorification and have heard the same condemnations.
“I need somebody to save me/ Before I drive myself crazy” - I can see by Mac Miller
The first step in helping is recognizing the signs. If you begin to notice that someone around you has been coping by abusing drugs, let them know what you have noticed and inform them of alternative solutions. If they refuse to admit that there is a problem, let a trusted adult know what you have been noticing. If the person is an adult then try to have a serious conversation with them about what you have been noticing and emphasize that you're telling them out of concern, not out of judgment.
If you begin to notice that you are developing an addiction but are unsure, reflect on whether the negatives outweigh the positives. For example, ask yourself if you are using a substance in a controlled manner or if it's affecting your social life and/or mental state. What could be once or twice can turn into a habit, a habit can turn into an addiction, and an addiction can turn into a problem. If those around you begin to mention it and seem concerned then maybe reflect a little more on whether or not it has turned into a problem.
“Life can bring much pain, there are many ways to deal with this pain, choose wisely.” - Intro to KOD by J. Cole
If you have made it this far into the blog and are wondering what other ways are there to cope besides drugs, below is a list of different activities that could help with recovery from drug addiction or as a way to handle the stress of life without the use of drugs.
This list was found at https://www.gatewayfoundation.org/addiction-blog/. This blog is meant to be a commentary on music and its representation of drugs as well as personal insight. If you are interested in seeking more information on drug addiction please visit the gateway foundation website or check out lachulacrew.org’s Recovery & Substance Abuse Support.