Beats, Rhymes …. and Percocets

…drugs are a symptom of an underlying issue. You see it in hip-hop…. These kids come from nothing. Young black men experience a lot of trauma. They’ve lost people, seen violence, been humiliated by society. So they turn to alcohol, molly … lean.”-Vic Mensa

90s – Ten Crack Commandments

Drugs are not new to hip hop. In the 90s, hip hop was inundated with drug dealers turned rappers and their reality based rap, labeled “gangsta rap” to conservatives, that told their real stories slinging everything from weed, crack, and heroine, always strapped, and kicking in the door.The lyrics and beats were raw, with samples were from urban records that were played while their parents had card parties and drank Cisco and Olde E in the basement with blue lights.

Jay-Z
Biggie
Snoop
Ice Cube
Ice-T
Jeezy
50cent
Eazy E
T.I.
Members of Wu Tang
The Clipse
Master P
Game

… have all rapped about life as drug dealers. It’s a very common phenomenon. In the 90s on the urban streets of LA, the South, or New York, hip hop culture was taking over and the crack epidemic was live and in living color… so it’s no surprise the world’s collided. So common, Master P made a song with a recipe to “make crack like this” and Biggie gave us the Ten Crack Commandments, rules of the game. While UGK gave us the process of drug selling from connect, to seller, to addict in Pocket Full of Stones. Many of the first rap conglomerates were funded with the proceeds of drug sales. Rap was a way out of that life for most of these rappers. The music industry gave these dudes a legit way to make money and a legal opportunity to flex their stellar business skills.

I used to move snowflakes by the O-Z/I guess even back then you can call me/CEO of the R-O-C.” -Jay-Z

2000- Sipping on Some Sizzurp

Old school guys talked of smoking weed by the pound, but “never [got] high on [their] own supply”, so stories of partaking of heavy drugs laced the lyrics until….

Enter… lean.

Lean … a concoction made of some combination of codeine cough syrup, candy, and pop (soda for the non Michigan folks)… also known as sizzurp, a popular Texas drug cocktail, gained popularity after Texas rappers Three6Mafia and UGK made the song Sipping on some Syrup in 2000. It was a concoction famous in Houston since the 60s, when it was made with Robitussin and fruit juice . We all know a little Tussin could cure everything from a cold to an ingrown toenail… or at least dull the pain. After it’s formula was changed, prescription codeine cough syrup was substituted and often taken in combination with other drugs and alcohol for a deadly combination. Popular Houston musician DJ Screw, famous for his chopped and screwed songs died of an overdose of lean in 2000.

Lean induced a mouthfeel (that’s what I have read cuz ain’t no way I’m drinking this gasoline) that slurred speech and slowed the motor coordination of the tongue. It’s also said to cause feelings of floating. Such was the music. You can hear the influence of the drugs on chopped and screwed songs … the slowed down and sort of disorganized and slurred beats. Listen to Still Tippin Chopped and Screwed by Mike Jones…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_pTxh4HXv0&feature=share

It spread in popularity in the South as young rappers from New Orleans, Florida, and Atlanta could be seen with a styrofoam cups they sipped from in videos, interviews, and concerts. The potent mix was said to cause everything from liver and respiratory failure to seizures and ultimately could cause death. Many professional rappers and athletes have admitted to being users and suffering health complications as a result.

Yeah, I’m on that gas and yeah, I’m on that lean. We mix it all together and we call it gasolean -2Chainz

2007- I Feel Like Dying

In 2007, Lil Wayne was experiencing his opus. He was literally and figuratively flying high after releasing The Carter II , several popular mixtapes, and appearing on every hot feature and remix. He was also wildly popular, especially among young Black and White kids in the skater and emo culture.

Wayne’s I Feel Like Dying, leaked from his sessions making The Carter 3. This song was the oddly romantic love song to weed, lean, and Xanax that basically describes withdrawal as “dying”, as compared to feeling of being high. It ushered in emo-rap, rap about emotions, depression, suicide, and drug use that was usually set to hazy, melodic and slow rock, blues or punk samples. According to the Drug Slang in Hip Hop Project, 2007 was the year words like Xanax, Percocet, and Valium became apart of rap’s lyrics. But lean didn’t love Wayne.

Rappers became users and victims when UGK rapper Pimp C and DJ Screw protege, Big Moe both died of lean induced overdoses in 2007. In 2013, Lil Wayne was hospitalized several times, from drug induced seizures, brought on by complications from consuming lean. While gaining commercial success their personal lives were being robbed by drug use.

I am a prisoner locked up behind Xanax bars.” -Lil Wayne

2017-present – Everyone Dies in their Nightmares

Can’t get a wink ‘less I’m leaning off of syrup/Dreaming of my past like a nightmare so I wake up-Danny Brown

Last Sunday , 21 year old rapper, Jarad “Juice WRLD” Higgins, died in a suspected drug overdose after a seizure at Chicago’s Midway airport. Federal officials were searching his luggage for drugs and weapons at the time and found 41 “vacuum-sealed” bags of marijuana totaling 70 pounds and six bottles of prescription codeine cough syrup during the search. He’s one of many young rappers to die from drug overdose in the last few years, including Lil Peep, Mac Miller, and XXXTentacion.

What’s the 27 club? We ain’t making it past 21.“- Juice WRLD

Many high profile celebrities died at the age of 27 including Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Amy Winehouse, many by drug or alcohol related causes. But it’s not uncommon today to hear these young rappers dying at 21. Juice, Lil Peep, and XXXTentacion were all 21 years old at the time of their deaths. And while the latter was murdered in a robbery, all three were known in the rap game for their drug use and lyrics.

By 2017, 33% of hip hop on the Billboard charts mentioned drugs. Future’s Mask Off basically said fuck it, with its chorus “Percocets, Molly, Percocets” set to Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song’s” slow and bluesy melody, typical of emo-rap. The song outwardly spoke of blatant prescription drug use. It was “I Feel Like Dying” overdosing. And that’s just what was happening. Several rappers who had not only suffered from addiction but also depression, commonly co-dependent diseases, had lyrics laced with drug use.

Eminem
Lil Uzi Vert
Kid Cudi
Logic
Vic Mensa
Travis Scott
Lil Xa
Mac Miller , died 2017 overdose
XXXTentacion , died 2018 robber
Lil Peep , died 2017 overdose

These rappers talked of recurrent thoughts of suicide, depression, anxiety, and mania like rappers in the past talked about cars and women. Yet this new crop of largely millennial generation rappers were diving deep into their mental health challenges and dulled their pain with the surely large supplies of prescription drugs available to them. Once known mainly as a problem in suburban and more affluent areas, the influence of rap into mainstream and pop culture brought into it those same reciprocal influences. So drugs commonly prescribed as physical pain killers were being used to dull the senses. Yet these drugs taken together and without close monitoring by a physician was far too commonly leading to overdose. From seller to user. From gangsta to victim. From women, cars, and guns to Molly and Percocets.

Young or Lil. Chiefin or getting wet. Lean in the cup or xanys in the pockets. Art imitates life. Just like the East Coast v West Coast shit caused us to lose two of the greatest in the culture, Molly & Percocets are gonna leave us with fewer young talents in the industry as well. And thats just…

“…Self-Destruction, you’re headed for self-destruction.”

I deserve this, bye

Y’all know how I do… I applaud all dope girl shit, and don’t be Black too… cuz how does the saying go …

Speaking of Issa Rae…

Her speech at the Women in Film Awards was the stuff all dope girl shit is made of. It was witty, clever, creative, real, and absolutely awesome af. Sis said…” we are conditioned socially to be humble…and I grew up in the age of hip hop…. none of my favorite artists are humble, they don’t even know what that means…” She went on to give a hip hop inspired braggadocious speech about being the first to win the Entreprenuer award saying…”I’m the first so you future hoes need to bow down unless you wanna catch my fade, wit yo week ass!”

I was all 😂🤣, then all 🤷🏽‍♀️, then all ✊🏽! Listen here.

It was the epitome of litty!

But let’s be real, any woman who grew up in the 80s and early 90s and listened to LL, Big Daddy Kane, Special Ed, Snoop, Nas, Jay-Z, and Big L really can’t be faded. We excel then prevail. We was nice before ice. We could sell water to a well. Walking with a switch, talking with street slang. It ain’t hard to tell. We break em and bake em and rake em and take em and mold em and make em.  We will not lose, ever. We… are the magnificent.

That’s right, we are unapologetic about our shine in 20-1-9. It’s one of the most rewarding results of the impact of hip hop on the culture. It gave us permission to let a nigga know we the bomb, and… you can MOST CERTAINLY catch this fade.

So to all those that say be humble, we say…

…sit down!

That’s right, cop a squat, get comfortable, and if any of this confuses you… Lemme learn ya.

………..

This. IS. a public service announcement:

In 2015-2016 64% of all bachelor degrees awarded to Black students were earned by women. In that same year, 9.7% of Black women were enrolled in various college programs, higher than any other race or gender. (National Center for Education Statistics) We smart out in these streets.

From 1997-2013 companies started by Black women increased 258% and had revenue of $44.9 billion dollars. (Blackdemographics.com). We securing bags out in these streets.

In 2019 we have 22 Black women serving in Congress, out of only 42 in history, with Shirley Chisholm being the first elected Black female US Representative in 1969, and Carol MoseleyBraun serving as the first Senator in 1989. Today we got Auntie Maxine reminding us our time is valuable; Ayanna Pressley giving these white boys hell and hella sideeye; Ilhan Omar representing the culture and the struggle; and Jahana Hayes showing that teachers, perhaps the most important career professional, needs a seat at the table to represent the needs of our future. Too.much…sauce.

But it’s some hoes in this house, so…

We still make considerably less than any of our White or male counterparts, making 64 cents to a White man’s dollar. In the venture capitalist world, we get very little investment support for our ventures, making up only about three percent of investment dollars spent in 2016. There is currently only one Black woman that runs a Fortune 500 company, Mary Winston as as interim CEO of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, out of the 33 women in total. We own ZERO Fortune 500 companies. Even in the federal government, though Black women make up about 11% of the workforce, we are grossly underrepresented in the higher paying GS levels and SES level jobs. (opm.gov)

Our positioning is just one thing. We are forced to navigate issues of race and gender that others simply don’t have to consider. We are simply left out of the dominant cultures conversations and decision-making. We often have to find sponsors, particularly of color -which is challenging in itself, to help us get special projects, interviews, promotions. We are forced to code-switch as Black vernacular, style, and values, while copied by the majority, are not valued coming from us. If I hear blah blah blah “gurlfren”, or such and so’s “babee daddee” with some feigned attempt at colloquialism by my privileged co-workers, one more time, I might let out a tribal scream! We butt heads with Black men attempting to play a game of patriarchy they were never included in, with White women, whose feminism we simply don’t fit into, and even other Black women who have bought into the dim your light strategy. But yet…In the words of Antwon Fischer…”You couldn’t break me. I’m still standing. I’m still here!”

We figure that shit out, because we have no other choices. It may take us longer to break those ceilings, but when we get close we breaking holes in high definition, loud and clear! Many of us leave corporate America, with its racist and sexist ways, lack of diversity or inclusion, and failure to implement real family friendly policies, to bet on ourselves, bet on each other, invest in each other. We are designing furniture and sneakers. Moving from online Instagram boutiques to brick and mortar stores. Opening restaurants, and selling our cosmetic, food, and clothing lines in major retail stores.

We find ourselves growing apart from or just having to drop off those dim your light sistas and patriarchal brothas. So often we have to build our own supergroups. We epitomize the hip hop crew philosophy, get you a clique of like minded individuals with one goal… success. Like the Zulu Nation, Native Tongues, and BDP to our hip hop juggernauts Death Row, Bad Boy, and No Limit, Black women have created and crafted groups of like minded sistas, personally and socially and professionally, in everything from entrepreneurship to tech to fashion and even health, media, and motherhood. The bonds we form, help us find the tools, opportunities, and assistance we need to move forward and progress.

“We can’t stop now b*tch. We can’t stop. You can’t stop us, so b*tch don’t try.”

So while there has been a lot of hateration in our dancery… our sistafriends are also apart of our crew. They “gon pull me up… never let me drown” and make sure I’m mentally healthy enough to be the boss I was born to be. Sometimes they are both our personal and professional support. Other times, they just hold us down by ordering mimosas, sending a care package, listening to a rant, or doing choreography on a balcony… whatever works!

And when we win, because we will win… they win! When we eat, they eat. And when they call our name, we taking everybody on stage, the whole crew, Ty-Ty, Jungle, and all ’em. “What about your friends”… they better than yours that’s what! “…they pray and pray for me. See better things for me. Want better days for me unselfishly

So as you can see… Black women are legit. We overcome. We support. We defy the odds. We succeed in spite of. We won’t stop. We WANW. And we have to let folks know from time to time: I deserve this, bye!

About Last Night

Speak with criminal slang, begin like a violin/End like leviathan. It’s deep, well let me try again -Nasir son of Olu Dara Jones

Imagine being a 45 year old Black man from one of the most notoriously dangerous projects, Queensbridge, performing your, and arguably hip hop’s greatest, 25 year old album backed by the fourth oldest symphony orchestra in the nation. Imagine that. In a country where we have more Trayvon Martins and Khalief Browders than Nasir Joneses and Shawn Carters… it can be a hard thing to imagine, let alone dream. But dreams do come true.

Imagine a young boy with an amazingly dope skill and talent making his way out of the scratching and surviving many on his block still live in or died from to the stage in a tux, conductor Leonard Slatkin behind him … getting ALL the way busy do you hear me… cueing violins, cellos, and a bass, being almost able to touch the music in the air, and then freaking the shit outta that beat by seducing it with your poetry. You are in what was once known as the murder capital of the world, yet can look out into a sea of faces, the first ten rows full of all the Black Excellence you could handle in our best fur headbands and velvet blazers (It was like a Renaissance High School reunion and the University of Michigan Black Celebratory in one room #soarphoenixsoar and #goblue). All of us just like you, once children familiar with the sounds of booming systems, gum popping, chicken frying, gunshots, and the ice cream truck song in simultaneously sonic synchronization. We are now successful adults with assets and investments quoting every lyric of your songs, and getting lit af when the orchestra exited, the DJ cued up, and you put on a hip hop concert in the same position Sergei Rachmaninoff once performed his masterful Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.

Street Dreams are made of these…

Last night was magical… symphony going up on a Tuesday. It melded our generations greatest gift to the culture, hip hop, with the tradition of classical music. It makes sense that hip hops influence by African call and response and griot storytelling would interplay so well with classical, which is based in Greek music theory learned from ancient Egyptians. It’s Black mixed with Black.

At one point Nas referenced word choice and how the harshness of the words was to reflect the real harsh reality of the streets he was telling stories about… speak with a criminal slang

Yet the play between the violins and his words was like playing cats cradle, your fingers maneuvering around the strings almost rhythmically changing shapes until you pull it apart, destroy it… begin like a violin end like leviathan

It’s deepit’s (a) deep well… his lyrical ability is mathematic it’s so precise, and you gotta dig deep to get to the source, the meaning. Dude’s wordplay is legendary. He definitely studied at the school of Kool G Rap.

Didn’t get it? Well let me try again

“Wisdom be leaking out my grapefruit, troop”

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Because he once was a student of not only hip hop, but the ancestors, the culture, history, he is now a master teacher with so much knowledge it’s leaking outta his head like juice… and the juice we need isn’t guns and drugs and sex, it’s knowledge, which is power.

“I dominate break loops, giving mics menstrual cycles”

And so he’s about to give you all this good juice in the form of these lyrics that will pour over this break beat… and when dude is done, the mic will bleed cuz he breathed fire on it, sliced and diced it, split its wig. It’s over. End it. Period.

Nas is like…

He left us with an experience. The only thing he didn’t do is perform “Hate Me Now” with the orchestra… but that might have made the roof cave in. Perhaps he saved us like Khalessi. It is winter… dragons and such. It’s lit🔥 … but let’s not go too far with the fire. Nonetheless, at 45 he finessed that mic better than he ever has, and with a confidence and long stride that had the ladies like…

and their dudes just understood. The sexy was palpable. It rode on top of the music notes like…surfboard. And as a connoisseur of hip hop , it’s rise to perhaps the most popular form of music worldwide, and fine men… I was inspired. Inspired to write more and to dream more #fortheculture and for myself. And equally inspired to King our brothas when they show and prove, hold their own, and get a classical music conductor to swag surf with his baton. Cuz dreams do come true… live at the BBQ!