Talking about drugs in hip-hop songs has been around since the start of the genre, since drugs were very much a part of more inner city hip-hop artist’s lives. Although some artists condemn the use and sale of drugs, many and if not most today glorify the drug culture—that of the dealer, and the consumer. I wondered why this glorification of the drug culture is so prevalent in todays hip-hop. There are several reasons.
First, hip-hop is listened to in clubs and nightlife venues, where people go to celebrate something. It is a party atmosphere so naturally people want to hear about drugs and intoxication. I also think that we live in quite celebratory times, unlike in the past. We celebrate everything, and celebration is basically necessary. For example, concerts are usually just celebrations of the band; we have easy access to their often much better versions of the songs than those performed by most bands live, and anyways people don’t usually go to actually listen to the music. Art openings are just parties too in honor of Art foremost, and somewhere succeeding it, the artist him/herself. All kinds of organizations hold galas to raise money, which is essentially an exclusive party. Parties and nightlife is an escape from your daily activities such as work. The darkness of the club and the night lets you transform into your other self that you don’t show in the daytime, and makes it easier to feel not self-conscious in the dark. It being after normal work hours which means there is a different set of rules and expectations. Mostly the rules and professional interaction between people is ideally tossed out the door. Essentially, nightlife is a creative way to express your real and fantastical/imaginary inner personas. You leave behind your reality at the door of the club/bar. This escape from reality parallels the escape that drugs can provide.
Power and Rebellion
It is a metaphor for power and say. Boasting that you sell a lot of drugs is basically raising your status; you become a person who everyone is in need of because you provide the good product for the party. Hip hop started and has arguably always been by those and for those who feel unrepresented in their society at large, who’s status is diminished, and whose voice isn’t heard. When you have drugs, people want to listen to you and it attracts attention. Boasting about drugs is a call for attention. The interesting thing about drugs in hip-hop is that philosophically it is about fucking the system. It is about the poor who have a diminished voice in politics and really everything else, and who want to speak, the political/social system discourages this and the ability to successfully sell drugs is like saying ok if your not going to listen to me ten I’m going to do something you don’t want me to, because I don’t agree with you, and because I can! Its about revealing the corruption of society, esp considering that people of all financial levels consume drugs, so selling it to white wall st bankers is a way to infiltrate and challenge the system. And cocaine started as an expensive drug for the elite. It also reveals the corruption in our society, and draws attention to the impoverished conditions in the inner city.
When a hip-hop artists song that is mostly about drugs and getting high hits number 1 on billboards charts, it in a way creates embarrassment for the leaders of our country, and is sort of a defeat of their beliefs, and in other words a victory of the people who don’t have much of a voice.
Interestingly, graffiti and tagging are too a significant part of the hip-hop way of life, because graffiti is again for the voiceless to express themselves in public, even if it be illegal, and their graffiti attests their existence. It’s a way to evade and challenge the rules imposed by the more privileged people in power.
The more our society encourages a following of a set system that increasingly get more systematic, predictable, and boring the more we will seek an escape into a reality where these rigid rules and ways of life don’t apply. This means the more we’ll want to hear about drugs in songs to provide us with a creative escape from mundane life. We’ll turn into Japanese, except instead of cameras we’ll relish in drugs and drug-references.