The Drug culture has influenced many different genres of music in the past. Whether it was rock n roll, Jazz, or R&B, there are many artists who’ve made beautiful music while under the influence of some kind of substance. This phenomenon was very pertinent in the 60’s, during the era of Woodstock where many artists as well as many people in general were experimenting with acid and heroin. Many musicians have also been credited with making their best work while under the influence. While being under the influence can generate different thoughts which in turn changes your perception of reality – which in turn modifies your art, is it necessary? Does being under the influence really help you make better music?
In the beginnings of rap, drugs weren’t really a huge topic of discussion. Most early rap songs centered around the party life, and drugs may have been mentioned but you never got the sense that doing drugs was a part of that rapper’s lifestyle. During the 80’s and 90’s there were even anti-drug records that made waves due to the havoc the crack epidemic was wreaking, such as Public Enemy’s “Night of the living Baseheads” which condemned drug-dealers and compared crackheads to zombies. The late 80’s and early 90’s also brought about a conscious, pro-black era in hip-hop. The main themes of this era were being intelligent and vigilant because the powers that be want to see you fail. Of course drug usage does not intertwine well with that message. Dr. Dre stated in N.W.A’s hit song “Express Yourself” that “I don’t smoke weed or sess cause it’s known to give a brother brain damage, and brain damage on the mic don’t manage, nothing but making a sucker and you equal”. Of course the tide would switch, and when rap made the transition into discussing the harsh realities of inner city life, drugs would play a huge part.
The drugs of choice were Marijuana and Alcohol. For a lot of artists, Marijuana would become an intrinsic part of their creative process. When Dr.Dre left N.W.A , his first album would be called The Chronic , and he was heavily influenced by marijuana during the making of the project. The Chronic is a bona-fide classic in rap, and considered by many to be Dr.Dre’s best work. many other artists have credited Marijuana use for assisting them in creating music. Artists like Snoop Dogg, Notorious B.I.G, Redman and Method Man, Cypress Hill, Tupac and many others were all very huge marijuana advocates. In the present Marijuana usage is still hyper-prevalent amongst rap artists, and it’s become such a very important component that many rappers whole careers are primarily based off speaking about it. Artists like Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa, Smoke Dza and many more have built sustainable careers rapping about marijuana consumption.
As time went on, harder drugs started to hit the scene and were all parts of those artists’ creative process. A prime example is Lean (also known as promethazine ,codeine syrup, or purple drank). Lean is prescription cough syrup mixed with either soda, or alcohol. The southern influence in rap brought about new drugs and Lean was a favorite amongst Houston artists. Legendary group UGK as well as DJ Screw brought about the lean phenomenon and a new sound to go with it. This sound is titled Chopped and Screwed, and the use of this drug played a major role in making that sound internationally popular. Lean is still prevalent in rap till this day. Rap transitioned further into prescription medication when artists started doing more pills. Adderall, Xanax, percocets, Oxycontin.. etc are all currently a part of rap culture.
Drugs rather if they’re uppers or downers affect how you hear sound and how you take in information. If you’ve ever used marijuana you notice that music sounds completely different under that influence. Certain sounds mesh better with that mind-state then others. Artists then go on to continue making music that mesh well with the mind-state they like to be in. You also have to take into account that drugs do affect your mind to where you’re perhaps more confident, more relaxed, and have an open mind because you are currently in a happy, laid back mood. It makes sense that those effects that drugs have on you can lead you to make better music. Anxiety halts creative thought, that’s a known fact, so when you take a substance that relieves some of that anxiety you’re able to be more comfortable creating and that of course makes for better music.
So Do drugs help you make better music ? No, being in a comfortable and relaxed mind-state helps you make better music. Thinking outside of the box helps you make better music. Constantly pushing yourself until your songs sound the best you think it can sound to you is what makes better music.You don’t necessarily need drugs for that. The drugs themselves don’t matter. Addiction often times manifests itself in a person medicating themselves due to the mental ills that they’re suffering from. A lot of artists that feel like drugs are helping them are likely suffering from an issue. There are positive methods one can utilize to gain confidence in themselves, to be more relaxed, and to get rid of their anxiety without relying on a harmful substance that will most likely make their mental state worst. Drugs can be seen as an easy fix, with awful consequences. There’s been a rise in drug related deaths in hip-hop; From Pimp C to A$ap Yams, From DJ Screw to DJ AM, to the constant drug-related seizures that Lil Wayne and Rick Ross keep having and denying. These substances are clearly doing more harm than good.
In sum, drugs don’t affect music quality , you do.
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