Warning: This article contains explicit content on the use of codeine in Hip-hop. Coarse Language involved.
Nowadays drugs and rap practically go hand and hand. It’s common knowledge that most rappers are quite open about their drug use through music and interviews. However, has the use of drugs in hip-hop gone too far? With the rise of the new codeine craze in hip hop, and the recent events around underground rapper Fredo Santana, the debate of drug use in hip-hop have never been more prevalent.
Now before we get to Fredo, let’s take a quick look at eh history of drugs and hip-hop. Believe it or not, there was a time when hip-hop artists advocated against the use of drugs. In the early days of hip-hop, most rappers used their music to condemn the use of drugs. For example in Run DMC’s 1989 hit Pause, they preach:
“Well if it’s dope, I hope it’s not crack
Or coke, or nuttin like somethin you EVER smoke
And if they offer you some say NO”
The first group of rappers to glorify the use of drugs was the west coast rappers such as Snoop Dogg and Cypress Hill. Snoop Dogg was very outspoken about his use of drugs and alcohol on his debut album Doggystyle. His hit single Gin and Juice talks about his use of marijuana.
“And a fat a** J, of some bubonic chronic that made me choke
S**t, this ain’t no joke
I had to back up off of it and sit my cup down
Tanqueray and chronic, yeah I’m f****d up now” – Snoop Dogg, Gin and Juice
For the next couple of years, rappers would talk about smoking weed or having to sell drugs to support themselves. However hip-hop would drastically change with the introduction of the lean culture craze. Codeine is an opioid that can be bought over the counter for coughing. When used recreationally, it is typically mixed with soda-pop. Codeine is commonly referred to as lean, drank or syrup in the hip hop. The lean culture started with Three Six Mafia’s 200 hit single Sippin on Some Syrup.
“Something that’s wholesome, Florida to Folsom
For the most, I’m steady sipping on some sizzurp” – Bun B, Sippin on Some Syrup
Although Three Six Mafia were the ones to bring Lean Culture to Hip-hop, it was not popularized until southern rapper Lil Wayne hit the rap scene in the late 2000’s. Wayne was a large user of lean and really popularized the use codeine in hip hop. In his hit 2008 song Me and My Drank, Wayne raps:
“One more ounce will make me feel so great
Wait..now i can’t feel my face
up in the studio me and my drank” – Lil Wayne, Me and my Drank
Nowadays, Lean is just as popular in rap songs as marijuana. Rappers and rap groups like Young Thug, Migos, ASAP Mob, and Chief Keef have been very open about their use of codeine. Of the new school rappers, none have been more successful nor as influential as Future. Future has become the new face of codeine rappers.
“Pineapple drink lookin’ syrupy
56 nights, I was dirty
Styrofoam cups servin’ patients” – Future, Draco 2017
However, the over use of codeine has great side effects and potential health hazards. Throughout the years, lean has taken a toll on most of the rappers in this article. Pimp C of Three Six Mafia died from a Codeine overdose. Lil Wayne has suffered from serious seizures within the past couple of years. He and his record label blame it on his epilepsy and medications, but many fans, artists, and doctors believe it is due to his large consumption of codeine. In the most recent case of codeine overdose, 27 year old underground rapper Fredo Santana suffered from kidney and liver failure on October 6th. In a twitter post he sent out on October 13th, Fredo:
“Gino found me on da floor shaking bleeding out the mouth having a seizure sh*t could a been the end”
It should also be known that Fredo is from Chicago and is the older cousin to Chief Keef. After his close run in with death, Fredo has come out and stated that he has decided to go to rehab and advocate to stop rappers and youth from using and abusing codeine.
“Hopefully I can be the face to sho n****s to slow down an we got our whole life ahead of us f**k being rock stars gettin high I got ptsd..” – Fredo Santana
In their defense, lean rappers claim that sizzurp helps their creativity and composition of music. After all, Futures recent album HNDRXX reached number 1 on Billboard’s top 200 in its first week; Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III is the 40th highest sold album of all time; while Three Six Mafia is one of 3 rappers to win the Oscar for Best Original Song for their 2006 single It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp. Not to mention that many other historical artists used drugs to fuel their creativity. Andy Warhol used obetrol and allegedly did cocaine, Mark Rothko used antidepressants, Jackson Pollock and Earnest Hemmingway were alcoholics, and even Stephen King was an alcoholic and a heavy cocaine user.
The pro’s and cons of the use of codeine in rap is unclear. Some would argue that the gains outweigh the means. If using codeine to create a song can help you rake in millions of dollars, than by all means use lean. On the other hand, is it worth it to destroy your body in the name of pursuing fame and fortune. In any case, lean has become the new face of hip hop. Many of the new, trending rappers sport the iconic styrofoam cup and purple drink.