The first rap song I ever heard was Rappers Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang. I was a sophomore in college and that song took my college by storm. Music was never the same and in spite of its critics hip hop music has lasted for decades longer than its critics predicted and is now a worldwide phenomenon! Consider that at the time of this writing Jay-Z just signed a Korean rapper to his label. I also give a shout out to how rap music and the success of hip hop artists inspires generations of youth to believe they can succeed. My grandfather picked cotton in the South and once he moved North and secured a good job his philosophy was there's always work at the post office and once hired stay at the job for 50 years and hopefully get a gold watch upon retirement. This generation of rappers has convinced today's youth that they can own the post office and their own Rolex watch company. I'm a baby Boomer and I am inspired by the industriousness and hard work of rappers. My favorite story is of Tupac Shakur. Pronounced dead in 1996, the late rapper produced such a volume of work, i.e. nominated for an Oscar in 2006 and albums are still being released by him over a decade after his death, convincing his fans that like Elvis, Tupac is not dead! I find myself working harder when I think about Tupac and the late Notorious BIG, who at the peak of his success said he wanted to approach is work like an intern, just starting out.
When Hip Hop lyrics are at their best the music has the ability to save lives! I had a relative who was going through the process of divorce and feeling suicidal. A friend forwarded her a you tube video of Lil Wayne singing, "How To Love" She credits that song with changing her life. I want to let you know that lyrics to your songs can keep a certified addictions counselor, such as me, busy countering your drug related lyrics. Many of the adolescent African American Males I counsel initiated drug selling, drug use and are vulnerable to relapse as a result of listening to your lyrics. Many prominent rappers today glorify marijuana smoking, including, Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre, Lil Wayne, Drake, and Gucci Man. Other rappers glorify drinking expensive alcohol as a sign of success, including: Jay-Z, Sean Combs, and Young M.A. While others still talk about the glorification of drug selling even though they're rich including NAS, Jay and Future. Also, many youth have told me that their experimentation with new drugs began after they heard rappers mention theses drugs. i.e. Future (Molly Percocet), Lil Wayne (Purple Drank), a drug that has been known to kill people.
The greatest challenge in my work with young African American males in early recovery is when angry they access the music of their favorite rapper with explicit get high lyrics. The music then puts the youth in the mood to get high. My work involves encouraging them to listen to songs that do not glorify drug use when they are having difficulties. They're also many youth who struggle to successfully complete probation and secure a good job because they struggle to pass a drug test. We have helped many of them successfully complete high school by encouraging them to take "a weed vacation ". During the weed break they were able to clear their head enough to successfully pass the GED Exam. Your words have power. Please join me in being a part of the prevention and recovery solution.