It’s everywhere. In our music, our films, our paintings and poems, our fashion. In modern arte culture, substance use and abuse is present and prevalent, almost as if it’s a permanent fixture. And to think this is a new manifestation would be a grave misrepresentation of facts. From the romanticism of heavy cigarette smoking in Marilyn Monroe’s era of entertainment, to the Kurt Cobain’s of modern folklore, drugs and other substances have been the go-to coping mechanism for most artistes in every documented period imaginable. The parties from within the scenes wittily term it “self-medication”, masking their abuse of their preferred substance(s) under the guise of ‘aiding their artistic expression’ or ‘escaping the traumas of the fast-paced world we have chosen to live in’. Those behind the scenes – witnesses of such (at times) illicit recreational activities – choose to let it happen and ergo proliferate because in essence that’s where the money grows, and the consumers either vilify or glorify the whole charade. But when does continuous partaking in psychedelics or numbing substances morph from carefree, harmless indulgence into unbridled, detrimental addiction?
Undoubtedly, the epidemic takes a different form with the succession of generations. Rock’n’Roll as a genre and disco culture were the most popular pass times of the 1st world from the 70’s to the 90’s and with those came the rise of cocaine use because of its inclusion or insinuation in lyrics of period hits.
From the mid-90’s to the late 2000’s the tug-of-war between electronic music, pop music and hip hop was breeding a new generation of substance abusers much more crass than their predecessors – a new level of independence afforded them more openness to indulge as aspiring fans or artistes in their own right.
Hip hop took over the mainstream music scene from the late 2000’s, and still reigns supreme to this day, with a cult-like worldwide following of people born with or after its introduction into the mainstream back in the early 80’s.
And the defining factor of all these periods in music (or art) history? Fame and Fandoms. The more fans or followers the genre has, the more the artists feel the need to “escape” the pressures of being a globally recognized figure outside of being a sentient being. Before long, these ‘trips’ are documented in their music and their art, which fans are bound to emulate because of the cultish dynamics of modern arte culture. And so the vicious cycle is perpetuated to the point of glorification. Vicious in the very sense of the word because year in and year out, the industry loses yet another promising talent to the scourge of drug abuse (case and point: Lil Peep and Mac Miller in the last 2 years alone). This is not to say, however, that the hip hop industry isn’t taking measures against it all. Rap giant J. Cole on his fifth studio album “KOD” (released in April of 2018) tackled the eyesore of drug use and how hip hop is taking a back seat in the issue that’s affecting it the most.
So where, then, do we draw the line in the sand between indulgence and addiction? When do we realize that one’s recreation has become ominous dependence and a boulder rolling down a steep hill? Granted, we can’t police anyone’s preferences in the age of heightened consumption and ease of access to various opinion-forming works of art, but surely there is a middle ground to be reached where we can all agree that partaking has to be monitored if at all it’s required? A middle ground where the self-medicating stay aware of the dangers and do what they must in moderation, and the afflicted are provided with the proper assistance to overcome and realize their visions. A middle ground where addiction is no longer a giant-feller but a reminisce…