BBC News

Lil Peep's death and why US hip-hop stars keep rapping about pill popping

By Steve Holden
Newsbeat music reporter

image copyrightGetty Images/Rex Features
image captionQuavo, Lil Peep and Lil Uzi Vert have all rapped about taking Xanax

In recent years, more US hip-hop stars have begun rapping about prescription pills used to treat pain or anxiety.

For example, in Migos' Designer Drugs, Quavo raps: "I think I'm an addict. Percocet, molly, and Xanax."

However, since the death of Lil Peep, some - like rapper Russ - are questioning whether lyrics in the genre are going too far.

He tweeted: "Constantly recording yourself doing drugs... is when you start choosing to publicly glorify it."

image copyrightInstagram/ Russ
image captionRuss has spoken openly about the use of prescription drugs in the hip-hop community

He was called insensitive by fellow rapper Smokepurpp, who said that he shouldn't use someone's death "to make yourself look cool".

Russ responded by saying the issue was something he'd been speaking out about for years.

Singing or rapping about drugs is not new but the trend to mention and show opioid use comes at a time when US President Donald Trump warns addiction to painkillers is "a national shame".

Some US rappers regularly reference substances such as Xanax - an anti-anxiety drug - and lean (a mixture of Codeine-based cough syrup and Sprite).

Future has a song called Codeine Crazy, Lil Yachty has one called Lean and Lil Uzi Vert raps that he's "so relaxed on a Xanax" in Canadian Goose.

Following Lil Peep's death from a suspected drugs overdose, Lil Uzi Vert said he was going sober.

As yet, there's no official confirmation confirming the cause of Lil Peep's death.

The 21-year-old was open in his lyrics about his drug use and mental health, and a video he posted before he died showed him dropping some kind of pills into his mouth.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionLil Peep sang about finding Xanax in his bed in his track Praying To The Sky

British presenters Chuckie Lothian and Poets Corner discussed the issue on their Half Cast podcast with the question, Are We Idolising Glorified Drug Addicts?

Speaking to Newsbeat, Poet called the "prescription stuff" a "joke".

"I think we need to start taking a strong look into what's happening in that person's life and the reason they may take drugs."

He argues that in some cases, the lyrics are a cry for help.

"We can explore whether we can help that person, rather than encourage them to take these drugs to create a sound that will make them money. That's a horrible place to be in."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionKnown as lean, purple or syrup - the drink is a mixture of Codeine-based cough syrup and sprite

On the other hand, Poet argues people rap about opioids because it's fashionable and says the lifestyle is "financially beneficial for them".

"There are probably a couple of rappers who don't want to smoke and don't want to do these drugs but that's what is cool and that's what's making them money. It's a sad place to be.

"Imagine how many fans are being affected by this drug problem.

"We're not even aware of it."

In an interview with Uproxx, Lil Peep's brother Karl Åhr said his persona was purely a role and he "was not somebody who needed help".

Find us on Instagram at BBCNewsbeat and follow us on Snapchat, search for bbc_newsbeat

Related Topics

  • Drug use
  • Music