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Drug Culture and the Impressionable Youth

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Drug Culture and the Impressionable Youth

Rock and roll music and rap are the two most listened to genres by teens of the ages nine to twenty- five. Both genres are linked to the drug culture quite often through older music and music today. Rock and rap music communicate drug culture ideals to the impressionable youth through; Lyrics that speak about a drug experience, a trance-like rhythm that makes an experience either better or worse, and by the artist’s image in the media. All of these play a role on how the youth are influenced in society.

Rock and roll has been linked to the drug culture for many years. Whether a song was written about a certain drug or whether the song was written on drugs has had society worried for its children. Children are always singing, whether with the music or just to themselves, but do parents listen to what they are singing? A popular rock band, named Green Day, have a few songs that reference illicit drug content. The song ‘Green Day’ contains lyrics that reference an experience after smoking marijuana. Here are some lyrics from the song:

“A small cloud has fallen, The white mist hit the ground,

My lungs comfort me with joy, Vegging on one detail,

The rest just crowds around, My eyes itch of burning red,

Picture sounds of moving insects so surreal,

Lay around looks like I found something new,

Laying in my bed, I think I’m in left field,

I picture someone, I think it’s you,

Your standing so damn close, My body begins to swell,

Why does 1+1 make 2?”

Even though this song was written in 1990, it is still played on a few radio stations today. The album ‘1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours’, sold over five hundred thousand copies. And since then Green Day has become more popular with the youth. Green is only an example of today’s music, but The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were huge role models as the drug culture started. The Beatles lyrics are descriptive of encounters with intoxicants and rely on the images and the insider knowledge associated with the meanings put forward by The Beatles (Blackman86). The Beatles had the world at their fingertips; they held the record for the most people to go deaf at a concert, not because the music was loud but because of the thousands of girls screaming at the top of their lungs (Blackman86). After the American tours, The Beatles’ songs moved onto new subjects with closer links to recreational drug use. On the song, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, Lennon offers drug advice about the feeling brought on by drug consumption (Blackman85). In an interview by Queen and Life magazine in 1967, Sir Paul McCartney states that LSD ‘opened my eyes. It made me a better, more honest, and a more tolerant member of society’ (Uncut). Rock and roll lyrics speak more about an experience on an illicit drug while the next genre, rap, speak more about selling drugs to make money.

Rap has not always been linked to the drug culture till about the 1990s. When children listen to the lyrics of certain rap songs, they hear how selling drugs or taking drugs to make life easier. According to Dr. Herd, an associate professor in the division of Community Health and Human Development at the University of California, illegal drug use became increasingly linked during the late 1990s to wealth, glamour, and social standing, when in comparison to earlier years, when rap music was more likely to have depicted the dangers and negative consequences of drug use (Yang). “Rap music is especially appealing to young people, many of whom look up to rappers as role models. As a public health researcher, and as a parent of a seven year old, I am concerned about the impact that long-term exposure to this music has on its listeners,” says Dr. Herd (Yang). Ludacris, who is popular with an age range from twelve to twenty-five, published a song called ‘Blueberry Yum Yum’. Throughout the song, Ludacris raps about how excellent blueberry yum yum marijuana is. Here a few lines from this song:

“Got a little bit of blueberry yum, yum

And I never woulda thought that it could taste this good

Thank God for the man who put it in my hood

It’s got me singin’ melodies I never thought I would

I’m feeling sorry for the homies who be smokin’ wood

Chop chop, break it down for a player like ye

I’m ‘bout to find me a woman and skeet”

This song was on the album, ‘The Red Light District’ and sold over twenty million copies worldwide (Blackman85). Ludacris is not the only rapper that sings about enjoyment of smoking marijuana other names are Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and Eminem are a few examples of big name rappers that have followers of young ages listening to their lyrics and singing along. Adolescents are exposed to approximately two hundred and fifty-one references to explicit substance use per day (Parker-Pope). Adolescents are exposed to music more than any other type of media. An example is music compared to film. Adolescents listen to an average of sixteen hours each week of music compared to an average of six hours each week for films (Parker-Pope). Music is a powerful social force that taps into an individual’s personal identity, memories, and mood. Lyrics are strong ways to communicate to the impressionable youth about the drug culture but there are more ways to communicate also like a trance-like rhythm.

Rock and roll music and rap have many different types of sounds and beats. Shiela Whiteley, Building on Middleton and Muncie’s analysis, says there are stages of how rock and rap music influence drug use through a song. Whiteley says, “The first stage is manipulation of timbres, blurred, bright, tingly overlapping associated with the intensification of tripping; second stage, the upward movement in pitch which compares with the experience of being high; third, the characteristic use of harmonies lurching and oscillating which change focus; fourth, the sudden use of regular or irregular rhythms suggesting both the rush of a drug but also the trance-like condition of sounds capes and which acts to disorientate conventional musical structure, offering new enhancements from new technology employed in music and also through the process of hallucination” (Blackman100). Teens pick music to go with their drug experience. Rod Stanley, editor of ‘Dazed and Confused’ magazine, says in an interview if there was a new drug that came out in today’s society, there would a new genre of music spring up over night, he continues to say young people work out the best music to experience a drug (Sampson). The image of the artist has always been a problem in the media and how parents can limit a child from listening to the artist music.

Image is the most important part of today’s world. How you look, talk, act, and present yourself is how the world will judge you. In contrast to the 1970s where artists like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, or Elvis Presely were judge on their music. Jim Morrison died in 1971 of an apparent heart attack of an overdose, but is remembered dark and psychedelic lyrics and for occasionally taking off his clothes on stage. Drug deaths are highly romanticized in the world of popular music by the media, fans, musicians, and the industry (Blackman94). Drug induced deaths of pop stars establish new ‘consumer shrines’ that feed on and promote person and artistic mystery, followed by endless repackaging of existing material, remixes or releases of unsanctioned songs (Blackman94). Kurt Cobain, former lead singer of Nirvana, overdosed numerous times and was told to go to rehab but disappeared and committed suicide. Rap has a bad rap for its image because of how the artist presents themselves in the media. Snoop Dogg has been arrested five times with the possession of marijuana (Whillans). Snoop Dogg is not the only one with a bad reputation on getting caught with marijuana. Such artists as Juvenile, Lil’ Wayne, Sir Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, and John McClure are just a few examples of popular


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