Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Rap songs: It's all about the drugs

The Mail is excited this morning to discover the Denise Herd's study from Addiction Research & Theory that suggests that the number of references to drugs has increased:

Dr Herd, reporting in the journal Addiction Research & Theory, found that, of the 38 most popular songs between 1979 and 1984, only four - or 11 per cent - contained drug references.

By the late 1980s, that number had increased to 19 per cent.

After 1993, 69 per cent of rap songs mentioned drug use. Mentions of cannabis and "blunts" - marijuana-stuffed cigars - doubled between 1979 and 1997.

Yes, the study only runs up until 1997, so effectively the Mail is running a story about how bad rap was eleven years ago.

Not that that stops the Mail from illustrating "bad" drugs raps with a chunk of lyrics from an Eminem track from 1999. Mind you, they also illustrate "good" (i.e. anti-) drug songs with a chunk of White Lines (Don't Do It), whose credentials as a crusading track are somewhat undermined by it having been written as a love song to coke with the meaning flipped to ensure radio play.

The use of "percentage of rap songs mentioning drugs" is also a bit of a weak measure - couldn't the story here be less about how now more songs talk about drugs, and more about a general shift of rap from being a form of political and social commentary to being a hymnal for the joys of capitalist consumption?

The report itself seems to suggest so:
Recent songs with drug references were three times more likely to have themes related to glamour and wealth than earlier titles, and seven times more likely to emphasise drug use as recreation or as an accompaniment to sex.

Is the increasing linking of drugs and money a sign of a more drug-positive culture in rap - or merely that, by the mid-90s, rappers had moved from the underclass to Business Class?