Why hip-hop needs to kick the syrup habit

african kings

This is part four of a theGrio series on hip-hop and its cultural impact on black America. Click here for part one of the series.

After suffering a seizure on March 12th, Lil Wayne spent the past week at Los Angeles’ Cedar-Sinai Hospital recovering while his Young Money record label camp split their time supporting their ailing front man and attempting to squelch speculation that his hospitalization was a result of a codeine overdose.

As Wayne laid in intense care, the Young Money team and parent company Cash Money went on the defensive.

Young Money president Mack Maine took to Twitter to try and clear things up, debunking rumors that the rapper was near death. Cash Money CEO Brian “Birdman” Williams told New York’s HOT 97 that the seizure had nothing to do with drugs and was a product of Lil Wayne’s intense work ethic.

Even if we take Young Money’s word for it, the incident has thrust hip-hop’s glorification of drinking prescription cough syrup mixed with soda and pills (also known as “sizzurp,” “purple drank,” “Texas tea” and “dirty Sprite”) into the spotlight once again. Fans aren’t just speculating on Weezy but revisiting incidents like fellow rapper Rick Ross’ history of seizures.

Both artists have been associated with the hazardous concoction but have attributed the source of their hospitalizations to unrelated health issues.

“Why in the hell should I ever stop drinking what’s in my cup? It’s in my cup. I think people need to mind their own business,” Lil Wayne said when ‘purple drank’ was brought up during a 2009 VH1 Behind The Music special.

The “How to Love” rapper has even made love songs dedicated to the substance.

Still, many are left wondering whether it will take another prominent face dying for “sizzurp” drinkers to snap out of it.

It’s impossible to tell the story of hip-hop and ignore the influence of drugs on the culture.

Drugs and hip-hop have been intertwined since the culture’s infancy. In many ways, drugs have helped fund the art, shaped the perspective, and dictated the fashion sense of hip-hop. But much like music is cyclical, every drug de jour reaches a breaking point.

The destruction caused by crack cocaine created a prism for the artistry of hip-hop to blossom. The community had the opportunity to make music that was a genuine reflection its woes and used the platform to say what needed to be said. Crack, for better or worse, advanced the culture of hip-hop. But can the same be said for the current generation of artists?