Rap and hip hop have been widely associated with drug and alcohol use—look no further than some of the genre’s most famous titles or, for that matter, the entire weed history of Snoop Dogg. Some even claim that drug trends can be monitored via rap lyric references.
But substance problems have taken their toll on the rap community: ODB died in 2004 from an overdose on a mixture of cocaine and the prescription drug Tramadol, for example, and last year, Chris Kelly of Kriss Kross also fatally overdosed. Happily, ongoing drug problems don’t have to be synonymous with the genre. These five rappers have taken positive steps:
- Eminem: A powerful voice for the recovery community, Eminem even dedicated an entire album, Recovery, to his experience of sobering up. The 42-year-old Detroit native was hooked on multiple pills and was at one point taking up to 60 Valium and 30 Vicodin a day. A methadone overdose in 2007 was almost fatal: His doctor told him he “was about two hours from dying.” Though he relapsed soon afterwards, Eminem checked into rehab in 2008 and has stayed sober since—partly thanks to an unlikely mentor, Elton John. “Me and him have had similar lives and stuff,” Eminem told MTV. “So I reached out and told him, ‘Look, I’m going through a problem, and I need your advice.’” Eminem also reached out to rapper T.I., who once said: “I asked [Eminem] how he knew he was an addict. [He said] basically, if you put yourself in harm’s way… if you risk that, you’ve got to assume that there is something fundamentally wrong.”
[Cocaine] was something that drew me in, and trapped me, and just had a hold on me for a long, long time.-DMX
- DMX: The 43-year-old former rap giant’s substance problems began, he says, when he accidentally smoked a blunt laced with cocaine, at age 14. For 25 years, he was in and out of jail for a variety of drug-related charges as he battled an addiction to cocaine. “It was something that drew me in, and trapped me, and just had a hold on me for a long, long time,” he told Dr. Phil in 2013. The rapper said then that he still smoked marijuana “every once in a while,” but hadn’t been high in over a year. Still, he acknowledged: “I’m always going to be an addict. I’m going to be an addict until I die. It doesn’t mean I have to get high.”
- Macklemore: Macklemore’s battle with alcoholism began when at just 13, when he raided his parent’s liquor cabinet and downed 12 shots. “That’s not people like, ‘yo keep going.’ That’s me, by myself, solo in the kitchen, like I can’t stop,” he said earlier this year. He struggled with his drinking for years and briefly got hooked on OxyContin, too. But at 25, when he realized that his substance use was putting a major damper on his creative process and success, he checked into rehab—a decision he credits with saving his life and career. Macklemore, now 31, has been vocal about his recovery, even bringing a Rolling Stone journalist to an AA meeting in 2013. “I just want to get the fuck out of my own head,” he said of the challenges of recovery. Twelve-step programs have apparently helped: “It has been very important for me to be a part of a recovery community, to actively be around my people, because they understand me.”
I’ve accepted in order to have a different result, you have to take a different approach… which is staying clean and sober.-T.I.
- T.I.: The 34-year-old from Atlanta was a late bloomer, but his drug problem eventually escalated until he noticed changes in his lifestyle and personality and sought help. He told Howard Stern in 2008 that he had stopped smoking and drinking. But he became addicted to OxyContin in 2010 after undergoing a number of oral surgeries. T.I. believes that a “mental ass whooping” is a major help in overcoming addiction, and “until you have hit rock bottom or have seen something in yourself that is so out of character … then you ain’t going to see it.” In a 2011 interview with Barbara Walters—discussing his 11-month stint in jail after being pulled over in a car with ecstasy—T.I. said he’d changed: “I’ve accepted in order to have a different result, you have to take a different approach… which is staying clean and sober.”
- Kid Cudi: This 31-year-old indie rapper from Cleveland says he turned to cocaine and alcohol to cope with the pressures of his rapid rise to fame. But Cudi kicked his addictions without clinical help. Though he doesn’t specify when, he says “I stopped everything cold turkey. I didn’t go to rehab. I don’t believe in these things.” His reasons for quitting were “For myself, for my health, for my daughter, for my family.” His drug use had previously been out-of-control: “It wasn’t a little bit of coke. It was a lot of coke. There was no in-between. Same thing with booze.” He would use cocaine in an attempt to get through his busy schedule, but quit in June 2010 after being arrested for criminal mischief and possession. He attributes the success of his Satellite Flight tour to quitting alcohol, after which he “was the happiest I had ever been on tour.”
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