People often joke that there’s a certain formula to rap songs. Rap about money, sex, women and/or drugs and you can probably put your next hit song together like an old game of Mad Libs. While those are obviously not the only topics being brought up in rap songs, a recent study done by Project Know—a website dedicated to informing the public on drug addiction—shows just how prevalent drug mentions have been throughout hip-hop in the last 25 years.
Unlike some other genres, the mentions of drugs in hip-hop don’t just refer to usage. The sale of various drugs as well as the effects it has on users and the community are mentioned just as often. With help from RapGenius, Project Know created charts to show a visual shift in the different trends of drug references in hip-hop songs from the 1980s to present day.
In the ‘80s, cocaine was seen as a drug of wealth. Regardless if they actually used/sold it or not, many rappers mentioned it in their songs or even referred to it in their stage names (Kurtis Blow, Big Daddy Kane, etc.). The charts show the different waves of trends in language. While the term “key” tended to dip up and down in popularity, for example, classic terms like “blow” and “crack” remain the most used when referring to cocaine. The same goes for marijuana, MDMA, pharmaceuticals and alcohol.
Nearly thirty years ago, rapping about pharmaceutical drugs wasn’t really a thing but since 2007 the references have skyrocketed. There is also a table showing which rappers rap most about different types of drugs—you might not be surprised to find Eminem and Three 6 Mafia topping a couple of these charts.
It’s safe to say that rapping about drugs will never really go out of style. And while the point of this study isn’t to promote or encourage drug use, let’s at least look on the bright side of all of this and congratulate rappers for expanding their vocabulary throughout the years. Because music is more fun when you’ve got various synonyms to explain what kind of high you prefer.
You can check out the full study, including larger versions of the images above, here.