Street Culture’s misappropriation of 21st Century torments

WHAT were once topics of great taboo, are now seemingly two key features to formulate a rise in the ranks of fame and fortune for a number of up-and-coming figureheads. I’d go as far to say; these particular names are those who will be leading the youth movement for years to come.

Its prominence on street and youth culture is hard to ignore, whether it be influencing fashion trends, gang warfare, political orientation or even cooking recipes—there’s a chorus for just about anything. Music, a language to be understood globally, is a format that many take to voice their personal and inner-most feelings.

Unfortunately, there’s no hiding the fact that drugs have played a major role in the popularity and success of modern artist, even that dating pre-2000. The likes of Black Sabbath, ACDC and Prince- different eras hosted varying interpretations to what it meant to abuse these substances.

However, in this case to topic arises from the bereaved death of idolised vocalist, Lil Peep, in the latter part of 2017. His lyrics were said to voice the angst and pressures of adolescence—Peep’s struggles with mental health were far from a private affair. To give a little insight, the opening line of ‘The Way I See Things’ hears;

“I have a feeling I’m not going to be here, for next year”.

His death was a result of ingesting excess levels of fentanyl, a common ingredient in placebo Xanax tablets to which he’d become addicted to whilst trying to ‘numb’ suicidal urges, as explain during an interview with BBC Radio 1 presenter Zane Lowe.

Xanax has become a realistic choice for many within uncomfortably young age brackets. The Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, has been tracking a rising popularity in the drug spanning 18 years of research- where it was discovered related deaths had multiplied sixfold over said time period. This lacks correlation to the prescription rise, which only hit 67%…

drug music 2 Lil_Peep_in_2016_by_Miller_Rodríguez_(portrait_crop)
Lil Peep, by Miller Rodriguez.

So, just why does it seem to be so appealing? A trifecta of accessibility, pricing and influence- Hip Hop as a whole has a tendency to glorify the use of such prescription medicinal substances. Originally, Xanax was prescribed to combat anxiety and panic attacks- with the World Health Organisation describing the diagnosis increase between 1990 and 2013 as an ‘epidemic’, there must be a better way to help the coping process?

“Anxiety and depression affect nearly 10% of the world’s population…”

In 2017, the world lost Lil Peep, Chester Bennington, Kim Jonghyun, Chris Cornell- all of which struggled against an ongoing battle with their mental health. To many it would only be considered as a last thought, however to an equal opposing number, it’s a way out.

During the earlier part of the year, Bennington told Music Choice that his mind was ‘like a bad neighbourhood, going onto say that ‘my whole life, I’ve just felt a little off’. I can’t help but think a life could have been saved. Similarly to Peep, they both openly expressed signs of a lack of will to live—it’s not a topic covered to a high enough degree.

Take from this what you will, but mental health and substance abuse are being glorified by mainstream music outlets, there’s no argument against this. Awareness levels are constantly elevating, rising alongside projects such as Mental Health Talk on Facebook, Ecominds and Together. These organisations provide a way out, that doesn’t involve a loss of life. They provide a sanctuary.


Credits for feature image, johnofhammond Flickr.

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