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2/18/2019 "The Black Economy 50 Years After The March On Washington"

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Hip Hop Fridays: Drug Graduation From Weed To Ecstasy

We talked about it for years. When marijuana invaded Hip Hop in the early 90s, it did seem a bit peculiar. All of a sudden an entire industry that previously only knew alcoholic beverages and a few harder drugs, was lighting up in droves. In social settings in many Hip Hop circles, those who did not smoke were in the minority. By 1994, most of the Hip-Hop artists that I knew smoked marijuana, some - all day long. While a few knew the entire history of cannabis and spoke of its spiritual and medicinal virtues, most could care less about any other benefit than the "high" they received.

Around late 1994 and early 1995, I began to realize that several artists and members of the industry that I knew were smoking weed continuously. I definitely thought that the behavior was "addictive" but was told that it was not possible to become addicted to marijuana. Anyway, I started to talk to individuals, artists, who began telling me that smoking was affecting their speech, memory and energy levels. And although they did feel that it made them creative, they also felt it had become a crutch. They "needed" it just to relax.

By 1996 I began to hear stories of artists who were lacing their weed with embalming fluid and who had gravitated toward mushrooms and acid, of course, along with the weed. A close friend of mine had called this a couple years in advance, assuring me that individuals would never be satisfied with marijuana alone and would experiment and become addicted to "harder" drugs. He was absolutely correct.

And it wasn't just artists. Industry executives and lawyers of all colors and backgrounds began snorting coke and shooting heroin right along with the weed that they started with. Of course some of these individuals jumped right over marijuana and into cocaine in their drug experience. Several such individuals saw their businesses go under and lost their jobs over their inability to manage their habits as well as their careers. It was sad.

Then in 1998, I began to hear about ecstasy and 'designer drugs" that were expensive but which were being used by some of the wealthier members of the Hip-Hop community. By that time I was leaving the industry but had already seen the progression take place and talked to several of my friends who were still in the industry about it. Everybody was saying the same thing: drug use in the community was pervasive and members of the industry were trying just about anything to get a "new' high. The usage had moved well beyond marijuana in only a few years. And the consumers are no longer just the wealthy.

Now, I get calls every month from people inside of the industry telling me that there is another artist or exec that is strung out on cocaine or ecstasy. Some of the stuff is just rumors but much of it turns out to be true.

It is sad that Hip-Hop hasn't learned the lessons of other genres that have gone through similar drug "graduations". There are so many lessons out there of stars and execs going under from drug use that starts small and ends big. And of course, all of us are familiar with rock music's losing battle with drug abuse. Not to mention the historic drug overdoses. I suspect that someday soon we will hear of tragic drug overdoses claiming the lives of several stars in Hip-Hop. So far, such incidents have been non-existent and sadly, the Hip-Hop community is more used to hearing of guns claiming more lives than drugs. But that may soon change.

And just think, for many, it would have all started with a "harmless" puff of weed.

Cedric Muhammad

Friday, July 7, 2000

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