How Lean Is Killing Both Rappers And The Culture Of Hip-Hop
The music industry dealt with a heartbreaking loss when A$AP Yams was pronounced dead back in mid-January. Exactly how the beloved 26-year-old cofounder of the A$AP Mob and one of the most promising young moguls in the game died was unconfirmed for months.
His final tweet, a play on the term "codeine crazy," gave us an easy clue as to what happened.
BODEINE BRAZY — ...... (@ASAPYams) January 17, 2015
This tweet soon confirmed what we all suspected.
Sad news: Chief Medical Examiner calls ASAP Yams's death accident caused by acute mixed drug intoxication (incl. opiates & benzodiazepine) — Jon Caramanica (@joncaramanica) March 19, 2015
For well over a decade now, the influence of prescription cough syrup has been a highly glamorized and extremely dangerous part of hip-hop.
Houston legends like DJ Screw, Bun B and Pimp C made the addictive drink (otherwise known as lean or sizzurp) popular during the 2000s. They usually mixed theirs with Sprite and Jolly Ranchers.
The origins of the drink go as far back as the 70s in the Fifth Ward, Third Ward and South Park neighborhoods of Houston.
To this day, the homemade potion is still part of the laid-back culture throughout the South and is, in part, responsible for creating a new sound that reflects every side effect from sipping lean.
An entire subgenre of rap, known as "screw music" or "chopped and screwed," can be partially credited to purple drank. But what exactly does this combination of prescription cough syrup and Sprite do to you?
If you can resist the urge to sleep, you begin to feel everything and things slow down and get choppy.
Motor skills become impaired, drowsiness takes over and a tingling euphoria of calmness takes over the entire body. Mix that with a blunt, and it's truly a wrap.
The musical result, however, has become something so unique, it still influences many artists' styles today.
No screw song is more legendary than Big Pokey's "June 27th Freestyle."
Drake took this track and made his own remix to show one of his biggest musical inspirations.
Rappers like UGK, Juicy J, Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane all made lean part of their sounds and even mainstream acts like Justin Bieber and Macklemore started f*cking with it.
With that, of course, comes a price. It's highly addictive, and an overdose usually results in a tragic death.
Bieber was once said to be addicted to lean and even wrote a song about it.
Legends like Pimp C, DJ Screw (the originator of the "chopped and screwed" sound) and now A$AP Yams all lost their lives by getting too turnt off the purple drank.
That's because when ingested in massive amounts, lean can stop the flow of breathing and result in many other medical complications.
Lean becomes exponentially dangerous when mixed with other drugs and alcohol.
The addiction it causes often leads to dependency and the end result is always going to be the same if you can't kick the habit.
Considering most rappers just smoke weed nowadays, codeine could easily be considered one of the most lethal drugs in the industry.
Lil Wayne's addiction to syrup eventually resulted in seizures.
In the song "I Feel Like Dying," he admitted exactly how he felt when he didn't have his codeine:
Jumpin' off a mountain into a sea of codeine/I'm at the top of the top but still I climb/And if I should ever fall the ground will then turn to wine/Pop-pop, pop-pop I feel like flyin'/Then I feel like fryin' then I feel like dyin'.
However, Weezy stopped drinking lean in 2009 after his life began to spiral out of control.
Lil Boosie says the craze is ultimately killing the hip-hop culture.
Like many other rappers, Boosie kicked the addiction:
He nearly died three or four times from drinking lean and says it's 'f*cked up a lot of rappers and the culture of hip-hop.' He says users don't realize something that tastes like Kool-Aid can be so addictive.
The rapper reportedly said,
Once you on, it's hard to get off... It's damn near impossible.
Unfortunately, lean culture will never die.
The truth is lean will likely be a part of hip-hop culture until the end of time.
The number of new "lean rappers" multiplies every day as many people continue to consume with all the known risks.
Like everything else in life, nothing should be used in excess and it's up to the artists as individuals to know their limits.