The Centipede

The Opioid Epidemic and Emo Rap

Meera Singh ‘19

     In early October, the United States Department of Justice found a target to blame for the nationwide opioid crisis: emo rap. Michael Jones, a SoundCloud rapper known as New Jerzey Devil, was arrested on October 3rd for distributing heroin and fentanyl last December to 29-year-old Diana Haikova, subsequently leading to her death. Just last November,up-and-coming rapper Lil Peep died from an apparent overdose of Xanax and fentanyl. TMZ stated that Jones was a member of the GothBoiClique along with Lil Peep, but Lil Peep’s family recently confirmed that statement wasfalse. Following Jones’ arrest, the DEA released a statement in which Special Agent,James J. Hunt said, “This investigation led us into the underbelly of emo rap and its glorification of opioid use,” naming emo rap as the cause of this epidemic.

     Even if you think you are not familiar with emo rap, you have probably heard names such as XXXTentacion, Juice WRLD, or Yung Lean. The genre has existed since the late 2000s, but only found its way into the mainstream media over the past couple of years. The aesthetic and personal style of some rappers, like Lil Peep or Lil Uzi Vert, is influenced by death metal and pop punk. Lyrics are not particularly positive, typically about loneliness, death, heartbreak, anxiety, and drug abuse. It’s most likely not the kind of music you would want to listen to if you are trying to have a good day.

     As mentioned, drug abuse is one of the most common subjects to appear in emo rap lyrics. Xanax in particular seems to be a staple in the genre’s culture. Not only is it mentioned frequently in the music, but artists have also been putting it into their names — one’s stage name is literally Lil Xan,  — and making it a part of their identity. Prescription drug use was already a big piece of emo rap when it was merely an internet subculture. Now, however, it is a fairly large portion of the mainstream, thus giving artists a larger (and more impressionable, as many avid fans are teenagers and young adults) group of people to gloat their excessive drug use. This could potentially be why the DEA pointed fingers at this style of music.

     All of this begs the question: how much influence can the glorification of opioids in rap have? And further, do these lyrics have that much power? The answer is uncertain. Emo rap has a large presence, but, personally, I feel that music alone cannot be responsible. It is highly possible that it could be fueling this epidemic, but definitely is not the only cause.


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