A mother or father traveling through American life with their children planted in the backseat of their car will often times change the tunes on the radio from rap and hip-hop to so-called "safer" genres, like jazz or country music. Many parents figure exposing their offspring to certain types of music will also introduce them to controversial topics, including the appropriation, or "coolness," of drug use.
Turns out they're wrong. A new study published Friday on Addiction.com and provided exclusively to Newsweek reveals country music has the most drug references of any musical genre, followed by jazz, pop, electronic, rock, other, folk and rap respectively. Yes, that’s correct: rap is among the least likely genres to mention drugs.
The lack of drug references in hip-hop and rap music could be a relatively new phenomenon; at least for the youngest listeners. Logan Freedman, a data scientist at Addiction.com, tells Newsweek the genre could be undergoing a fundamental transformation, though more research would be needed to determine why rappers aren’t talking about drugs as much as they used to decades ago.
"I think there was a huge drug culture in the 90s that was blossoming into rap music that simply isn’t as big as it once was," Freedman says. "It’s really amazing, I think because marijuana has become more normalized in our culture, a lot of country artists are signing about it more often than ever."
Researchers also studied which artists take the prize for the most references to specific drugs across their bodies of work. While rapper Tyga wins most mentions of ecstasy with a whopping total of 72 references, rock group Queens of the Stone Age take third with 15 in total – virtually all of them found in the song "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," in which the only lyrics are (repeatedly): "Nicotine, valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol."
When it comes to the top 20 artists most frequently mentioning drugs, plenty of rappers make the list, however: from Lil Wayne, The Game and Jay Z, to groups like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Kottonmouth Kings. But the normalization of drug references in music only became an industry-wide standard after the 1960s, according to the latest data.
"It’s incredibly telling if you look at music history, the 60s is when drugs started being mentioned more and more in the media," Freedman says. "But there’s clearly some surprising new information here. We did this study to raise awareness about how drug references in music may interact with addiction, and to alert people in case they want to avoid hearing about drugs in their everyday music."
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