5 Drugs That Have Hip-Hop Breaking Bad

MCs have gone from rhyming about weed to lyrical odes to trippier substances like MDMA and Xanax.

Jay-Z (Mike Coppola/Getty Images); Kanye West (Michael Buckner/Getty Images);Lil Wayne  (Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
Jay-Z (Mike Coppola/Getty Images); Kanye West (Michael Buckner/Getty Images);Lil Wayne (Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

(The Root) — Hip-hop has had a steady love affair with drugs. Way before studio kingpins like Rick Ross told tall tales of drug dealing, rappers routinely rhymed about their recreational use of marijuana. In fact, contemporary artists such as Wiz Khalifa and the reconstituted Snoop Lion have built careers out of professing their love for cannabis. But as American drug culture moves beyond weed to prescription pills, cough syrup and synthetic powders, the references to illicit substances in hip-hop music are changing, too. The Root takes a look at rap’s newest addictions.

MDMA (3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine)

“Somethin’ bout Mary, she gone off that Molly/Now the whole party is meltin’ like Dali” –Kanye West on “Mercy”

“MDMA got you feelin’ like a champion/The city never sleeps but it’ll slip you an Ambien” –Jay-Z on “Empire State of Mind”

If song titles and references are any indication, then no new recreational drug is as popular as “Molly” is right now. In the past few weeks, rap blogs have been inundated with songs with names like “Molly,” “Mary Jane & Molly” and “Molly Ringwald.” The drug doesn’t take its name from the actress, though; it’s actually derived from “molecular.”

“MDMA is a combination of an amphetamine and another hallucinogenic type drug,” explained Dr. Gregory Bunt, medical director and vice president of health services at Daytop Village, a drug-rehabilitation agency in New York. “People can get a euphoria that’s considered psychedelic. but it’s a euphoria that’s boosted by the stimulant effect by the amphetamine part of the molecule.”

Molly is the second coming of the once-popular “club drug” Ecstasy. The active ingredient in both is MDMA. Whereas Ecstasy was often mixed or “cut” with different substances to yield more product, Molly is valued for its purity. Once associated with raves, glow sticks and electronic music, MDMA has made its way from the mega-clubs and warehouse parties into the mainstream.

It comes in the form of an off-white powder, often contained in capsules, or as yellow-ish crystals. The drug causes the brain to release good-feeling chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, leaving the user in a temporary state of euphoria. There’s a price to pay with all the brain-chemistry tinkering that users do: Recent studies find that abuse of MDMA can cause permanent brain damage.