“Two white cups and I got that drank/Might be purple, might be pink/Dependin’ on how you mix that sh–” –Drake on DJ Khaled’s “I’m on One” featuring Rick Ross and Lil Wayne
“Smokin’ out, pourin’ up, keepin’ lean in my cup” –Pimp C on Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin,” featuring UGK
“Purple drink, I still sip, purple weed blunt still lit” –ASAP Rocky on “Purple Swag”
“I got the wet promethazine, thick orange and yellow tuss/Hydroco-done, on the hands-free phone” –Pimp C on Three 6 Mafia’s “Sippin’ On Some Syrup”
Call it “lean,” “drank” or “purple,” there’s no denying the pervasiveness of the recreational use of cough syrup in today’s hip-hop culture. Drinking syrup to induce a sedated euphoric high was popularized in the music of Texan acts including UGK, Big Moe and most notably DJ Screw and His Screwed Up Click. The drug is a combination of a cough suppressant and codeine, a very addictive pain reliever.
“Codeine is an opiate, and while it’s not that potent an opiate relative to the Oxycontin or the very powerful hydrocodone pills, it still is an opiate. And when it’s consumed in high quantities, as it often can be with cough syrup, it can lead to an opiate-induced euphoria,” Bunt says. “The individual starts abusing the opiate and then becomes addicted, and then of course it becomes very difficult to kick that habit, to withdraw from the opiate once they’re addicted.”
Earlier this year, buzzing rapper Schoolboy Q recounted a near-death experience with “lean” on New York’s Hot 97 radio station. The drug caused him, an asthmatic, to get drowsy to the point where he nodded off and stopped breathing. The experience led him to quit the drug cold turkey, but during the interview he complained of the intense withdrawal symptoms.
Abuse of cough syrup and breathing problems can be a lethal combination because it depresses one’s breathing. In fact, UGK’s Pimp C died from respiratory complications linked to a pre-existing sleep apnea and aggravated by his use of the codeine-laced concoction.