Why do we keep killing artists?

By Brennen DiMarzo | Reporter

On Sept. 7, 2018, we lost rapper Mac Miller to an overdose on drugs. On Nov. 15, 2017, we lost Lil Peep to an overdose. In 2019, we lost Juice Wrld, and more recently, we lost DMX to complications after an overdose.

While these are isolated incidents, and each had their own personal problems they were dealing with, it begs the question, why do we accept drug use in hip-hop as something that comes with the craft?

If a family member was using drugs, we have no problem stepping in and doing something to help them. However, when an artist we love is using, we don’t see an issue. In fact, most of us turn a blind eye when artists tell us their struggles through their music — all we do is turn up the volume.

I’m not ignorant to the fact I am at fault here as well. All of these artists are ones that I listen to frequently and am an active consumer of their music and brand. But at what point do we draw the line between idolizing drug use and having concern for the artist’s safety?

We, as fans, have shown little concern for the artists we love so much. Only once they die do we comment and post about the dangers of drug use and how they were gone too soon. But if we didn’t pretend that the lifestyle these rappers live is always so glamorous and that their drug use is to be expected, then maybe more artists would be alive today.

I’m not trying to say we are the reason they use drugs or that we are preventing them from stopping. We can’t reach out to an artist about their issues, and even if we could, the odds are a couple of messages from some fans won’t contribute to much.

However, the culture of hip-hop celebrates the real and raw and will put down the fake. What choice does an artist have but to continue the lifestyle they know or to develop one that has worked for other artists?

Evidence of this can be seen in Lil Peep’s song “Beamer Boy,” in which he says, “But they don’t want to hear that, they want that real s***, they want that drug talk, that I can’t feel s***.”

Peep would often identify his own problems in his music, but would also acknowledge that people only want to hear his “drug-rap,” so why would he want to change? We have accepted this as such a norm in hip-hop that it leaves little room for artists to find a reason to change.

Even a larger-than-life artist such as Kanye West has talked in the past about how he has stopped taking his prescribed psychiatric drugs so he could focus on being more creative. Artists feel like they must put themselves in dangerous situations for their art to thrive.

Don’t stop listening to your favorite artists. I know that many other things contribute to drug use, depression and addiction. We alone can’t reach out to an artist to help. But if we as a collective show less interest in the glamorization of addiction in hip-hop, then maybe things would change.

How many deaths will it take before we realize normalizing artists’ drug use only hurts the artist and the industry we love so much?