7 Rappers That Struggle with Addiction
No one is safe from addiction. More than 23 million Americans aged 12 or older — or 9.2 percent of the population — have abused drugs in the past month, according to the most recent 2012 data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Alcohol abuse is just as prevalent in 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults.
While some superstars are able to overcome addiction and clean up their acts quietly and swiftly, it takes drug addict rappers and other performers years of struggle. In “the rap game” addiction is prevalent and even glorified, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a major problem for rappers.
Here are 7 rappers that you may or may not have known have issues with addiction and what they had to say about their addiction:
William Jonathan Drayton, Jr., well known as Flavor Flav, has publicly shared about his intense struggle with drug addiction. At the height of his addiction, he was spending between $2,400 to $2,600 a day on cocaine and crack for six years straight, costing him nearly $5 million on drugs over that period of time.
Flav’s addiction was so severe that his family had to stage an intervention, which eventually led him to check himself into the Betty Ford Center to treat his crack-cocaine addiction.
“Yeah I was spending $2,600 a day, for six years, every single day. I don’t know how much that is but if you did the math, wow, I went through a lot of money. If I did the math I’d probably be shocked on how much money I spent, I’d probably punch myself in the face.” – Flava Flav
Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, had a long and tragic history with addiction. His struggle began at a young age, when he was tricked into smoking a crack-laced blunt at just 14 years old, which marked the start of his lifelong addiction.
Throughout his life, DMX openly discussed his battles with crack cocaine addiction. His addiction significantly impacted his health and eventually led to multiple overdoses. In 2016, he was found unconscious from an overdose and sadly, in 2021, DMX passed due to a cocaine-induced heart attack.
“I haven’t been high in more than a year. I’m always gonna be an addict. I’m gonna be an addict ’til I die, doesn’t mean I have to get high,” lamented X. He then clarified, “I smoke weed, I drink, but that’s it. And one day that’ll be gone.” – DMX
Eminem, also known as Marshall Mathers, has had a public battle with drug addiction. His struggle began as his career started to rise, and he became addicted to prescription drugs, including Valium, Vicodin, and Ambien.
In 2007, Eminem suffered a methadone overdose, which was a wake-up call for him. In response, he entered a drug rehabilitation center to combat his addiction. Today, Eminem is sober and inspiring other addicts to seek help for their addictions.
“I don’t know at what point exactly it started to be a problem. I just remember liking it more and more. People tried to tell me that I had a problem. I would say ’Get that f—–g person outta here. I can’t believe they said that sh– to me. I’m not out there shooting heroin. I’m not f—–g out there putting coke up my nose. I’m not smoking crack.” – Eminem
Kid Cudi has been open about his struggles with mental health and substance abuse. He battled depression, anxiety, and a cocaine addiction. His substance use worsened as his music gained more recognition.
In 2010, he was arrested for possession of cocaine, which led to public acknowledgment of his drug problem. In response to his struggles, Kid Cudi checked himself into a rehab facility in 2016. However, he suffered a stroke while in rehab, leading to months of physical rehabilitation due to impaired speech and movement.
“You just have to make the choice and decide the person you wanna be and stick with it. You get to a certain age where the people around you are not gonna be on that rollercoaster all day long…People want you to be one person and stick with it and I chose to be clean and be sober and get my life together. For myself, for my health, for my daughter, for my family.” – Kid Cudi
Schoolboy Q, the critically acclaimed rapper, has been open about his past struggles with substance abuse. His addiction primarily revolved around lean (codeine), prescription pills, and marijuana.
Today, Schoolboy Q has left his drug-dealing and consuming days behind, focusing more on his music. He has publicly stated that he no longer uses drugs, showing that recovery is possible and emphasizing the importance of seeking help when needed.
“I was addicted for like two years and I would never tell nobody,” Q said. “Like none of my homies. I wouldn’t tell my girl. I wouldn’t [tell] my mother. Like nobody. TDE didn’t know. The only nigga that knew was Ab-Soul. He was the only nigga [that knew]. Kendrick didn’t know. I was his hype man. I was faded. It was crazy.” – Schoolboy Q
Macklemore, the Grammy-winning rapper, has been transparent about his struggles with addiction. His battle with substance abuse started early, with his first experience with alcohol at 14. This progressed into an addiction to OxyContin and alcohol.
At the age of 25, Macklemore’s life was significantly impacted by his addiction, leading him to check himself into a drug rehab center in 2008. However, his journey to sobriety has not been without setbacks, as he admitted to relapsing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite these challenges, Macklemore has used his platform to openly discuss his experiences with addiction and recovery, aiming to help others battling similar issues.
“If it wasn’t for that rehab center, I probably wouldn’t have been here. In terms of recovery, it has been very important for me to be a part of a recovery community, to actively be around my people because they understand me. They get it.” – Macklemore 
Numerous artists have channeled their battles with substance abuse into their songs, using music as both a therapeutic medium and a platform to shed light on the harsh truths of addiction.
The impact of addiction on rap doesn’t stop at the lyrics – it also permeates the musical compositions and production nuances. For example, some beats might be inspired by the sensation of being intoxicated or the turmoil of withdrawal.
However, it’s crucial to recognize that while these tracks offer valuable insights into addiction, there’s a potential danger of them inadvertently making drug use seem more acceptable. It’s essential for listeners to grasp the risks and implications fully.
While addiction has deeply influenced rap music, the themes of recovery and sobriety are becoming increasingly prominent. More and more artists are bravely sharing their stories of sobriety, highlighting the authentic challenges of recovery and debunking the myth that creativity thrives on drug use.
Eminem, previously recognized for his intense portrayal of drug misuse, has transformed into a symbol of hope for many grappling with addiction. His “Recovery” album is a clear reflection of his path to sobriety, showcasing his battles, triumphs, and dedication to a drug-free life. This transformation has inspired countless fans and fellow musicians, proving that powerful music can emerge without the influence of drugs.
Logic is another artist who has been candid about his choice to remain sober. His track “1-800-273-8255”, titled after the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, emphasizes his dedication to mental well-being and the significance of reaching out for assistance. Logic’s transparency regarding his battles with mental health and his drug-free stance has positioned him as an inspiration for numerous young fans.
Macklemore is also noteworthy for championing recovery. Tracks like “Starting Over” and “Kevin” delve into the complexities of relapse, remorse, and the continual challenge of combatting addiction. Through his narratives, Macklemore reinforces that recovery is an ongoing journey, and occasional lapses don’t mean defeat.
This evolving perspective in the hip-hop community mirrors a larger societal shift in how we approach and converse about addiction and recovery. These artists’ testimonies provide potent testimonials that, though the path to recovery can be taxing, it is undeniably worth the effort. Their tales of perseverance and hope offer comfort to those facing addiction, urging them to reach out for support and reassuring them they’re not alone in their fight.
-  Boston Herald. (2018, November 18). Flavor flav burned through millions. https://www.bostonherald.com/2011/06/08/flavor-flav-burned-through-millions/
-  Rohn, J. (n.d.). DMX talks addiction and arrests on dr. Phil. BET. https://www.bet.com/article/3uw4i8/dmx-talks-addiction-and-arrests-on-dr-phil
-  BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. (2013, June 28). Eminem talks about drug addiction. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/entertainment/music/news/eminem-talks-about-drug-addiction/29380713.html
-  Balfour, J. (2014, March 19). Kid Cudi: “I couldn’t deal with Fame.” HipHopDX. https://hiphopdx.com/news/id.27973/title.kid-cudi-i-couldnt-deal-with-fame
-  Schoolboy Q speaks on origin of Name & Pill Addiction. HotNewHipHop. (n.d.). https://www.hotnewhiphop.com/23098-schoolboy-q-speaks-on-origin-of-name-and-pill-addiction-news
-  Michael, S. (2022, July 30). 62 short inspiring drug addiction and recovery quotes. Sober Speak. https://soberspeak.com/post/short-inspiring-drug-addiction-and-recovery-quotes
-  Chen, M.-J., Miller, B. A., Grube, J. W., & Waiters, E. D. (2006, May). Music, substance use, and aggression. Journal of studies on alcohol. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5066304/
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