It’s subject matter that is seldom, if ever, seen in a music video; however, given the unprecedented scale of prescription opioid addiction currently plaguing the United States, it should come as no surprise if we start seeing it more often. Acclaimed Seattle hip-hop artist, Macklemore’s new single “Drug Dealer” takes aim at the pharmaceutical industry in a raw, honest and at times unsettling way. The song not only puts Big Pharma in its crosshairs through lyrical indictments like “These billionaires stay kicked up, paying out congress so we take their drugs” and “My drug dealer was a doctor”, it also tells an unsettling story in its video, where we see Macklemore in an obvious state of withdrawal-related distress and his collaborator on the song, Ariana Deboo, covered in pills.
Macklemore went through rehab for Percocet himself in 2008 and is now endeavoring to spread awareness regarding a nationwide public health crisis that is noticeably missing in musical and pop-culture messaging. He even sat down with President Obama for the MTV-produced documentary Prescription for Change: Ending America’s Opioid Crisis earlier this month. The single was released yesterday and, with any luck, will get the ball rolling on a much-needed conversation. “Drug Dealer” highlights important nuances in America’s continuing opioid struggle, including the perception of top-level collusion between lawmakers and Pharma companies and the disproportionate level of attention that wealthier suburban victims receive versus those in lower-income urban communities.
One thing we can take away from this single is that messaging through music sometimes has the power to resonate even more than direct conversation. When we see these images and hear these lyrics packaged in this manner, we can’t help but feel compelled to take action, whatever that may look like in our own lives. For this reason, and many others, Macklemore has provided a critically valuable service with this latest piece.