Early this year Trinidad James had an anthem that banged at every party, with a particularly memorable line from it that went, “Popped a Molly, I’m sweatin. HOOOOOO!” It became an instant quotable that had just about everybody screaming along every time the song came on.
Kendrick Lamar’s video for “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” concludes with the mysterious words, “Death to Molly”.
Tyga released a hit song entitled, “Molly”.
What is going on?
Rap has seen a resurgence of images inspired by psychedelic drugs over the past few years. Psychedelia has been a source of inspiration for countless black musicians, from Funkadelic to Miles Davis, however due to change in the social climate from an era of pop culture that made social consciousness and free love trendy in the 60’s and 70’s, to a coke driven crack epidemic suffering 80’s, the stance on drug usage became much more taboo in the black community. Since hip hop, the black music movement of the 90’s, only spoke of drugs when portraying the ravages of crack or in messages admonishing young people to stay away from drugs, popular black music and psychedelic drugs have not been seen together until recently. Here’s what happened, and what is happening…
Molly is an illegal drug that produces euphoric experiences similar to those of Ecstasy, because they operate on the same active compound, MDMA. However, Molly is supposed to be cut less with other random substances such as speed and meth. According to the co-founder and CEO of Southern California’s Passages rehabilitation centers, Pax Prentiss, users who seek their services tend to be between the ages of 16-24, the same age of the typical user of every other illicit drug. Molly’s a relatively new drug, so there are no solid usage statistics yet. Although drug busts like one in Syracuse, NY, where DEA agents found about 25 kilograms of Molly worth at least $525,000, and the prevalence of the drug in the lyrics of trending hip hop artists like A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown, and Trinidad James are telling signs that the drug is quite popular – and at least seems to be more popular than any other psychedelic drug in the history of hip hop music and culture. But, why were psychedelics so popular in black music pre 1980’s? Why the disappearance of psychedelic drugs in black music for the past 30 years? Why the resurgence?
Crack and poverty gave way to gang activity and violence, and with the Black Panthers gone, and a system obsessed with capitalism, the spirit that psychedelic drugs created and reflected in the 60’s was gone.
The height of psychedelic experimentation was America in the 1960’s and 70’s, and included in this experimentation were black artists and musicians. Notable black musicians who experimented with LSD and/or acid include Miles Davis, John Coltrane, The 5th Dimension, George Clinton, James Brown, Buddy Miles, and Jimmy Hendrix. Political activism, social consciousness, spiritual exploration, and higher consciousness were common themes among most popular black musicians of those eras, including the entire Motown roster. However, the children of drum circle dwelling hippies and Last Poet fans created a new fast paced work driven zeitgeist in the 1980’s, which was perfect for a drug like coke. An influx of coke and extreme poverty in predominately black areas was a perfect storm, and the CIA flooded the streets with crack and ravaged entire communities, as a way to ciphen funds to Nicaraguan guerrillas. Crack and poverty gave way to gang activity and violence, and a system obsessed with capitalism lost much of the aesthetics and cultural values associated with psychedelics in the 60’s.
Rap music was the soundtrack of the 90’s, and the music heavily consisted of talk of crack heads, crack sales, and gang activity funded by crack. Sure, there were socially conscious movements in hip hop in the 90’s, such as the message preached by the Native Tongues, who often incorporated messages that warned of the dangers of drugs, but there never really was anyone who openly used them or spoke of them positively.
Ecstasy was a very popular drug in the 90’s, mostly due to the rave scene and electronic music culture. Many of these raves or festivals, such as Audiotistic, combined underground youth cultures like underground hip hop and electronica, so niche audiences like backpack hip hop heads were still rubbing shoulders with kids doing psychedelic drugs. We didn’t really hear talk of drugs outside of weed and alchohol in mainstream hip hop until the early 2000’s, when psychadelics resurfaced through the lyrics of rappers like Dr. Dre and 50 Cent, and was portrayed as something girls do and rappers give away to become an avenue of getting in their pants.
The energy that sparks a person’s desire to try Molly, is the same desire to experiment musically and in how they dress.
After the inner cities and urban communities overcame the crack epidemic, drugs were understandable viewed and treated very conservatively. A common joke among many black comedians is that they smoke weed…but don’t do drugs. Although Bay Area rappers like Mac Dre rapped about thizzin’ (being high on MDMA), talk of the drug or any drug like it was, at the time, relegated to the Bay.
Things are getting cheaper, the world is getting smaller, the internet is getting faster, and the world has seemingly been explored. People are looking for new ways of expanding. Hip hop is also becoming more inclusive and giving voice to young alternative perspectives, ala Macklemore, Kendrick Lamar, and A$AP Rocky. The environment and the desires of the people will always be the reasons why they do the drugs they do, now is no different. After periods of rigid conservatism, youth culture breaks lose and experiments, similar to the 60’s and 70’s kids rebelling and evolving out of the dogmatic and rigid mindsets of the 1950’s. The spirit of experimentation we’re seeing in hip hop fashion, parallels the talks of Molly. From 2000-2010 the rules of what rappers should think, say, and feel were limited to voices like 50’s and Jay’s, with the exception of Kanye. The energy that sparks a person’s desire to try Molly, is the same desire to experiment musically and in how they dress.
Molly is addictive not because MDMA has an inherently addictive property, but because the experiences people often have are so intensely joyful that they eventually could no longer party without the jubilant drug.
One girl I interviewed, whom we shall call “Taketha”, confided in me that she was addicted to Molly for half a year. After speaking with a few personal friends, the consensus was the reason Molly is addictive not because MDMA has an inherently addictive property, but because the experiences people often have are so intensely joyful that they eventually could no longer party without the jubilant drug. Something else “Taketha” mentioned is that Molly can be just as cut down and dirty as some Ecstasy, so do not assume you have good stuff, just because some drug dealer calls it Molly. In talking with a dealer of Molly, who you shall know only as “Mr. Mike Happy”, I learned that it is easier to get bad quality, cut, and impure MDMA, than it is to find good stuff. Be cautious.
As with anything, we at The 5th Element advise our readers to always use caution and intelligence when consuming anything, especially something as potentially dangerous as an illicit drug.