Timbaland Talks Having a Drug Problem: How Pills and Prescription Drugs Infiltrated Urban Music

"I remember JAY-Z told me one time 'Don't do no more interviews,' because I was saying crazy sh--."

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In the past 48 hours two celebrities, one from the R&B world and the other from hip-hop, said they were heavily affected by prescription pills.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Timbaland, who hasn’t released as much music in recent years compared to the past, admitted that he was addicted to Oxycontin.

“I was on drugs,” he said. “I was on Oxycontin … Music is a gift and curse. Once you’re not popping, it plays with your mind. The pills helped block out the noise. I’d just sleep all day. I remember JAY-Z told me one time ‘Don’t do no more interviews,’ because I was saying crazy sh–.”

The Virginia raised-producer also said he nearly overdosed on the drug, which forced him to make a major change.

“All I can tell you is that there was a light,” Timbaland explained. “I woke up trying to catch my breath like I was underwater. But through that whole thing I saw life. I saw where I would be if I don’t change, and where I could be if I did … But I thought about Michael Jackson. I didn’t want to be old and taking these pills.”

Tyrese also revealed that he was on prescription pills, and they caused him to have a series of public breakdowns earlier this month.

“I was advised to use some psych meds called Rexulti and I did some really stupid things publicly and privately that will take me a while to recover from,” he wrote on Instagram.

Pills and prescription drugs have really made their way into urban music over the past few years, especially among young people.

The drugs Molly (Ecstasy) and sizzurp (a couph syrup mixture) have been heavily celebrated as well among rappers and singers which is a far cry from urban artists talking about marijuana and 40 ounces in the ’80s and ‘90s.

Today, rappers like Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Pump and Future — who once rapped about taking 56 Xanax bars in a single month — have made prescription drugs cool to many kids. In fact, the Atlanta rapper OG Maco called Future out in 2015 and accused him of using his influence in the wrong way.

“I love Future, but I also understand Future has destroyed countless lives by making it cool to be a drug addict,” wrote OG. “56 Xans isn’t cool.”

But Future admitted that he doesn’t use drugs as much as he claims and explained why he talks about it so much in his music. His explanation hasn’t seemed to diminish any of the criticism he gets, however. 

“I feel like that’s the number one thing everybody likes to talk about. It’s a catch,” he said in a 2016 interview. “I’m not like super drugged out or a drug addict. My music may portray a certain kind of image, and I know it’s some people that might be super drugged out and they listen to the music like, ‘Ay thank you, you speaking for me’ and then some people that’s not that feel like, ‘Man I don’t have to do drugs, I can listen to Future and feel like I’m on something and don’t have to try it.’ I don’t do it for you to really have to live that type of life.”


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The Los Angeles rapper Vince Staples also talked about pills and prescription drugs infiltrating urban music and he’s noticed that some of the people in his own life have been affected. 

“Drugs have always been a part of music, and it went from the drug dealer to the drug user now,” Staples stated. “There’s more music being made about the drug use than the distribution of the drugs, and that was something that to me always seemed like a last resort to a lot of people … This is the first time in my life where I’m seeing people become drug addicts.”

Fortunately, for Timbaland and Tyrese, they’ve recognized how prescription drugs have hurt them before it was too late. Sadly, the same thing can’t be said about the late A$AP Mob member A$AP Yams, who reportedly died by mixing several drugs together, including opiates and benzodiazepine.

Yam’s mother Tatianna Paulino wrote about her son’s death for “Noisey” and addressed the drug lean and other drugs in hip-hop.

“Sure enough, Steven’s (A$AP Yams) toxicology report revealed that he had not only taken codeine, but he also had taken oxycodone and alprazolam,” she wrote. “Was he aware of the potential dangers of mixing opioids with other sedatives? I certainly wasn’t. Even if it makes us uncomfortable, I wish public health messages about drugs were more clear and simple in emphasizing real concerns as opposed to hyping less likely outcomes. I wish such messages simply stated, ‘Don’t combine opioids with other sedatives.’ If they did, perhaps my son would be alive today.”

The death of rapper Lil Peep also had a lot of folks taking a look at hip-hop’s prescription pill problem. At the moment, police are looking into the possibility of fentanyl playing a role in the 21-year-old’s death, which is an opioid pain medication.

To get a better understanding of why some kids have gravitated to these kinds of drugs, we spoke to Tanisha Tuck, a certified school Social Worker for Paterson Public Schools in New Jersey. She’s also a licensed social worker for the State of New Jersey.

“We do see more (prescription drug abuse) with the teenagers,” said Tuck. “I think pills are more socially acceptable [than other drugs]. It started with Caucasians. It didn’t start with us, and they’re easier to get from a doctor, so if they say they have anxiety that’s all they have to say. Then they’ll get a Xanax really quick. It’s easy and the kids know that.”

“[The kids] have major depression as well,” added Tuck. “Even in the elementary school. We started in September, and we’ve had 20 students on crisis that you have to send out because of depression and anxiety. It’s high.”

Tuck also pointed to other factors that may lead kids to abusing pills: A lack of coping skills and a deep desire to fit in, which is harder these days because of social media.

“Social media, as good as it is, it’s as bad for kids,” she explained. “The viral bullying and all kinds of stuff. Nobody talks. They either text or are reading something on social media, and if somebody says something about you 10,000 people see it. As opposed to when I was in school if somebody said something about you it went through the classroom and that was it.”

In addition, Tuck said that today’s music plays a big role in kids experimenting with pills, namely emo, a rap sub-genre. Some of today’s emo rappers include XXXTentacion, Lil Uzi Vert and Trippie Redd.

“They listen to specific types of music that is extremely sad. Not necessarily telling you to end your life but in a roundabout way.”

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