Sippin’ and Spittin’: Examining the Use of Lean in Hip-Hop

City of Syrup

While drugs and music have seemingly been related since the dawn of culture, few drugs are intertwined with a specific culture in the way that ‘lean’ is connected with hip-hop.  From DJ Screw and Big Moe, to Lil’ Wayne and Macklemore, to Justin Bieber and even Miley Cyrus, lean and hip-hop, hand-in-hand, have expanded their influence (Westhoff).  As ABC News put it, “It’s more than a drug; it’s a culture.  It’s what’s known on the street as “Lean,” a highly addictive cocktail of cough syrup, cold medicine, alcohol and candy — so potent it makes you “lean” over when high” (Hughes).  In this essay, I hope to examine the role of lean in hip-hop culture.  First, I’ll specifically discuss lean and its effects.  Then, I will look into the origins of how lean became infused in hip-hop culture, and how both the drug and the culture have become increasingly influential in society.  After that, I will describe some of the efforts to denounce the use of lean in hip-hop culture, before concluding.

“Get introduced to this drink that I sizzip.
Promethazine with codeine that’s my twizzist.”

– Beanie Sigel, “Purple Rain”

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