SOBER GANG

With the ris­ing sup­port of drug le­gal­iza­tion and nor­mal­ized sub­stance use in pop­u­lar media, so­bri­ety ap­pears to be­come the new de­viance. But it’s noth­ing we haven’t seen be­fore

Scout - - FRONT PAGE - By LEX CELERA Il­lus­tra­tion by BRYAN ARCEBAL

When you’re young, there’s a need to dis­cover your­self and own an iden­tity. Vices pro­vide con­ve­nient archetypes: the stoner chick, the guy who al­ways smokes, the avid beer drinker. To­bacco. Weed. Lean. Xans. Molly. LSD. The list of pos­si­ble vices goes on, and so does the list of their men­tions and ref­er­ences in pop cul­ture: lm, tele­vi­sion, and more promi­nently, mu­sic, be­ing the medium that’s the most ac­ces­si­ble among the three.

While coun­try is listed as the genre with the most drug ref­er­ences (shoutout to Johnny Cash and Wil­lie Nel­son), hip-hop ap­pears to be the most preva­lent when it comes to bring­ing the names of drugs and al­co­hol into our daily vo­cab­u­lary. lco­hol, weed, and lean (codeine cough syrup mixed with a soft drink) are just some of the many drugs that you not only hear men­tioned in their mu­sic but also see in the mu­sic videos. id Cudi raps in Travis Scott’s “through the late night”: “N, N-Dimethyl­tryptamine and Ly­ser­gic acid di­ethy­lamide The vibes are ef­fer­ves­cent, de­li­cious, just how they should be.” When some­one spells out the full name of DMT and LSD, you know that they know what they’re talk­ing about.

nd why should they not rap about what they do in life? Im­age is a big deal for many rap stars. s rap­per Vince Sta­ples de­scribes in an in­ter­view with

Vogue, a rap star is “like, a star. Like a ball of gas.” The pro­jec­tion of a per­sona linked with vices, money, and power is com­mon within the up­per ech­e­lon of rap, al­most like a brand stamped on the minds of each of their fol­low­ers.

Rap­pers like Vince Sta­ples, how­ever, go against the grain. He, along with hip-hop veterans 50 Cent, en­drick La­mar, Com­mon, and younger co­horts Lil Yachty and Tyler, the Cre­ator, all swear off al­co­hol and drugs. nd as their mu­sic and pres­ence hit the main­stream, so do their ideals.

Drugs, al­co­hol, and cig­a­rettes have per­me­ated our pop at­mos­phere so much that they have now be­come the sta­tus quo, the new nor­mal. lmost ev­ery day we see a new video on how to smoke weed. lmost ev­ery week we see an­other mu­sic video where drugs and al­co­hol are promi­nently dis­played. lmost ev­ery month we learn about a new drug tak­ing lives.

Not that we de­mo­nize those who in­dulge in their vices—look­ing down on those who are in a rough patch does noth­ing—but his­tor­i­cally speak­ing, the youth tends to go against what­ever was nor­mal for the gen­er­a­tion be­fore them. What will the kids hop on to af­ter the al­lure of the il­le­gal-turned-le­gal is lost? What be­comes cool af­ter mind-bend­ing, face-melt­ing sub­stances you snort and in­ject in your sys­tem?

If Vince Sta­ples and Lil Yachty are set­ting the trend, It ap­pears that so­bri­ety has be­come the new coun­ter­cul­ture. In a world punc­tu­ated by drug-ad­dled slang, em­brac­ing the sober life is seen as de­viance. We all know our one friend who raises eye­brows when­ever he or she de­clines a drink or a joint. The idea of some­one breaking our so­cial codes leaves a mark on us, and gives us some­thing to think about.

But the call for a sober life is not all new, as his­tory tells us. sim­i­lar, older, move­ment em­brac­ing so­bri­ety from the realm of mu­sic has been birthed in 1981, and all it took was a 46-sec­ond song Straight Edge, from punk band Mi­nor Threat. More than 35 years later, the move­ment is still alive and well, even in the lo­cal punk com­mu­nity.

The pledge to the straight edge life­style is in­ex­pli­ca­bly tied to punk cul­ture, whose de­sire to go against the norm meant go­ing against a cul­ture of in­tox­i­ca­tion dur­ing those times. There are those who have since re­turned to drink­ing al­co­hol and tak­ing drugs, those who have “bro­ken edge,” but the rules of what en­cap­su­lates straight edge have even ex­panded to ve­g­an­ism and ab­sti­nence from sex. For many, the path to a straight edge life means some­thing to be­lieve in ev­ery day.

What­ever rea­sons they might have in claim­ing edge and also breaking it, the trend in choos­ing so­bri­ety then and now leads to one thing: a claim for a more nu­anced in­di­vid­u­al­ity born from per­sonal choice. The step into a straight edge life­style may come from re­belling to­wards the sup­posed sta­tus quo, but it may lead to a more ma­ture un­der­stand­ing of how life plays out.

One per­son who claimed edge says: “It doesn’t mean that those who drink and those who do drugs are bad peo­ple and are wast­ing their lives. If that’s the way they want to live, then so be it. I’d give more re­spect to drinkers who re­ally want to drink their lives out than other straight edge kids who are just sober to t a mold.”

We can be known as just the stoner, but we can choose not to. The same can be said for the for­ever des­ig­nated driver and the peren­nial sober per­son in the room. We are more nu­anced, more com­plex than the con­ve­nient ac­tions we iden­tify with, and with th­ese steps into, for a lack of a bet­ter term, “wo­ke­ness,” we un­der­stand that the de­ci­sions we make not only build our­selves, but help us un­der­stand the world we live in.

We live in a pre­dom­i­nant drink­ing cul­ture; you and I both know it. Not only is al­co­hol a main­stay in our so­cial events, but drink­ing al­co­hol for the first time is also seen as a com­ing-of-age rit­ual, as­so­ci­ated with be­ing mat­a­pang at pagig­ing tu­nay na lalaki.

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