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
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.