Russ’ Flippant Anti-Drug Stance Lacks Nuance About Addiction And Trauma

During a recent tweet storm, mercurial New Jersey-born, Atlanta-based rapper Russ stated, “Doing Xanax and lean (because) your favorite rapper makes it sound cool is all fun and games, ‘til your impressionable ass gets addicted. Stop.”

Technically, he’s right, but that simple “stop” at the end sounds sort of like when I see my people say or tweet out “Black people have to do better” — as if those eight letters automatically infuse us with everything we need to immediately reverse the effects of 400 years of oppression.

It’s rarely ever as simple as “I stopped doing highly addictive substances because someone said stop.” I’m sure the 91 people who die everyday from an opioid overdose wish, on some level, that they could “just stop.” Russ has the right sentiment — even if it’s not as earth-shattering as he believes to say drugs are bad — but his approach, from the tweets, to the “f*cking loser” condemnation on his shirt was a little heavy-handed, and his tonality is not really a big surprise for those who’ve been following his career thus far.

Russ has quickly built up a reputation as the kind of guy who says what’s on his mind and doesn’t have any qualms about it, which is exactly what you’d expect someone named “Vitale” from New Jersey to be like. His heart-on-the-sleeve approach is admirable, but an issue like drug use in hip-hop, which is an extension of drug use in the black community (and in the greater American community), deserves a more complicated examination than a GOP-esque “you’re a f*cking loser” stamp.

Perhaps fellow rapper Fredo Santana’s reply that he’ll stop using Xanax and lean when “I can stop thinking about my dead homies and the trauma that I’ve been through in my life,” was lost amidst the memes and wholehearted co-signs of Russ’s rant. But trauma, and its lingering psychological effects, isn’t something that can be dismissed or retorted to in 140 characters.

Now, Russ’ calling out of the commodification of drug use in hip-hop isn’t completely off base. I hate it. I hated that Meek Mill talked to Hot 97 about getting off Percocets, then went and freestyled about “poppin’ Percs” because he thinks it still sounds fly.