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Why Macklemore “Drug Dealer” Music Video Hits Hard on Opioid Crisis

Why Macklemore “Drug Dealer” Music Video Hits Hard on Opioid Crisis

Author: Justin Mckibben

Early yesterday afternoon I caught a shared video link on my Facebook feed to the new Macklemore video. It was the first I had heard of it, and the person sharing it seemed pretty impressed. The title for the video- “Drug Dealer”– is already enticing. Once you see it, it’s hard not to get pulled into the cold, dark reality of it. I shared it, and watched it a couple times by the end of the day.

Honestly, if you haven’t seen it by now I would be absolutely shocked.

Later, I noticed on my feed it had been shared by 20+ people I knew, and the comments were praising this harsh and devastating depiction of withdrawal and addiction more and more. The spark was lit and the story has since taken off. So what was it about the Macklemore “Drug Dealer” music video that made its message so strong?

Describing “Drug Dealer” Music Video

This latest piece of work directed by Jason Koenig tells a haunting and dramatic story from the open shot. Throughout the “Drug Dealer” music video the theme is consistently set in intensity, and the darkness of the battle with addiction is complimented in the visual contrast.

The first clip begins with Macklemore himself curled up in a naked ball in a shower. It skips back and forth between shots of him twisting on an empty mattress in a dirty room decorated with drugs, and close up shots of Macklemore’s sweaty, swollen face. The close-ups are portraits of pain as the artist passionately raps about opioid addiction, eyes dark and teary that are almost entirely fixed on the camera.

Breaking Down “Drug Dealer” Music Video Lyrics

The words to the song are powerful, direct and damning to the Pharmaceutical Industry and the crooked doctors that many say have made the determining contribution to the opiate epidemic in America. Macklemore makes some raw and heartbreaking revelations in his lyrics.

  1. Calling out Big Pharma

One line implies that billionaire drug companies pay off crooks in congress, but executives never see prison time for their crimes. Probably referencing numerous stories of drug companies being sued for falsely marketing drugs as not addictive, and hiding research information.

Singer Ariana Deboo is featured on the chorus, and Deboo also appears in the “Drug Dealer” music video, drowning in a sea of red and white pills as she voices her contribution. Deboo’s vocals are a evocative melody of words that point a blatant finger at the Pharmaceutical Industry and the crooked doctors in America. Her words ring out-

“My drug dealer was a doctor, doctor

Had the plug from Big Pharma, Pharma

He said that he would heal me, heal me

But he only gave me problems, problems

My drug dealer was a doctor, doctor

Had the plug from Big Pharma, Pharma

I think he trying to kill me, kill me

He tried to kill me for a dollar, dollar.”

Neither Macklemore or Deboo seem to be pulling any punches in this one. The scary part is these words are so firmly based in truth. In fact, over time controversy has continued to boil as reports shed light on doctors getting kick-backs for prescribing drugs from the companies that produce them.

  1. Celebrity overdoses

In another few lines he makes mention of several other artists that have died due to drugs, especially prescription drugs, including:

These are just a handful of the celebrities in the past few years who have suffered or died in relation to prescription drug abuse.

  1. Calling out the music industry

In one line Macklemore says “we dancing to a song about a face gone numb” pointing out how despite the fact that more people are dying from drug overdoses than ever before, we have a society that generates a music industry where artists glorify drug abuse. Even though some of these same artists don’t use drugs, they just say what sells. Macklemore seems to be calling out the icons of our time to stand for something instead of just trying to sell anything they can.

  1. Why now?

In the “Drug Dealer” music video Macklemore also challenges the fact that since the opiate epidemic has made it into the suburbs from the city it is suddenly everyone’s problem. Many have argued that the epidemic wasn’t such a public health concern until it was no longer only hurting low-income inner-city communities.

This same segment of the song also stands to shake the addiction stigma that it only happens in certain areas with certain groups.

  1. Reality of addiction and recovery

A great moment is toward the end of the song when the momentum reaches a fever-pitch. The distortion of the vocals and the shouting, sweat-smeared face in the camera says enough, but the reality of what Macklemore is sharing about his own desperation is gripping.

Then, he says the serenity prayer.

This prayer is one well known to pretty much anyone in the recovery community. It is recited in many 12 Step groups, depending on the group’s format and function. Most recovering addicts and alcoholics know it by heart. The video lightens up to a scene of Macklemore sitting in a 12 Step meeting, surrounded by people sharing. He gets a hug from another member, and the credits roll.

A Man with a Message

The “Drug Dealer” music video is part of the release of the first new single from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis since earlier this year when they released their sophomore album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. Macklemore is a man with a message who has been open about his own struggle with addiction for some time. He celebrated his sobriety and discussed his addiction in his music before. He even opened up after a brief relapse a while back.

Macklemore recently discussed America’s opioid crisis with President Barack Obama in the MTV documentary Prescription for Change and has continued to try and be a voice shouting for reform and revolutionary action against the opiate epidemic and the overdose outbreak destroying millions of lives.

There are so many reasons this song hits so hard on the opioid crisis in our country. For anyone who has experienced it first hand, whether their own addiction or that of a loved one, the fight is very graphic and very real. Macklemore’s new “Drug Dealer” music video looks you in the eyes with the intensity of that fight. It is hard to watch, but it’s something too many people have to live every day.

As part of most recovery fellowships, we often share our stories. As part of the battle against the shady practices of Big Pharma, we should call politicians to action. And as part of overcoming the opiate epidemic, we raise awareness. Macklemore’s new “Drug Dealer” music video takes a stab at all of these. Along with such action, effective treatment is also critical to change. If you or someone you love is struggling, please reach out and get help. Call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.

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Rapper Macklemore’s Relapse and Return to Recovery

Rapper Macklemore’s Relapse and Return to Recovery

Author: Justin Mckibben

The well-known hip-hop artist Macklemore, born Ben Haggerty, earned himself quite a following a few years ago when he broke out on the scene  with his breakout album, The Heist, which won him the 2014 Grammy for Best Rap Album. Macklemore and collaborator Ryan Lewis also scored the Best New Artist Award, along with a bunch of No. 1 singles.

One thing setting Macklemore apart from his peers was his speaking openly about his recovery from drugs and alcohol, and his music sending messages of hope and inspiration. His status as a sober musician was very public and seemed to draw even more fans toward his positive influence with some inspiring songs about recovery from addiction.

So it was a bit of a bummer recently to hear he admitted in an interview he’s in the process of recovering from a relapse. Still, his honesty should be admired considering how difficult it can be for some, and his shared experience might help others avoid making similar choices.

Price of Fame

32 year old Macklemore and 27 year old Ryan Lewis retreated to their native Seattle, Washington to work on new music after they had grabbed up a mantle full of awards for their initial album, and it was in this Macklemore has noted he began slipping back into some of his old bad habits and how he began to regress to a more destructive youth, trying to escape from the new found fame and the downsides that came with it.

In an interview he stated:

“I held it together for a while. But, eventually, I stopped going to my 12-step meetings. I was burnt out. I was super-stressed. We weren’t sleeping — doing a show every day, zigzagging all over the country. In terms of the media I was getting put into a box that I never saw for myself. The pressure and the fame — everything. All the clichés, man — like not being able to walk around, having no privacy, and from this TV appearance to this TV appearance, and the criticism, and the lack of connection, and the lack of meetings — all of that put into one pie was just…I just wanted to escape.”

One good thing is he was quick to point out where he had made his mistakes and what brought him to relapse. Between stress from his work, feeling disconnected, and not keeping up with his program of action which he used to maintain sobriety he found himself wondering if he could safely use, which turned out not to in his best interests.

Tough Times

Macklemore admitted that he was not able to get back on the wagon right away, and said it actually took the intervention of his fiancee, Tricia Davis, finding sleeping pills hidden in his shoe at the SXSW festival for him to even try to sober up.

This was short lived as he kept putting himself around drugs to catch ‘contact highs’ before jumping right back into smoking weed. He experienced the typical pattern of bargained with himself about sobriety that so many addicts are familiar with, saying:

“You know, like, Monday, I’ma stop…. OK. Tuesday, I’ma stop…. OK, f— it, I might as well go on to the weekend. Sunday, I’m done. But after this bag of weed…,”

The relapse took a turn for the worst when he started attending business meetings high and stopped making music, then he started to see the faults in his choices,

“I felt so dumb. I felt like I’m just wasting time. What am I escaping here?”

Eventually a major life change for Macklemore gave him a new reason to rededicate himself to working his 12 step program again to try and save himself.

Back to Basics

Macklemore stumbled back and forth through his relapse for a little while, but in September 2014 he found out his fiancée was pregnant with their first child, and everything changed. Macklemore started attending his 12-step meetings again, and is making an effort to find his way back to the basics and grow up, saying:

“Since I heard that Tricia was pregnant, I was like, ‘I need to grow up right now.’”

His new sobriety has also helped to get the creative juices flowing.

“…as it always works, the minute that I start actively seeking recovery — not just sobriety, but recovery — music is there. It always has been. Songs write themselves. My work ethic turns off-to-on in a second and I get happy again. I get grateful again.”

Looking at the transition he went through in his relapse, Macklemore seems to be aware of where he fell short and how to address these issues in his life. His emphasis on 12 step meetings and the connection he felt his active recovery has to his passion in music shows he has a great deal of respect for his sobriety and the means by which he has chosen to keep it.

Artists and celebrities are human just like the rest of us; sometimes they recover and sometimes they relapse. Thankfully there is always recovery even after a relapse. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

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