US hip-hop artists who rap about consuming ecstasy are encouraging African American adults to experiment with the drug, according to researchers at the University of South Florida.
In a paper published earlier this week in the Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, the academics argue that performers such as French Montana, Kanye West and Rick Ross openly boasting about their apparent consumption of MDMA has contributed to an increase in the number of black Americans using the drug over the course of the past two decades.
The paper notes that hip-hop performers regularly reference ecstasy in their lyrics, often associating its consumption with having a good time and success with women.
One study participant told researchers that whenever rappers mention ecstasy in their rhymes, “they are either partying, drinking, smoking, or having sex”, before adding: “All of the things I love to do most. I never heard about anyone getting addicted or dying. That made me feel better about trying it.”
In all, some 80% of African Americans surveyed for the study said hip-hop artists had at least in part influenced their decision to experiment with ecstasy, the use of which has risen sharply in the US over recent years, thanks partially to the growth in popularity of dance music in the country.
Previous studies on the consumption of MDMA, which is commonly referred to as “molly” in the US, have suggested the drug primarily appeals to white Europeans.
Lead author of the study Khary Rigg, professor of mental health law and policy at the University of South Florida, commented: “The behaviours of millennial African Americans are probably the most likely to be influenced by hip-hop music as the artists themselves are typically from that demographic.
“This suggests that rappers may be effective sources for prevention, health promotion, and harm reduction messages aimed at African Americans.”
A 2006 study published by the non-profit Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found that “listening to rap music was significantly and positively associated with alcohol use, problematic alcohol use, illicit drug use, and aggressive behaviours”.
According to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 17 million US citizens aged over 12 consumed ecstasy in 2014, up from 11 million a decade earlier.
While the drug has been widely taken in Europe since the late eighties, MDMA use in the US took off towards the end of the 2000s, when dance music belatedly became commercially successful in America.
Since then, hip-hop artists have increasing replaced a penchant for rapping about crack cocaine with a tendency to namecheck ecstasy in their rhymes.
Rappers have also been blamed for encouraging a huge rise in the abuse of prescription medication such as anti-anxiety drug Xanax in the US.