"We are discontinuing our current line of braggadocio, in light of the current trend in 'realness'...As an alternative, we will be confiscating weed supplies and replacing them with magic mushrooms, in hopes of helping niggas see beyond their reality."
Ten-plus years after emcee and poet Saul Williams wrote those lyrics, his words are being realized. While the masculine confidence of hip-hop's roots is still prevalent by and large, a quick look at any major hip-hop scene will reveal a growing subculture of both artists and fans who have had their minds expanded through the use of psychedelics.
Whether it's Flatbush ZOMBiES on the East Coast, Ab-Soul on the West Coast, EarthGang in the South, or even Chance the Rapper in the Midwest, we've seen a growing number of artists move towards the mainstream. Press play on the work of any of these artists and you're just as likely to hear a reference to DMT or Christ Consciousness as you are references to weed and alcohol.
From a purely sonic standpoint, the surprisingly trippy turn that the trap movement has taken, thanks in part to superstar producers like Metro Boomin, along with the re-emergence of Afrocentric funk influences with artists like Thundercat and Kendrick Lamar, are indicative of a not-so-subtle shift in the driving emotions behind the culture. Lyrically, the concepts of enlightenment, love and tolerance are being represented in hip-hop at a level reminiscent of the early '90s East Coast scene that culminated in the Native Tongues Posse, but genre-wide.
To call this shift an emergence would be a misnomer, as psychedelics and music have been closely tied since the '60s and hip-hop is no exception, but when Fetty Wap is mentioning meditation in radio jams and Young Thug is wearing rare Italian dresses on his album covers, it would be disingenuous to brush off the clear expansion of this culture and the fading boundaries within and around it as just a fad. It's much, much more.
Don't just take my word for it - the numbers don't lie. The Underachievers, an independent Brooklyn duo who's first project revolved heavily around psychedelics and the idea of indigo children, have multiple drug-themed videos with more than a million views. "Herb Shuttles," arguably their most popular song, has garnered over 20 million views to date. Their lyrical content is often rich with references to higher consciousness and spiritual existence. "Woke," if you will.
Got my 3 eyes open, Pineal gland is swollen / Astral Planes I'm floatin'
What we're witnessing is a re-imagining of what hip-hop culture really means to a new generation, and several different possible expressions of what that reality might look like in the coming years. The core elements are still present, but there's a broadening of sorts occurring and a definite shift in priorities among younger artists.
If the '80s and '90s were the crack era of hip-hop, we've officially entered the mushroom era, and so far it's pretty damn exciting.
By Brent Bradley. Tell him about that time you totally tripped balls on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram