STUDY: Country Music Has More Drug References Than Hip Hop

And marijuana was the most referenced drug across all genres.

It’s funny. One might reasonably think that out of any musical genre, rap, rock, or punk musicians would make reference to drugs in their lyrics the most. But one would be wrong as hell. According to a study conducted by drug rehabilitation and recovery resource site, addiction.com, country music, as it turns out, makes reference to drugs more than any other genre.

From the study:

“Using data collected from Songmeanings API, we first examined whether or not drug references have become more prevalent over time. The data suggests alarmists may have a reason to worry, as the number of illicit substances mentioned in song lyrics spiked between 1970 and the mid-2000s. However, the trend took a curious dip after that time period, approaching similar levels to the early 1990s in 2013. ”

“. . . country leads the way with a 1.6 mentions per song on average, followed closely by jazz and pop music. Hip-hop actually falls in last place at less than 1.3 mentions behind folk, challenging the assumption that all rappers are lyrical drug peddlers.”

Speculating on the data to provide additional context behind the drug-infused lyrics and the reasoning as to why rap wasn’t observed as the genre containing the highest frequency of said substance-laden lyrical content, addiction.com data scientist Logan Freeman told Newsweek, "I think there was a huge drug culture in the '90s that was blossoming into rap music that simply isn’t as big as it once was," Freedman said. 

"It’s really amazing. I think because marijuana has become more normalized in our culture, a lot of country artists are singing about it more often than ever."

Image via addiction.com 

Indeed (and not necessarily a huge surprise), weed is the most referenced substance, accounting for more than 30 percent of all drug references in songs across the musical spectrum, according to the study.

But digging deeper into the prevalence of drug references in popular music at the artist level, rap and hip hop producers represent the paramount group of offenders: Kottonmouth Kings, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, and The Game make up the top five. To be sure, each of the top 10 artists making reference to drugs or drug use in their music could reasonably be classified as rap or hip hop. Tech N9ne, Insane Clown Posse, and Bone Thugs N Harmony are in this group, each with more than 150 drug references in their respective discographies. Interestingly enough, hip hop and country music are also the only two genres where references to meth were quantifiable, according to the study. 

Image via addiction.com 

Before you object that the geeks at addiction.com couldn't possibly have considered all of the slang we sling around to talk about drugs, check out a partial list of terms they included, and maybe think again:

We scraped song lyrics from Song Meanings for over 1.09 million songs and analyzed drug mentions, what drugs were involved, and how it changed over time. We grouped drug slang words together in their respected drug categories. Some of the drug nicknames we used in the study are as follows: acid, adderall, addy, ativan, bars, blotter, blow, blues, blunt, bud, buddha, chronic, cid, cocaine, coke, crack, crank, dank, dope, dose, doses, dro, ecstasy, gak, h, heroin, hydro, ice, joint, key, lean, lortab, LSD, lucy, Marijuana, MDMA, meth, methamphetamine, microdot, molly, morphine, oxy, oxycontin, perc, Percocet, Percocets, piff, pill, pot, powder, purp, Promethazine, roxy, speed, sizzurp, spliff, syrup, tab, tabs, tar, tweak, upper, Valium, vicodin, weed, white, x, and Xanax.


After the lyrics were collected we scrubbed the data by hand to make sure the lyrics were in fact about drugs and not another definition of these nicknames. We then grouped the nicknames into 7 main categories: Pills (which includes all Opiates except Heroin, Benzodiazepines, Sleep medication, and ADHD medication), Heroin, Marijuana, LSD, Cocaine (which includes both crack cocaine and cocaine), Ecstasy (This includes MDMA and molly), and Meth.

Sounds pretty solid to us.

Still, the next generation of artists could initiate a paradigm shift in songwriting and might seek to put out a message that focuses less on getting lit. 

"This is crazy, but I haven’t smoked weed in three weeks,” Miley Cyrus said to Billboard in a recent interview. And though Cyrus has long championed marijuana consumption and has been outright unapologetic about her personal use, her artistic persona is closely tied to and evolves in tow with her actual self. Cyrus is an adult now, an artist with a clear vision of how she wants to be portrayed.

“I like to surround myself with people that make me want to get better, more evolved, open,” Cyrus told Billboard. “And I was noticing, it’s not the people that are stoned. I want to be super clear and sharp, because I know exactly where I want to be.”

Which is inspiring.