Commentary: Rapper Macklemore Takes on Prevention

macklemore-addictionA famous rapper is helping make prevention cool.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine shared some new songs with me. He explained the songs were written and performed by a rapper named Macklemore. After listening to just one song, I was encouraged.

Macklemore, a 30-year-old male artist with a history of drug and alcohol use, doesn’t brag about getting drunk or high; rather warns young people about the realities behind addiction, and urges his listeners to learn from his mistakes.

I suggest you listen to the song “Otherside” by Macklemore on YouTube. His message is clear: addiction is a real danger, and drug use can ruin or end the user’s life.

The lyrics in “Otherside” narrate the story of a young man who innocently begins using cough syrup in order to emulate a famous rapper. The man in the narrative becomes addicted to the drug and Macklemore vividly describes his pain, hopelessness and eventual death. Macklemore then tells teens that they don’t need to use drugs to live out their dreams or emulate their idols. After all, far more drug users become addicts than famous musicians.

He illustrates messages the prevention community has made an effort to communicate for decades:

Thinking ‘I would never do that, not that drug’
And growing up nobody ever does
Until you’re stuck
Looking in the mirror like I can’t believe what I’ve become
Swore I was going to be someone
And growing up everyone always does
We sell our dreams and our potential
To escape through that buzz

Months later I’m in the same place
No music made, feeling like a failure
And trust me it’s not dope to be twenty-five
And move back to your parent’s basement

What was most surprising to me is that Macklemore isn’t just “some guy.” He is one of the most famous and well-respected rappers of our time. His last album, “The Heist,” went platinum.

That’s right — thanks to Macklemore, my generation is paying to download songs about prevention.

Macklemore’s lyrics continue to surprise me; I suppose the number of rap songs that I was accustomed to glorified alcohol, drugs, sex, and violence, and had left me quite jaded. But now that I’ve taken some time to read about Macklemore, it’s hardly surprising that he would be the rapper to deliver such an important message. In his latest album, Macklemore’s song “Starting Over” includes a more personal narrative about recovery and relapse. If you ask me, that’s a pretty powerful message for a Platinum album.

With role models and visionary leaders like Macklemore, our generation has the potential to tackle “the big issues.” Let’s hope prevention is one of them.

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