To be young, gifted, and Black—it’s a term that was worn proudly on the chests of Black America four decades ago. From the voices of Nina Simone to Aretha Franklin, the influence of music has become the soundtrack to a revolutionary cause of independence for many. The pride of singing these lyrics written in 1969 was sung and released by Simone and embraced by so many people around the world.
To be young, gifted and black,
Oh what a lovely precious dream
To be young, gifted and black,
Open your heart to what I mean
In the whole world you know
There are billion boys and girls
Who are young, gifted and black,
And that’s a fact!
Let’s fast forward to 2012 when rap recording artist Future releases “Double Cups & Molly”, the song that was one of the most requested records on Chicago’s Urban radio stations. We go from celebrating our culture, our strength and pride to popping the designer drug Molly.
Double cups and molly, codeine molly cirus
I’m twisted and I’m faded, I’m po’ing up and I’m driving
She foreign and exotic
She a ride it like Ferrari
Give her this and let her pop it
Give her this and let her top ya
Let that girl win her a Oscar
The fear and concern of our heightened violence and homicide that has increased in our backyard, which has us burying our latest victim, a 13-month toddler. Dillan Harris was in a stroller with his mom as they were standing at the bus stop when assailants hit him in a police chase fleeing a fatal shooting of Marvin Carr—friend of rap artist, Chief Keef. The sporadic nature of these crimes is a constant discussion in our communities and often there is some type of illegal substance found in the system of the folks committing the crime.
Whereas crack cocaine was the drug that dominated the 1980’s, heroine in the 1990’s and over the last 20 years, a combination of marijuana laced with crack among an array of quick hits. But in the last decade we’ve seen a disturbing trend of various forms that have taken shape in our community with young people being the victims. The designer drug ‘Molly’ is not new, having found a home among rave party goers since the 1980’s. Its chemical name is methylenedioxymethamphetamine, but it is more commonly referred to as MDMA — the active ingredient in the party drug Ecstasy.
Although, we’ve often connected the growth of synthetic drugs to white kids on both sides of the spectrum from trailer home parks to the well-manicured lawns of Winneka, its power through music is glorified in Black neighborhoods across America.
The Chicago Defender had an opportunity to speak with the generation that is most affected by the wave of this drug on how it’s influence has impacted their peers and the dangers for the next generation.
Anthony Amir Graham-Fort, 28 is a Community Program Director in Harvey works with young people in music. “People of color weren’t dealing with pharmaceutical drugs in our neighborhood. There was cocaine, weed and then later crack cocaine,” he said. “In these White neighborhoods, the substance is straight raw when it comes to cocaine. It’s an expensive drug so we had crack cocaine (a derivative of cocaine) in the Black neighborhoods and then eventually they had crystal meth which is now a form of the ‘Molly’.”
The origin of ‘Molly’ is a synthetic drug MDMA or ecstasy, giving users the euphoric high of amphetamines and the psychedelic effects of hallucinogens in its purest form. The problem is that the drug is not pure and what is found on the street is often ‘dumbed down’ versions of the pill. The pill can be bought for as little as $5-$10, mixed with bath salts and sometimes rat poison making it affordable to the young targeted market. The street value for pure ‘Molly’ can easily value for up to $150 a gram –$4,250 an ounce with distribution channels throughout Canada coming through Vancouver and making its way to U.S. major cities.
Community peace activist Chimeka Powell, 26 has dealt with the backlash of the generational landslide of ‘Molly’ and how it is gradually becoming the new drug epidemic. “Every time it’s passed down, it becomes less than its purest form. It reached to Chicago and now we have kids ‘crunking’. They are taking formaldehyde getting the side effects of how it’s eating at their brain,” she said. “It’s raises the blood pressure and elevates the body temperature. It’s to the point that they are losing oxygen to their brain. These kids are literally passing out and their bodies are overheating.”
From hip hop’s Biggie rapping about smoking ‘optimo’, marijuana laced with crack cocaine in the 1990’s to Gucci Mane spitting rhymes about the highs of syrup—a quick fix combining cough syrup and codeine, the message of popping ‘Molly’ through music resonates through the headphones and households of our Black youth. In Chicago it’s ‘drill’ music, a form of rap music that offers an inside out viewpoint of street culture, telling graphic tales of violence and territorial beef. The music is often repetitive and the hypnotic hook-line has captured a viral young audience through high digital numbers and mixtapes.
Powell adds. “There’s a song out called, “I’m Rollin’”, it’s played at the strip clubs. The kids are eating off that song, they want to hear it. Here comes that ‘Molly’ man coming into the club, so everyone wants to do what’s in the song. Everyone wants that feeling. Everyone is not going to get that feeling, you don’t have that what they have in the song. It’s not accessible to everyone, you’re getting that bootleg drug.”
The song that Powell refers to is from Lil Herb, a Chicago artist who has close to 900,000 YouTube views from the music video. In the song, “I’m Rollin’” the lyrics include:
All they know is kill, show no sympathy
And they kill for free, don’t get killed for me
Lil bro got it on him off a pill or three
We don’t show ID, couple shorties with me
Tottin’ thirty clips only sixteen
Do we blame the music that allows an escape for the many young talented youth in our inner city neighborhoods when hope and despair are a constant presence? The glorification of ‘Molly’, ‘K2’, ‘Ecstasy ‘and the latest form—‘Loud’. ‘Loud’ is marijuana that is cloned through manipulating two female ( marijuana has a male and female plants) branches braided together, accelerating the THC in the plant. This can result in psychoactive cannabinoids producing different effects, which can cause adverse reactions upon the user.
Few reports rarely connect Black youth to these drugs but often we hear of White youth overdosing from its affects. A victim was found attending the Spring Awakening Music Festival in May due to a reported drug overdose at Soldier’s Field. What is not being reported much is the problem is no longer confined to electronic dance music festivals or raves—this is a growing epidemic, leading to long term behavioral and physical problems across societal lines.
“My generation is considered ‘crack babies’,” Powell said. “Not only do we suffer from mental disabilities but most of us don’t have the resources to recognize this. It’s an open field of drugs and the ripple effect that cause many to become unstable. It’s a trickle down effect. Just like how ‘crack’ affected my generation, some of my cousins suffer from Down Syndrome, some suffer from depression and many other mental disabilities.”
At press time, Chicago had 248 murders and 214 shootings. The age breakdown of the victims or the assailants or whether the assailants are under the influence of drugs is not clear. However, it is important to get a realistic idea of what is circulating in our communities and the easy access of these drugs. They are as accessible as going to the corner store to purchase a six-pack of beer or buying a double espresso shot of latte.
The ability to help through outpatient drug rehab and mental health facilities is dissipated randomly due to state and city budget cuts in the African American community. The fight to save our youth can often be challenged as an annihilation of another generation. From the song, “Young, Black and Gifted”:
When you feel really low
Yeah, there’s a great truth you should know
When you’re young, gifted and black
Your soul’s intact
The drug ‘Molly’ doesn’t recognize color, race, gender or social background—it rips any potential of hope, growth and a shining future from the user. But the disparity in its distribution in our community is our concern. We have to change that. “Say what you may but old school gangsters did not and do not endorse any mind control drugs,” says a community source.” So, let’s see which ‘young, gifted and black’ artist will rap about these truths today.