Liberté, égalité, fraternité, and... purplé dranké?



American Rap Might Be Responsible for France's Sizzurp Problem

As the French say, “Siroter sur certains sizzurp.” Well, at least that’s what Google Translate told me when I typed in the line “sippin on some sizzurp” by Three 6 Mafia. Sizzurp, a combination of cough syrup, soda, and antihistamines, has been the go-to addiction for rappers in the United States for almost two decades. Everyone from Justin Bieber to A$AP Rocky has been drinking the mix that’s been called everything from sizzurp and lean to dirty sprite and purple drank. Future has even rebranded himself as a lean-crazed rapper, with albums Dirty Sprite, Dirty Sprite 2, and Purple Reign all named after the drug.

But now, the purp is jumping the Atlantic to go wreak havoc on France. The country’s National Agency of Medicine and Health Products Safety (ANSM) announced last week that cough syrup addiction is on the rise among French youth because, in America, a fair trade for the gift of Daft Punk is drug abuse.

The rap industry's been sippin on the sizzurp for years.
The rap industry has been sipping on it for years.

The cough syrup craze hit France in 2013, when the ANSM received its first reports of abuse. But since then, abuse of the medicine has skyrocketed. It’s even gotten so bad that a 12-year-old was reportedly abusing the drug. This may sound shocking but with the rise of the Internet and the speed of pop culture’s spread, it was only a matter of time before the American rap industry’s love affair with sizzurp brought the addiction overseas.

Sizzurp’s rise to purple drank of choice dates back to the 90s, when DJ Screw popularized the drink in Houston with the creation of the “chopped and screwed” genre. Slowed down and chopped up, it mimicked what music sounded like when you’re high on the lean. Thanks to the codeine in the cough syrup, users who ingest it experience drowsiness, agitation, delirium, and a major sense of chill. Oh yeah, and they also run the risk of experiencing seizures, depression, and a loss of breath. It’s already claimed the lives of three prominent rappers, including Lean King DJ Screw back in 2000, Pimp C in 2007, and A$AP Yams last year.

The drug’s hold on the rap game doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon, either. Behind Future’s first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 for Dirty Sprite 2 last year, there was a shady marketing strategy that lowkey embraced the sizzurp as a way to sell the record. The blue and purple clouded cover art looks like lean mixing, while the back features millimeter measurements and a warning that the album “may cause drowsiness or dizziness.”

Then there’s the pharmacy-themed pop-up shop in New York that sold Styrofoam cups with Epic and Freebandz logos. This level of chill at the corporate level and the epidemic of sizzurp references in rap is slightly disturbing–especially considering that these are the types of things that shape pop culture. With the French trading in their baguettes for a double cup of lean juice at alarming rates, it’s not just an American problem anymore.

Lead imagery by Kathryn Chadason. Additional imagery via Giphy.

Stay tuned to Milk for more drug news. 

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