Earlier this week, DJ A-Trak—Kanye’s former tour DJ and founder of Fool’s Gold Records (home to hip-hop acts like Danny Brown and GrandeMarshall)—published a story on Huffington Post about hip-hop’s infatuation with drugs. In the piece, the Canadian-born DJ called out old and new artists like Juicy J and Chance The Rapper, the latter of whom recently released a mixtape titled Acid Rap.
While the op-ed post—which hoped to start a dialogue about the celebration of the effects of drugs via rap songs—didn’t quite achieve its intended goal as some of his conclusions drew too-easy comparisons and fell short of becoming full ideas, it did raise some interesting points. By mentioning Southern icons like a now-deceased Pimp C and a repeatedly-ill Lil Wayne, he reminded rap fans that the glorified subject matter of our favorite rapper’s songs can (and does) turn into the cause of their untimely demise. Even as rappers continue to suffer and sometimes die (Chris Kelly, ODB, Big Moe, Pimp C) at the hands of their vices, they go on to be immortalized by a younger generation who then feels that it’s okay to rap about their heroes and their favorite drugs.
At the end of A-Trak’s piece, he touches on young Southern star Trinidad Jame$—a recent XXL Freshmen and burgeoning icon of the drug-rap genre—who’s debut single “All Gold Everything” featured the now-famous refrain, “Popped a molly, I’m sweatin’.” In calling him out, A-Trak mentioned that Trinidad would be a good jumping-off point in any ensuing discussion, literally writing, “I even think the pill popping Trinidad James himself deserves a smart interview… He probably has more insight than we think.” Knowing Trinidad, we knew that he did, so we called him up and gave him a smart interview.
XXL: In A-Trak’s article, he talks about drug culture in hip-hop and mentions that it’s celebrated too freely by some of the genre’s biggest artists. What do you have to say that?
Trinidad James: Honestly man, life is based on moderation. Anything that you do, you have to do it in moderation. People overdo it and it turns into people OD’ing or dying, but it’s all about how extreme you go with it. Some artists have made some of their most incredible music on drugs, so for me to say that drugs are messing up hip-hop, I’m not going to say that. It’s just that some people really believe so much of what we say, and people honestly don’t understand moderation.
But with an artist like Juicy J—who raps about popping a molly on every single song—younger listeners might hear that and be like, “Well, if Juicy does it every day then I should too.”
But tell me this—if Chief Keef is shooting people every day, is that what you’re going to do? You got to be your own man, you know? If that’s what Juicy is doing, then fuck, man, you gotta let him do what he do. He’s just being real with you. If I was doing molly every day then I would rap about doing molly every day. People just have to understand that it’s about moderation.
Do you feel like some rappers glorify drugs to the point that listeners who had never done drugs before might try them?
That definitely happens… There are some artists who make drug references just to look cool, or just trying to appeal to somebody, right? But shit, dude, people have been doing that forever. It’s not even about drugs, it can be about anything—cars, whips, jewelry. Artists make music, and some artists talk about shit that they really live, but it’s on the listener to decipher if it’s real and if they really fuck with it or if they’re going along with it because everyone else is. That’s how this game is set up, man. You’ve got people who want to hear about the shit that they want, but not the shit that they need to hear about. People don’t want to hear positive raps as much as people want to hear negative rap.
Like ignorant rap?
Well, consistently talking about violence, and drugs and bitches, that’s not the “right thing” to talk about, from a Godly standpoint or from a moral standpoint. But that’s what people want to hear! Like, how many positive rappers are really making it these days?
Not many. I want to talk about a line you have on your first big hit “All Gold Everything,” where you rap, “Popped a molly, I’m sweatin’. Woo!”
But I wasn’t telling you to do molly, I was just telling you about my experience.
Right, but let’s say some kids hear that and then they go to your show and take molly and end up getting really sick or OD’ing. Do you have any sympathy for them?
When I made that song I wasn’t thinking about the kid who was going to listen to the song. I was just speaking about my life, and if you can relate, great. But why can’t you relate to the line, “Count your blessings?” No, you want to relate to “Popped a molly, I’m sweatin’.” That’s not my fault, you chose to listen and focus on the drug reference. That’s on you, my nigga. I don’t feel no type of sympathy or anything, because at the end of the day I know what’s right and wrong. I’ve done wrong and I’ve done right, but these people who do stupid shit and blame it on rap… get the hell out of here. It’s your choice if you want to pull out a gun. I’ll say this though, the music does have an influence, I’m not going to say it doesn’t. But you still have a choice and a conscience that God gave you. So it’s on you.
So you rely on fans to use their judgment when it comes to drugs.
Yes, man. Since I put out “All Gold Everything,” you can check my Twitter, I’ve never quoted that line. I’ve never talked about it. I’ve never made any promo shirts for it.
But that’s everyone’s favorite line.
And why is that? Because people want to hear that type of shit. But I wasn’t thinking about that, I was just telling you about my experience.