(Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa posing with a pound of weed.)
We are currently living in a growing world that has gone digital, where something can be filmed, uploaded or written within seconds and be all over he internet. Everyone with a device that is connected online can see it, comment and share with just the click of a button. This can be seen as a good and a bad thing.
While there are many positive celebrity role models, there are also some that are negative. These celebrities tend to promote the use of drugs in their songs, TV and movie appearances, and on multiple digital platforms.
Just the other week I was discussing with a friend about the responsibility of music artists. More specifically on how they portray themselves whether it be on social media, in interviews or in person. I then thought to myself surely musicians have a special responsibility to their community online and offline.
Amongst many issues that one can say are a problem, one to pin point is the use of drugs. In the UK the use of class A and class B are illegal. A number of music artists are sometimes seen with drugs such as ecstasy, cannabis, heroin and many more. However, in other countries or states those drugs maybe legal there, but in UK they are very much illegal. Now the question is: ‘Are music artists responsible on and off their music platform?’.
Since teens are more influenced by celebrities than anyone else and consume about 20 to 40 hours of media per week, it’s not a surprise that many teens end up using drugs as a result. Celebrities often post pictures of partying and drinking alcohol or using drugs and many teens viewing these posts think they should participate in the same behavior.
A lot of musicians these days use social media platforms such as twitter, Instagram, snapchat amongst others, to promote their music, share what they are up to and most of all to engage with their audience.
Guys that I have been following for years such as Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne. They are notoriously known for using drugs and showing them on their platforms whether on music videos or even on social platforms.
More than 7% of Snoop Dogg’s (@snoopdogg) Instagram photos involve drugs or alcohol. He also posts more photos on Instagram than any other celebrity and has included alcohol and illegal drugs in over 9,000 of his photos. Not surprising from someone who claims to have smoked 81 joints in a day.
In 2014, the rapper Devin the Dude (@devindude420) had the highest percentage of Instagram photos containing alcohol and/or drugs at 23.5%. Wiz Khalifa (@mistercap) had the second highest amount at 15.7%, followed by Tommy Chong (@heytommychung) at 14.1%.
Slightly newer on the scene, UK artist Stormzy who is currently on the limelight, I recently saw him upload snapchats with a number of bottles with cannabis mostly likely worth £100s if not £1000s. Furthermore, some I work with worked alongside during his book signing period as security, was offered some of it by Stormzy, which he refused. It might not be a big issue but something like this can have bigger implications.
It’s a difficult subject as a lot of rappers especially those who come from UK hip hop or grime backgrounds have grown up taking drugs with as these and continue to do so when they make it big on the scene. They would probably argue why should they stop now that they are on the scene? However, they mention a lot of making off the block and not doing ‘road’ anymore and onto new things. But the cannabis or whichever drugs they’re using are coming from someone who is still on the street and illegally distributing drugs which they can be arrested for if caught by police. If you watch YouTube platforms such as GRMDaily, LinkUpTV do a great job of exposing British hip hop and grime artists, you often seen artists using drugs without hesitation.
While it may be nearly impossible to avoid all celebrity influence, teens can lessen the negative effects by surrounding themselves with positive role models. There are many celebrities that do not promote drug use and do a lot of good for the world. Parents need to also be mindful of the media their teen is consuming and have them avoid wherever possible any negative media influences. Time on mobile devices can also be restricted at certain times of the day to lessen the amount of exposure to celebrity influence.
Realistically, artists can defend themselves by saying people should be clever and not follow their actions or that plenty of people are doing what they’re doing who aren’t celebrities or known. But the difference is that they are known and non-celebrities are not. It then becomes a circle where you have an artist;a drug dealer, an artist is seen my thousands if not millions of people using the drugs, an audience member feels it’s ok to do it because they’ve seen a famous person do it, then becomes a cycle. You will always hear tragic stories where someone has used a certain drug for the first time and has fallen seriously ill or died. It is undoubtedly something a parent does not want to hear. It then comes back to how influential people are influencing people in ways they may not know or even imagine. This comes back to the question: ‘Are music artists responsible on and off their music platform?’