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Hip Hop highs: Long on lyrics, short on rehab

CNN News Wire | 3/22/2013, 9:36 a.m.

Lil Wayne is down on drugs -- for others.

For himself, well, it's a different story.

The man who infamously told Katie Couric during a 2009 interview "I'm a gangsta, Miss Katie. I don't take nothing from no one. I do what I want to do," has been equally outspoken about his use of "sizzurp" or "purple drank," a prescription cough syrup made with a combination of promethazine and codeine.

"Sizzurp" has even found its way into Lil Wayne's song lyrics, and his issues with substance abuse have been well documented. Promethazine has several uses, including treating allergy symptoms, easing nausea and as a sedative. According to Drugs.com, dangerous side effects can include "twitching or uncontrollable movements" of limbs, face, eyes and the tongue.

Of course, rappers talking about drug use is nothing new. As is often the case with Hip Hop -- which began as a vehicle to document the lives of inner-city youth -- art, more often than not, imitates life.
But Lil Wayne's recent hospitalization has cast a spotlight on Hip Hop and drug use because of fans' concerns over his past behavior. Scant information has been released about what may have caused the award-winning artist, who was born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., to have a seizure that landed him in a Los Angeles hospital. His label's publicist confirmed to CNN at the time that the rapper had suffered a seizure.

And what will happen now that he's out? Talking drug use is one thing. But rehab seldom comes up in the conversation.

"Where Hip Hop falls short is in addressing the rehabilitation aspect," said writer JasFly, who has reported on the industry. "Wayne is one of our Hip Hop rock stars, but where is the help for him?"

A big star and his proteges
With his monumental success on the charts and devil-may-care attitude, Lil Wayne has in some ways transcended the male dominated Hip Hop genre and occupies the rarefied air of one of music's biggest stars.

Lil Wayne is not only a platinum-selling artist in his own right, but he's also the man responsible for stars like "American Idol" judge Nicki Minaj and rapper Drake. He often appears on songs of other artists as diverse as Kelly Rowland and teen heartthrob Joe Jonas.

He also is one of a number of rappers who have openly discussed drug use. In 2011, he and fellow rap superstar Eminem discussed their substance abuse issues with GQ magazine.

The New Orleans native, who fans also lovingly call "Weezy," said he quit narcotics, not necessarily by choice, but partly because it was a requirement of his probation after a 2008 arrest in Arizona where authorities allegedly found ecstasy in his backpack. The rapper secured a plea deal and was given probation.

"I wish I could be back on it," he told the publication. "That's how it f**king feels. [cracking himself up] 'How does it feel to be sober?' I'll be like, 'It feels f***ed up.' What do you want me to say? 'It feels great'? No."