By Joseph J. Sanchez
Illustration Designed by Laurenellen McCann
Fact: I am a sucker for novelty items.
When I saw a bottle in the liquor store marked “Sizzurp,” it became an essential addition to my cart. Standing in the aisle, I raved to my friend that the consumption of this beverage would put me one step away from being just like Academy Award winners Three Six Mafia. I wanted to be, as they so eloquently stated in their 2000 single, “sippin’ on some sizzurp”. In other words, this drink needed to be in my mouth. There were no questions about it. Any substance that makes me feel more like a rapper is considerably worth my time, money, hangover, and liver damage.
Fact: When it comes to drug use, I am one naïve motherfucker.
In eleventh grade, my English teacher mentioned a bathroom collision he had with a student carrying a plastic garbage bag full of prescription cough syrup. I realized that this was a big deal. This kid was obviously intending to profit over illegal sale of prescription drugs, but what would anyone possibly do with such a copious amount of cough syrup? Perhaps this young male was capitalizing on a whooping cough epidemic. While I wasn’t satisfied by that answer, I didn’t spend much time dissecting the meaning of this scenario. It’s the kind of thing your spacey, semi-catatonic English teacher spontaneously references after talking about the supposed outdoor sex scene poetically expressed by Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter.
Fact: The young male previously mentioned was definitely not capitalizing on a whooping cough epidemic.
While it may seem obvious to me now, my high school brain simply didn’t comprehend. Prescription-strength cough syrup contains sedatives such as codeine and promethazine. In the Southern United States, it is mixed with Sprite or fruit juice (and occasionally a Jolly Rancher for additional garnish and flavor) to create what is known as “Lean,” “Purple Drank,” “Oil,” or my personal favorite…“Sizzurp.” Another variation includes nothing but over-the-counter cough syrups, hard alcohol, and soda. This recipe has been criticized as unauthentic, and Houston natives on internet message boards have shown a bias and loyalty for the codeine-laced version, adding additional ingredients such as vodka, crushed painkiller pills (such as Vicodin or Xanax), and a few hits of marijuana. Apparently, the latter mixture leads to feelings of euphoria, impaired motor skills, and a general slowness of movement. Popular abuse can be tracked back to the late ‘90s, but the drug has recently gained considerable media attention after the September 2006 arrest of football star Terrence Kiel for possession with attempt to sell. Since then, the dangers of syrup and teen abuse have become a hot topic in the South and Midwest.
Fact: I am not hardcore.
My suspicions that the French-imported “Purple Punch Liqueur” I purchased wasn’t the same drink Three Six Mafia rapped about were unfortunately confirmed by a quick internet search. In case you couldn’t figure it out yourself, a 34-proof “superior blend of vodka, cognac, and exotic juices” isn’t exactly the same as prescription cough syrup. Initially, I was upset, but my mood was lifted by browsing the liqueur website and discovering cocktails such as the “Freaky Zeekey Shotz” and “Purple Haze.” I decided to go for the latter, considering it would give me an excuse to purchase a bottle of Hennessy. Long story short, “Purple Haze” did not taste good. However, it did get me incredibly drunk after a single drink.
Fact: I never understood “chopped and screwed” music.
Houston-native DJ Screw, born Robert Earl Davis Jr, popularized “chopped and screwed” music. Davis slowed down popular hip-hop songs, such as R. Kelly’s “I Wish”, to recreate the effects of drinking an excess of codeine cough syrup. When I first heard one of his mixes, I didn’t understand why anyone would want to listen to it. Strangely, I came to understand the relationship between chopped and screwed music and prescription cough syrup while under the influence of the “Purple Haze.” In my drunkenness, I thought it would be fun to show up in the basement of my former Greek organization’s house. After several awkward conversations, I began discussing music with a semi-racist Texas native who I had never met before. I tripped over a few words in one of my sentences and consequently felt the need to explain my drunken stupidity as a result of “fake sizzurp.” In response, my new acquaintance stated, “Aw, shit man. The first time I had purple drank I was so fucked up, but I finally understood why chopped and screwed music existed.”
Fact: Sometimes drugs make music better.
It goes back to the 1960s. Arguably, some of the best music by The Beatles can be attributed to their own marijuana abuse. The seven-minute or longer, psychedelic compositions by groups such as The Doors, The Grateful Dead, and Pink Floyd are still favored by stoners decades later. Fourteen-minute disco cuts, such as the original recording of Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” could be tolerated by listeners due to recreational use of stimulants (i.e.: cocaine) in clubs. This can be compared to the modern trend of nine minute remixes turned out by gay-icon divas such as Mariah Carey, given the popularity of club drugs such as crystal meth and ecstasy within the urban gay community. And, finally, chopped and screwed hip-hop songs can only be fully understood when you’re sippin’ on some sizzurp…real sizzurp that is.
Fact: Drug-free is the way to be.
While I have praised the effects of drugs on understanding certain subcultures within the music community, I do not encourage you to engage in the abuse of these drugs. Remember the words of the cast of NBC’s Saved By The Bell when they once said, “There’s no hope with dope!” It should also be noted that there is no hope with purple drank, but unfortunately that doesn’t rhyme and Jessie Spano wasn’t hardcore enough to go for codeine over caffeine.