It has many names. Lean. Purple drank. Dirty Sprite. Sizzurp. Lean is a drink that originated from Houston and can be either pink or purple depending how it is mixed. Lean has cough syrup with codeine, an opiate that is used to treat pain and provide sedative effects, and is mixed with Sprite or Pineapple Fanta. Call it what you want but cough syrup has impacted rap significantly.
Although lean references can be traced back to the 1990’s, it has taken over mainstream rap now. Once a thing only Houston talked about, it became a thing everyone does and talks about. Lean is credited for the creation of the chopped and screwed rap style. Three 6 Mafia was the first group to make lean popular outside of Houston due to their song “Sippin’ on Some Syrup” which was released in 2000. The first non-Houston native rapper that made lean references and was seen drinking it a lot was Lil Wayne. Although when he first started drinking lean, he was criticized since people were familiar with the overdoses that it was responsible for in the past. Then Future came out. The Atlanta artist popularized the term “Dirty Sprite” and even named a mixtape after it. Other artists started to drink and use lean references in music. The South is now the main hub for lean drinkers and references, but it looks like the drink is expanding to other areas. From A$AP Rocky in New York to Drake in Toronto, lean has taken over and is now an epidemic in rap music and culture. Even in a recent Rolling Stone interview with Future, he is proud to drink it and talks about the effects that he feels from the drink. According to Future, for him lean is therapeutic. It makes him feel relaxed most of the time but sometimes he does experience anxiety. Although no one likes to experience anxiety, Future said that he experienced it when he need to and it helped him out.
Although rappers only talk about the “positive” effects from lean, no one acknowledges the negative effects. Pimp C, DJ Screw, and Big Moe have all died from excessive codeine overdoses. Lil Wayne and Rick Ross have had seizures from drinking too much. Lil Wayne drank so much of the drink that he almost died and has had more seizures recently. Schoolboy Q has stated that he drank so much that he couldn’t stand up since his stomach hurt so much. He has also said that it is hard to quit since it is easy to become addicted to it.
The lean references that are in hip-hop today are similar to when molly became popular in the early 2010’s. Hip-hop is now on lean overload and is responsible for making rap lazy. Now instead of meaningful or great hip-hop lyrics all the time, we get them from only a handful of artists when they release new albums or songs. Eventually lean will become less popular, but only when a new drug becomes more popular. For hip-hop, the cycle will continue, with or without lean.