Depression & drugs: The dark side of rap

By Charlie Bourne

Drugs and Addiction are issues that have taken hold of modern rap. Charlie Bourne spoke to Joanna Corsie to understand how the two can be a danger to young musicians.

lil peep pic

Lil Peep 

Often inciting a brash lifestyle of partying and carelessness, the modern rapper’s relaxed approach to drugs has been increasing prominently over recent years, but after the tragedy of Lil Peep, has the Rap game started to realise ‘lean culture’ has gone too far?

In a nutshell, lean culture is a US trend where rappers often gloat on their songs about taking an obscene amount of Xanax, Molly (MDMA) or lean (Purple Drank) – a drink consisting of soda, sweets and codeine – too get ridiculously high.

At first this was not seen as a dangerous problem. No one batted an eyelid, until the death of Lil Peep.

On 15th November 2017, the American rapper was en route to perform at a show in Tucson, Arizona. Unfortunately, while on the tour bus an accidental overdose of Xanax and fentanyl (an opioid used as pain medication) took his life.

The shocking news was quick to transcend around the world, as a video recorded by a friend on the tour bus captured Peep, appearing to be asleep just hours before his death. The reality was Peep’s dead body was just broadcasted to the world.

Lil Peep, who was just 21 when he passed, definitely optimised the lean culture trend, his carelessness towards life itself constantly shocked those concerned.

His attitude towards tattoos portrayed this, in an interview with GQ, Peep explains how one night he woke up with “Get Cake Die Young” branded across his forehead before going on to say “I had no idea I’d even got it, I was so f***ed up.”

The rapper made no attempt to hide his feelings when recording music, known for being part of a post-emo revival style of hip-hop he often rapped about his depression and drug addiction on his tracks such as “Better off (Dying).”

Although the rapper was aware of his addiction and depression, nothing was done to prevent his death.

To find out more on these two important problems regarding mental health lead to the death of Peep, Joanna Corsie, a counsellor at the Sir John Moore Foundation in Swadlincote, who provides therapy to aid clients with mental health problems, helped to explain.

Joanna Corsie interview

Joanna Corsie

While discussing drug addiction in young adults, Joanna explained how peer groups can often lead individuals to get hooked on drugs, saying: “The impression that I get is that, it can be a problem within a peer group, if one friend took it and recommended it to others, they may also try it and then become addicted.

“I’ve had other clients that would take drugs and that was a part of their friendship lifestyle if you like, to such a point where it became a problem for one of them. Where it got to the point where they began to revaluate their lives – surely there is more to life than this?

“Being a part of a peer group that starts something and makes it feel acceptable can lead somebody to have a real problem.”

Was this the problem with Lil Peep? From the viral video recorded on the tour bus, we know drugs were socially accepted within his clique.

To them, and like many other rappers popular today, Xanax was no longer a dangerous drug but a pastime.

When putting a link to connect addiction to depression, there isn’t a definitive answer.

Does Joanna feel there is a direct link to drug addiction and depression, she said: “That’s a difficult one for me to answer, I suppose for some people, the depression and what is behind the depression may trigger addiction to alcohol or drugs.

“Workaholics for example, they work to distract themselves from uncomfortable feelings that they’re having when at home. Any addict will tell you for a long time that they didn’t care, whatever the consequences even if they were detrimental to their health.

“Any addiction is a distraction from what they are feeling.”

The lyrics from Yung Bans track ‘Lonely’ spring to mind, repeating the phrase “I got all kinda drugs for when I get lonely” to form a catchy hook, Yung Bans reflects that addiction often is a distraction to mask whatever a person may be feeling.

From his toxicology report, Peep had nearly ten different drugs in his system when he died, ranging from Xanax to cannabis.

With both a range of medicinal and recreational drugs, Peep may have been using a variety of drugs to self-medicate and mask his problems in his personal life.

A situation that can create a false sense of protection from the negative issues that troubled him.

Through her therapy, Joanna deals with clients that face similar issues. She believes being open to discussion by addressing past issues, is a positive step forward for anyone seeking to get better.

“What I personally believe is that you have to sometimes look at what is behind the problem. It’s all well and good addressing how you deal with it now but if there is still stuff that is unresolved from back in the past then it’s good to be able to bring that out into the open, to unpick it and find some resolve or peace with that problem, because then I believe the outcome, which obviously we hope is positive, will be more stable.” She added.

Joanna had a message to anyone that may be suffering in silence.

She said: “Try to be real and honest, because depression usually comes about through holding on to thoughts and feelings and repressing them. From as young as possible, try to be as real as possible with how you feel and what your thoughts are.

In terms of lean culture, the turn of 2018 saw many rappers that previously took Xanax and lean to now reject the trend entirely.

Rappers Lil Pump, with the hit single ‘Gucci Gang’ that features lyrics such as “Me and my grandma take meds,” along with Smokepurpp, took to social media to announce on New Years Day that they were both quitting Xanax as sort of New Years’ resolution.

Furthermore, Famous Dex announced back in November that he was “done with lean” after being rushed to hospital.

Moreover, a movement on social media with the hashtag #KickDaCupChallenge is aiming to inspire others to stop drinking lean.

With the recent times suggesting their may be an internal uprising within the Rap game against hard drugs, the genre may be beginning to clean up it’s act before anyone else suffers the same fate as Lil Peep.

For more information regarding mental health visit the website or contact to get in touch with Joanna.

Thoughts of some other rappers:

Vic Mensa said in a lengthy interview with Billboard: “To be honest on one hand I almost don’t even feel that I have the right to chastise anybody because I’ve f***ing done it. I’ve rapped about Xanax. I regret it. I don’t rap about it anymore, but I have some lines about taking Xanax.

vic mensa photo

Vic Mensa

“I just think that we’re in such a dangerous place now because it’s been normalised and the drug abuse has been reduced to a marketing tactic.

“it’s horribly irresponsible because you got kids that idolize these people and will do anything they do. They’re being misled but their f***ing heroes and getting addicted to Xans or Percocets and dying from them. So it’s pretty f***ed.” (per”

One of the biggest rappers of today’s generation, 21 Savage, posted hs thoughts on the issue of drugs in rap to his twitter page.

“They say we make drug user music like making drug selling music is better, what’s the difference? What about the fact that rap is the number one genre of music right now, none of y’all acknowledge that?

He Added: “Artists been snorting cocaine and smoking crack since the 70s and 80s did y’all forget that?

“Our music is a reflection of what is going on in our community and all we doing is using our talent to escape that community.”



The rave’s a Frenz’E

By Charlie Bourne

From hosting pirate radio shows to raves all over the Midlands, the life of a DJ can spring many surprises. Charlie Bourne spoke to DJ Rich Hyde on his career.

Rich DJing pic

DJ Rich Hyde performing live

Before the streaming sites surfaced to dominate the music industry, getting your fix for your favourite tracks was a lot simpler in the age of pirate radio. Life as DJ wasn’t too bad either.

Rewind to the early 1990s, a new phenomenon was sweeping through the UK.

The rave scene was just getting started, whether legally in clubs or illegally in wherever wasn’t occupied, ravers were using their weekends to party on endlessly in rebellious fashion.

With a career spanning over 30 years DJ Rich Hyde, from Swadlincote, was truly in the thick of the Midland’s rave scene particularly during his time as host on a pirate radio station.

He said: “The promoters I was playing under at the time started their own pirate radio station which was interesting, it was around Burton and it was called Baseline 105FM.

“We had shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I used to play the rave show on the Friday night. So we would broadcast live from people’s bedrooms, there was an estate agent who would give us keys to empty houses and we’d keep moving around to play wherever we could.

“I remember we moved into this flat to do a show and there was a family living there. I was on at 10pm-1am, the bloke used to come knock on the door and say ‘can you turn it down a bit because were off to bed now’ as we were trying to do a show in the next bedroom. It was unbelievable really.”

Rich with tony di vit

Rich pictured alongside Tony Di Vit

Playing the radio show was a strong platform for Rich to progress as a DJ, as his name began to grow around the area more opportunities opened up for him, until Baseline FM came to an abrupt end.

“We did that for a couple of years just moving around, played a few parties through the show and that was awesome until I went to do a Christmas day special.

“I could smell burning so I looked around, the amplifier was just about catching fire and had smoke coming off it as we were in a flat with somebody above us, so I chucked a load of water on it and got out of there. That was the end of Baseline FM.”

Alongside Rich’s radio gig, in the early 90s he performed live at raves frequently which gave him the opportunity to play with some of the biggest names in the business, under the alias DJ Frenz’E.

“I played with Carl Cox at Burton town hall which I’ve still got all the flyers for, the promoters bought Slipmatt to Burton as well and that was a great experience.”

Carl cox burton town hall flyer

A flyer from the night Rich warmed up the crowd for Carl Cox

As the rave scene grew even more popular Rich started at Vines in 1994, a popular club in Derby that raised his stock as DJ further around the Midlands.

Rich added: “That was the main spot for pre drinks, Derby at that time was absolutely buzzing. There were two clubs called Progress and Renaissance. Progress at that point was one of the biggest clubbing nights in the country.

“I started off at Vines with a lad from Manchester called Gilly, we did a partnership called Gilly & Rich and we played all over Derby and Vines was our main place.

“The drug scene as well was massive so we’d play to 800 every Monday night and they were all proper clubbers, I’d play for university on Wednesdays which was more disco stuff. Then Fridays I’d do all night, so around four hours where Renaissance was based and that was called Union 1, on the 10pm-2am slot.

“At that time the clubs didn’t really run past 2am in case they wanted to risk it with authorities which you couldn’t really get away with.”

Rich for radio 1

Playing for Radio 1

In comparison to Rich’s experiences of the mid 90s, the rave scene today has changed immensely.

Illegal warehouse parties turned organised festivals, the need to dance replaced by the need to record videos and pirate radio stations are extinct.

It was a much different time, but one Rich looks back on with fond memories.

“Raving has changed massively. On Saturday nights people used to come to us at Vines, then go to progress and then on to a place called Hot to Trot in Mansfield. After that the same people would come back to us at noon on the Sunday and just party all the way through, it was unbelievable.

“But people were there for the music, you’d drop a tune with a piano in and folk would go into one, where as now they’re videoing on their phones, almost disengaged and stuff like that for me is a massive change.”

So why did this dramatic change happen?

“Basically, I don’t think authorities understood it at that time, but raving helped stop football hooliganism. All the different firms they’d all come together and they were that loved up on Es they just used to dance together, rather than kick 10 barrels of sh*t out of one another. It was a great time

“You’d go out and there would be no bother at all, it was awesome.”

Rich with Judge Jules

Rich with Judge Jules

After multiple years of performing around the Midlands and making a name for himself, Rich began DJing for a company called Twisted Love, who had their ambitions set on a tour abroad.

“I went out to Ibiza to try and find us a venue to play at for the following year, I met up with a bloke called Jan. He had a venue in Playa d’En Bossa right on the beach and he loved what we were about, we played him some stuff and he was keen to get us on board.

“I then went home to try and convince the lads at Twisted Love to commit to going out there, but with work and girlfriends they had at the time it didn’t happen.

“Following year that same bar won best bar in Ibiza and the year after that they opened a hotel. It was called Ushuaia.”

“That for me was one of my biggest regrets, not going out there, we could have been booked to play out Ushuaia and if we did well they may of took us on to play there more.”

Silpmatt flyer

DJ Frenz’E on a flyer with Slipmatt

As of right now, Rich is still active as a DJ. Often using sites like SoundCloud and MixCloud to post mixes that he has created to his followers.

“I do a series called forgotten gems which is all tracks from the past 30 years which include vocal tracks, a lot of funky house and then I move it up to tech house and maybe a bit of trance.

“As well as that every year I do an Ibiza mix just to put stuff on there and keep my name about.”

To check out DJ Rich Hyde’s mixes visit online.

A barrel of laughs

By Charlie Bourne

People always need a good laugh. For 25 years, the Leicester Comedy Festival has provided much more than that. To learn more about what goes on away from the stage spotlight, Charlie Bourne spoke to Founder and Director Geoff Rowe.

Geoff with Harry Hill

Geoff Rowe squaring off with Harry Hill before their Q+A interview

From its humble beginnings starting out as a university project, the festival has evolved into a platform for aspiring comedians to be heard, a multi-million-pound boost to the city’s economy and one of Leicester’s biggest entertainment attractions.

This year’s festival held big names in honour of its 25th birthday, such as recent ‘I’m a Celebrity’ contestant Shappi Khorsandi, Sara Pascoe, Harry Hill and internet sensation Jonathon Pie.

Attracting household performers is essential for the festival, and takes a combined effort by venues, promoters and the festival itself to get right.

Geoff said: “A lot of people think as a central organisation we book all the shows and do all the promotion.

“But I think one of the great things about the festival is we don’t directly promote most of the events.

“We work really collaboratively with all of our venues like The Curve, De Montfort Hall and Loughborough town hall that are more likely to attract big names.

“We have an ongoing dialogue with them to say okay well, Katherine Ryan is touring a show could you try and get her in the festival.

“The other way we do it is through what we call our special events so the Q&A with Harry Hill and Sara Pascoe we did this year, the Gala Preview show we did in January.

“They are our promotions and we produce them directly, so we work to get headline acts to come to the festival every year.”

Geoff rowe with Sara Pascoe

Geoff pictured interviewing Sara Pascoe

While the big crowds are often drawn to the headline acts, in the past, the festival has offered more intimate viewings where comics share new material that has often never been heard elsewhere.

“Some acts do us favours almost by trying out new material in smaller venues.

“Sarah Millican has come and tried out new shows in venues that hold just 80 people and that creates and different kind of buzz and excitement.

“These things happen because we’ve run the festival for such a long time and now we have direct relationships with comedians, agencies and managers that help make it what is today.”

However, an immense part of the festival is dedicated to the next generation of comics just waiting for their chance to burst into the competitive comedy industry and with prestigious awards up for grabs, a comedian’s value can quickly rise.

Geoff said: “We’ve had numerous examples over the years of new comedians that have come and won some of our competitions like the Leicester Mercury comedian of the year for example

“They’ve gone on to become hugely successful and famous because people pay attention to those kind of things.”

Jason Manford, Romesh Ranganathan, Johnny Vegas and Josh Widdicombe are just a few of the past winners to the Leicester Mercury’s star-rising award, and this year’s winner Jack Gleadow was also a hit.

“Jack, I think is absolutely fabulous, I really enjoyed seeing him, he was absolutely brilliant.” Geoff said.

With that said, it’s the festival’s task to create a supportive atmosphere for them to thrive in.

“This year we did a new project called circuit breakers. Where we bought six new comedians to the festival and looked after them. We gave them hotels, covered their transport, gave them meals and introduced them to new people.

“That was a very supportive thing we did and I think the Leicester Comedy festival is a very supportive place for emerging comedians to come. When you go somewhere like Edinburgh, you’re often performing to industry people or others also waiting to perform in the same venue as you.

“I think with Leicester, generally speaking, your performing to members of the public who have decided to take a chance in some instances to see new and emerging comedians. In some respects, they get more genuine feedback from the audience as they want to be there.”

“So I think for comedians starting out it’s a good entry point too the comedy industry.”

If you thought the comedy festival was just all about stand up, you couldn’t be more wrong.

With outdoor comedy events like Dead Leicester, the quirky tours and the secret tours. As well as other events like the Ultimate Comedy Championships, there is a wide range of events running over the three-week period that everyone will enjoy.

“There is a big diversity of acts that help spread the festival further than it might do.

“This year we did an event in Leicester cathedral which attracted around 300 people who probably wouldn’t go to a stand up gig in a bar in town so it’s all about getting different sorts of people to come and enjoy the festival.” Geoff said.

Not long after the annual festival finished, dates for next year have already been set but before that commences on 6th February, there is still a lot to be done to ensure the festival returns for another year.

Geoff said: “The main priority is to keep it going, I want to keep the momentum we’ve gathered going, there are comedians that I would love to come to the festival and I wont give up on that.

“It’s important to get a good mix of events, to get big names in and find new talent, but the important thing right now is to keep it going.”