The Top Drug Songs of 2016

By Keri Blakinger 12/27/16

2016 has been a raging dumpster fire, but it was a good year for drug-related music.

The Best Drug Songs of 2016
Trippy sounds for a bad year. Photo via Youtube

This year was, by popular consensus, a raging dumpster fire. Zika, a slew of celebrity deaths, several major terrorist attacks, a string of police shootings and a brutal presidential campaign season dominated the headlines in 2016.

But, hey, at least we had some good music. Here’s a look at some of the most popular drug-related songs of 2016.

“Drug Dealer” by Macklemore ft. Ariana DeBoo

The recovering rapper is a sweaty mess in the video for this fall release. It’s not quite as catchy as his “Thrift Shop” hit, but even without the lyrics, the visuals make a clear point as the singer writhes around on a bed detoxing.

The video was released in October, just after the Seattle-born musician sat down with President Obama for an MTV documentary titled Prescription for Change: Ending America’s Opioid Crisis.

Macklemore has been open about his own struggles with substance abuse and sobriety—a personal touch that’s apparent in his lyrics.

“They said it wasn't a gateway drug,” the song begins. “My homie was takin' subs and he ain't wake up/ The whole while, these billionaires, stay caked up/ Paying out Congress so we take their drugs/ Murderers who will never face the judge/ And we dancin' to a song about our face goin' numb,” he sings in a seeming reference to “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd, one of the songs on last year’s The Fix roundup.

Later in the song, Macklemore lists a small handful of celebs who’ve died from drugs before launching into an anti-Big Pharma chorus and finishing up with the Serenity Prayer.

“Drug Dealers Anonymous” by Jay-Z

Initially released on Tidal early in the year, Jay Z’s collabo with Pusha T is about exactly what you think it’s about.

Hova has been pretty open about his drug dealing past, but he raised a few eyebrows with this track’s detail about his history.

“Before Reasonable Doubt dropped, the jury hung, bling bling. Every time I come around your city, bling bling,” he raps. “My tenure took me through Virginia. Ask Teddy Riley ’bout me, ask the Federales ’bout me, tried to build a cell around me, snatched my nigga Emory up, tried to get him to tell about me. He told 12, ‘Gimme 12,’ told them to go to hell about me.”

There’s pretty good evidence that there’s some truth in those incriminating lines. Jay Z has written and rapped before about his relationship with Emory, according to The Daily Beast. The two were childhood friends and sold drugs together. And when Emory eventually got locked up, Jay Z vouched for him in a letter to a judge considering a sentence reduction.

But it wasn’t Jay’s decision to rehash his past that got the most press after the release of “Drug Dealers Anonymous”—it was the clapback at conservative darling Tomi Lahren. The blonde pundit’s biting words are featured in the song.

"Your husband was a drug dealer," she says. "For 14 years he sold crack cocaine."

Lahren originally lobbed that insult in response to Beyonce’s Black Panther-inspired Super Bowl performance. But Jay Z wove the words into a song and offered a snappy response: “14-year drug dealer and still counting/ Who deserves the medal of freedom is my accountant.”

“Party Monster” by The Weeknd

The Weeknd released an album chock-full of drug songs last year—but this year’s tunes are marginally less substance-centric.

“Party Monster,” the second track on December’s Starboy, is about getting drunk and high and having sex with a stranger. The singer and his nameless girl “bump a line” and he’s “on a roll” after popping three pills. But the focus of the song is more the anonymous sex, in part made possible by the drugs and “drank.”

It’s notably less druggy than “Beauty Behind the Madness,” a smash hit album with a cocaine-focused tune the singer mentions in this year’s tracks.

“I just won a new award for a kids show/ Talking 'bout a face numbing off a bag of blow/ I'm like goddamn bitch I am not a Teen Choice,” he sings in “Reminder,” the fourth song on Starboy.

“Hymn for the Weekend” by Coldplay

“I'm feeling drunk and high,” Coldplay sings in the chorus of the hit featuring Beyonce. At first it seems like a straightforward celebration of inebriation, but other lyrics point to an anthem about love.

“When I was down, when I was hurt/ You came to lift me up/ Life is a drink, and love's a drug,” the Brit rock band sings in one of the verses.

The song was on the 2015 A Head Full of Dreams album but was released as a single in early 2016.

But whatever the acoustic merits of the collaboration hit, Coldplay and Bey both caught some flak for the video which featured the Queen Bee dressed as a Bollywood star—a move critics diced as pure cultural appropriation.

“Higher” by Rihanna

Released on January’s Anti, the Barbadian beauty’s ode to whiskey and weed was, fittingly, recorded in a middle-of-the-night alcohol-fueled recording sesh.

“This whiskey got me feelin' pretty,” the song begins. From there, the lyrics take a lustful turn as Rihanna sings about someone who takes her “higher, higher than I’ve ever been.”

There’s some references to booze and pot, but it’s not a hard drug-focused song, unlike some items on this list.

But the song stands out because of its distinctly inebriated, gravelly sound.

“We recorded that song at 4:00 in the morning. 4:00 to 5:00. We had finished recording a bunch of stuff, and it was the end of the night. It was pretty short,” the singer told Vogue back in March.

“We just said, ‘You know what? Let’s just drink some whiskey and record this song.’ And when I heard the song, I envisioned a drunk voicemail. You know he’s wrong, and then you get drunk and you’re like, ‘I could forgive him. I could call him. I could make up with him.’ Just, desperate.”

“I Took a Pill in Ibiza” by Mike Posner

The version of this hit song that got the most radio play featured a peppy techno beat paired with downright depressing lyrics.

“I took a pill in Ibiza/To show Avicii I was cool/And when I finally got sober, felt 10 years older/But fuck it, it was something to do,” Posner sings in a dark reference to the tolls of high living.

He goes on to say he’s “a singer who already blew his shot”—although clearly the song’s success offered him a second shot. Originally released in 2015, the song didn’t catch on till early 2016—but by the end of the year it earned him a Grammy nomination.

“You don't wanna be high like me/ Never really knowing why like me/ You don't ever wanna step off that roller coaster and be all alone,” he continues in his ode to the loneliness of celebrity.

“There’s a beautiful irony to it,” Posner told the Los Angeles Times. “I made this sad song that people are getting joy out of. As an artist, you can’t really ask for anything more.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.