The War on Drugs

The Reagan Administration began to prioritize what came to be called the “War on Drugs”, which seemed to focus on minority communities. The efforts included the passing of federal anti-drug laws (e.g. the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986), increased federal anti-drug funding, the initiation and expansion of prison and police programs, and the establishment of private organizations, such as Partnership for a Drug-Free America, to campaign on its behalf. The idea of the War on Drugs was grounded in deterrence theory, whereby the implementation of legislation and harsher penalties would deter or discourage the use of drugs. Federal and state governments enacted zero-tolerance policies and penalties, including five-year minimum sentences and the infamous 100:1 ratio. The 100: 1 ratio directed that any amount of crack carried by an individual would be considered 100 times larger than powder cocaine for the purposes of sentencing. For instance, a minimum penalty of 5 years was administered for 5 grams of crack cocaine or 500 grams of powdered cocaine. Armed with these new laws and policies, law enforcement activity and arrests increased dramatically, especially in primarily non-white urban areas.

The War on Drugs resulted in an immense growth in court caseloads and the prison population. The War on Drugs focused on small-time drug dealers, who were generally poor young black males from the inner city. Ultimately, the prison population doubled due to the arrest of drug dealers and their customers. Since approximately 80% of crack users were African American, mandatory minimums led to an unequal increase of incarceration rates for nonviolent Black drug offenders, as well as claims that the War on Drugs was a racist institution. One in every four African American males aged 20 to 29 was either incarcerated or on probation or parole by 1989, which contributed to the United States’ having the highest incarceration rate in the world.

“White Lines (Don’t Do It)” Grandmaster Melle Mel, (1983) (one of the few early hip-hop songs to deal directly with drugs. Mel focuses on cocaine rather than crack, which was not yet a major problem in American cities. Mel speaks in the first person, taking on the role of a user; he uses the song to implore listeners to avoid cocaine.)

(White Lines) Visions, dreams of passion
(Blowing through my mind) And all the while I think of you
(High price) A very strange reaction
(For us to unwind) The more I see, the more I do
(Something like a phenomenon) Baby!
(Telling your body to come along, but white lines blow away)
(Blow! Rock it! Blow!)

[Verse 1]
Ticket to ride, white line highway
Tell all your friends, they can go my way
Pay your toll, sell your soul
Pound-for-pound costs more than gold
The longer you stay, the more you pay
My white lines, go a long way
Either up your nose or through your vein
With nothing to gain except killing your brain

(Freeze! Rock! Freeze! Rock! Freeze! Rock! Freeze! Rock! Blow!)

Higher, baby
Get higher, baby!
Get higher, baby!
And don’t ever come down! (Freebase!)

Rang dang diggedy dang di-dang
Diggedy dang di-dang diggedy dang di-dang

(Pipeline) pure as the driven snow
(Connected to my mind) and now I’m having fun, baby!
(High price) it’s getting kinda low
(‘Cause it makes you feel so nice) I need some one-on-one, baby!
(Don’t let it blow your mind away) Baby!
(And go into your little hideaway ‘cause white lines blow away)
(Blow! Rock it! Blow!)

[Verse 2]
A million magic crystals, painted pure and white
A multi-million dollars almost overnight
Twice as sweet as sugar
Twice as bitter as salt

And if you get hooked, baby
It’s nobody else’s fault, so don’t do it!

(Freeze! Rock! Freeze! Rock! Freeze! Rock! Freeze! Rock!)

(Ahhh) Higher, baby
(Ahhh) Get higher, baby!
(Ahhh) Get higher, baby!
And don’t ever come down! (Freebase!)


“Renegade,” Jay-Z, rhymed about being a young dealer in the 1980s, Songwriters: Luis Resto / Marshall Mathers / Shawn Carter,

Say that I’m foolish I only talk about jewels (bling bling)
Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?
See I’m influenced by the ghetto you ruined
That same dude you gave nothing, I made something doing
What I do through and through and
I give you the news, with a twist it’s just his ghetto point-of-view
The renegade, you been afraid
I penetrate pop culture, bring ’em a lot closer to the block where they
Pop toasters, and they live with they moms
Got dropped roasters, from botched robberies niggas crotched over
Mommy’s knocked up ’cause she wasn’t watched over
Knocked down by some clown when child support knocked
No he’s not around, now how that sound to ya, jot it down
I bring it through the ghetto without riding ’round
Hiding down ducking strays from frustrated youths stuck in they ways
Just read a magazine that f**ked up my day
How you rate music that thugs with nothing relate to it?
I help them see they way through it, not you
Can’t step in my pants, can’t walk in my shoes
Bet everything you worth, you lose your tie and your shirt

Since I’m in a position to talk to these kids and they listen
I ain’t no politician but I’ll kick it with ’em a minute
‘Cause see they call me a menace, and if the shoe fits I’ll wear it
But if it don’t, then y’all will swallow the truth grin and bear it
Now who’s the king of these rude ludicrous lucrative lyrics?
Who could inherit the title, put the youth in hysterics
Using his music to steer it, sharing his views and his merits?
But there’s a huge interference, they’re saying you shouldn’t hear it
Maybe it’s hatred I spew, maybe it’s food for the spirit
Maybe it’s beautiful music I made for you to just cherish
But I’m debated, disputed, hated and viewed in America
As a mother**king drug addict, like you didn’t experiment?
Now now, that’s when you start to stare at who’s in the mirror
And see yourself as a kid again, and you get embarrassed
And I got nothing to do but make you look stupid as parents
You f**king do-gooders, too bad you couldn’t do good at marriage!
And do you have any clue what I had to do to get here?
I don’t think you do, so stay tuned and keep your ears glued to the stereo
‘Cause here we go, he’s (Jigga joint Jigga-chk-Jigga)
And I’m the sinister, Mr. Kiss-My-Ass it’s just the

Renegade! Never been afraid to say
What’s on my mind at, any given time of day
‘Cause I’m a renegade! Never been afraid to talk
About anything (anything?) anything (anything!) renegade!
Never been afraid to say
What’s on my mind at, any given time of day
‘Cause I’m a renegade! Never been afraid to holler
About anything (anything?) anything (anything!)

I had to hustle, my back to the wall, ashy knuckles
Pockets filled with a lotta lint, not a cent
Gotta vent, lotta innocent lives lost on the project bench
What you hollerin’? Gotta pay rent, bring dollars in
By the bodega, iron under my coat
Feelin’ braver, durag wrappin’ my waves up, pockets full of hope
Do not step to me, I’m awkward, I box lefty
An orphan my pops left me
And often my momma wasn’t home
Could not stress to me, I wasn’t grown
‘Specially on nights I brought somethin’ home
To quiet the stomach rumblings
My demeanor, thirty years my senior
My childhood didn’t mean much, only raisin’ green up
Raisin’ my fingers to critics
Raisin’ my head to the sky, Big, I did it, multi before I die
No lie, just know I chose my own fate
I drove by the fork in the road and went straight

See I’m a poet to some, a regular modern day Shakespeare
Jesus Christ the King of these Latter Day Saints here
To shatter the picture in which of that as they paint me
As a monger of hate and Satan a scatter-brained atheist
But that ain’t the case, see it’s a matter of taste
We as a people decide if Shady’s as bad as they say he is
Or is he the latter, a gateway to escape?
Media scapegoat, who they can be mad at today
See it’s easy as cake, simple as whistling Dixie
While I’m waving the pistol at sixty Christians against me
Go to war with the Mormons, take a bath with the Catholics
In holy water, no wonder they try to hold me under longer
I’m a mother**king spiteful, delightful eyeful
The new Ice Cube, mother**kers hate to like you
What did I do? (huh?) I’m just a kid from the gutter
Making this butter off these bloodsuckers, ’cause I’m a mother**king

Renegade! Never been afraid to say
What’s on my mind at, any given time of day
‘Cause I’m a renegade! Never been afraid to talk
About anything (anything?) anything (anything!) renegade!
Never been afraid to say
What’s on my mind at, any given time of day
‘Cause I’m a renegade! Never been afraid to holler
About anything (anything?) anything (anything!)

Renegade! Never been afraid to say
What’s on my mind at, any given time of day
‘Cause I’m a renegade! Never been afraid to talk
About anything (anything?) anything (anything!) renegade!
Never been afraid to say
What’s on my mind at, any given time of day
‘Cause I’m a renegade! Never been afraid to holler
About anything (anything?) anything (anything!)

Night of the Living Baseheads”, Public Enemy, an anti-crack epic, written by Carlton Ridenhour / Eric Sadler / Hank Shocklee,

Here it is
And you say, Goddamn
This is the dope jam
But lets define the term called dope
And you think it mean funky now, no
Here is a true tale
Of the ones that deal
Are the ones that fail
You can move if you want to move
What it prove
It’s here like the groove
The problem is this, we gotta’ fix it
Check out the justice, and how they run it
Sellin’, smellin’
Sniffin’, riffin’
And brothers try to get swift an’
Sell to their own, rob a home
While some shrivel to bone
Like comatose walkin’ around
Please don’t confuse this with the sound
I’m talking about BASS

I put this together to
Rock the bells of those that
Boost the dose
Of lack a lack
And those that sell to Black
Shame on a brother when he dealin’
The same block where my 98 be wheelin’
And everybody know
Another kilo
From a corner from a brother to keep another,
Stop illin’ and killin’
Stop grillin’
Yo, black, yo (we are willin’)
4, 5 o’clock in the mornin’
Wait a minute y’all
The fiends are fiendin’
Day to day they say no other way
This stuff
Is really bad
I’m talkin’ ’bout bass!

Yo, listen
I see it on their faces
(First come first serve basis)
Standin’ in line
Checkin’ the time
Homeboys playin’ the curb
The same ones that used to do herb
Now they’re gone
Passin’ it on
Poison attack, the Black word bond
Once said to me
He knew a brother who stayed all day in his jeep
And at night he went to sleep
And in the mornin’ all he had was
The sneakers on his feet
The culprit used to jam and rock the mike, yo
He stripped the jeep to fill his pipe
And wander around to find a place
Where they rocked to a different kind of bass

“Just Say No”

Nancy Reagan, The First Lady of the Reagan Administration, created the “Just Say No” campaign in an effort to combat the crack cocaine explosion. The program became her signature issue and a defining legacy for both her and her husband. Reaching its peak during the height of the crack epidemic in 1986, “Just Say No” was everywhere thanks to ever-present PSAs (public service announcements) and Hollywood co-operation.  Mrs. Reagan was relentless in her efforts to reduce teen and child drug use. In the early- and mid-1980’s, she appeared 110 times and gave 14 anti-drug addresses, including a televised address. Her efforts saw her travel through 65 cities, 33 states and even nine foreign countries. She enlisted the help of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, Kiwanis Club International, and the National Federation of Parents for a Drug-Free Youth to promote the cause. The Kiwanis put up over 2000 billboards with Nancy Reagan’s likeness and the slogan.

“Just Say No” reflected a zero-tolerance, all-or-nothing, black-and-white approach to drugs. All drugs were bad and must be avoided. The simple, yet vague, message successfully grouped up everything from alcohol to heroin to marijuana into a one big boogeyman that everyone should stay away from. Mrs. Reagan wrote in the Post:  “We must create an atmosphere of intolerance for drug use in this country.  Each of us has an obligation to take an individual stand against drugs. Each of us has a responsibility to be intolerant of drug use anywhere, anytime, by anybody.”She also said “There’s no moral middle ground… Indifference is not an option. We want you to help us create an outspoken intolerance for drug use. For the sake of our children, I implore each of you to be unyielding and inflexible in your opposition to drugs.”

In 1986, President Reagan signed the National Crusade for a Drug Free America, an anti-drug abuse bill that took a zero-tolerance approach to drug use and distribution. It caused America’s incarceration rate to skyrocket. Tough sentencing remained the weapon of choice in the fight against drugs for decades.

By 1988, more than 12,000 “Just Say No” clubs had formed in schools across the country in which young people were making pacts not to use drugs. DARE, (the acronym stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education), was one of the most popular “Just Say No” programs. The DARE program was developed in 1983 by the Los Angeles police chief in collaboration with a physician, Dr. Ruth Rich. The pair adapted a drug education curriculum that was in the development process at University of Southern California in order to create a program that would be taught by police officers, who would go into classrooms and teach students to resist the peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs.

La Toya Jackson became spokesperson for the campaign in 1987 and recorded a song titled “Just Say No”, songwriters: Pete Waterman / Matthew James Aitken / Jack Gordon / La Toya Jackson / Michael Stock,

Just say no (No) say no
Everybody say no, say no
Just say no (No) say no

Brothers and sisters
What are you cryin’ for
People are dyin’
What are they dyin’ for
You got to be so strong
Don’t let ’em lead you on
And take you in
Into their misery

There’s a chance you just can’t take
It’s a game no one should play
The future is in your hands
If you just say no

Don’t let them guide you
Don’t put that stuff inside you
Don’t let ’em take control
Just say no

And don’t take it from the fools
And no one else in school
You can be really cool
If you just say no

Just Say No


Just say no (No) say no
Everybody say no, say no


Nancy (Song for Nancy Reagan), Joey McGowan

Nancy Nancy says ” Just say no”,
But no one knows what Nancy knows

Nancy says the time now has come

To march to Heaven from Washington

Nancy says her Souls moved on

Left in a Gallop from the White House Lawn

Kept with her husband and his jelly beans

Just outside of Heaven by St. Peter’s Green

So when I mount my finest steed

And ride towards a hopeful fate

I may dismount for a little while

And wait with Ronnie by the gate

Know the Stars

Heed the Stars

We’re all Stars

That fell to Earth

Nancy cries as Nancy can

Like the Statues in the Vatican

Canonized in a nation’s Heart

And marching to Heaven

With Joan of Arc

So when I mount my finest steed

And ride towards a hopeful fate

I may dismount for a little while

And wait with Ronnie by the Gate

So if you mount your finest Mare

and ride towards your rightful fate

Do say hi if your passing thru

To my friend Ronnie at the Gate

Waiting for Nancy

At Heavens Gate

“Nancy Reagan”, The Blue Riddim Band  (  The Blue Riddim Band was an American reggae band that wrote and recorded the satirical track “Nancy Reagan” about the President’s wife. It used humor to make a cutting political statement about where the First Lady’s (and our country’s) misguided priorities lay during the 1980’s.  The lyrics lampoon Mrs. Reagan who was seen as frivolous, materialistic, detached and aloof. Her detractors mocked her as “Queen Nancy” during her first year as First Lady for renovating the White House, purchasing new White House china, and outfitting herself in very expensive designer clothing all during a deep economic recession that was hurting most Americans. Lyrics to the Blue Riddim Band song go like this:

My name is Nanci Reagan,

my husband’s name is Ron, he rules our nation

All my clothes are from the best designers,

all my china is a perfect match