Derrick Coleman, better known by his stage name Fredo Santana, passed away on January 20th at his home in Los Angeles, California. Coleman was a pioneer in Chicago’s drill scene, coming up alongside other Chicago heavyweights Chief Keef, Young Chop, and Lil Durk. Three months prior to his death, Coleman was hospitalized with kidney and liver failure resulting from habitual drug use, and was considering entering rehab.

With the memory of Lil Peep’s passing still fresh in everyone’s minds, it’s clear that there is a problem with drug culture in hip-hop. Codeine and Xanax are no joke, especially in combination with each other. These are incredibly potent and addictive substances, made all the more dangerous by how innocuous they can feel at first. Compounding all these factors is ease of access, due to these drugs being incredibly available after achieving a certain level of notoriety.

With that being said, the tepid consensus reached by many journalists and fans is that hip-hop artists have some kind of responsibility to be anti-drug role models. This idea not only belies a fundamental misunderstanding of addiction and drug use, but also reeks of privilege. Many of these are the same fans who fetishize and glorify the Chiraq image, and yet it seems as though they are entirely incapable of drawing the straight line connecting traumatic, violent experiences to drug use as a coping mechanism. Coleman wasn’t a saint, but he and many others have been abandoned by society—  the same society that expects him to make a caricature of himself for their entertainment.

No one takes opiates and benzos every day because their life is going great. When people are medicating for PTSD, depression, or some other mental health issue, their drug problem won’t be solved by a “just say no” movement. In many ways, the opioid crisis is a mental healthcare crisis, and while we’re no closer to a solution, it does seem like people are starting to wake up. It’s fantastic to see mental health issues starting to be taken seriously in hip hop, but the tragic reality is that Coleman’s death was preventable. We owe him more than a half-assed condemnation of lean. We owe it to him to make sure that survivors of traumatic experiences and people living with mental illness of any kind are heard and supported.

Written by Walker Spence

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