MDMA aka ecstasy aka Molly has a long, storied musical history and wizened drug rappers Danny Brown and Juicy J have been spearheading a new Molly movement since the dawn of the decade. But ever since spring 2012 — around the time Madonna named her album MDNA and Kanye rapped “Somethin’ ’bout Mary, she gone off that Molly/ Now the whole party is melting like Dalí” — the party drug has been almost as much of a mainstay in the headlines as Kanye himself (and certainly more so than Madonna; sorry, Madonna). For a while there it seemed like every rapper was contractually obligated to incorporate the slang into a verse, a pervasive trend that found its apotheosis in this ecstatic Zen koan courtesy of James x James:
Woo! But the phenomenon was hardly limited to rap or even that borderless frontier known as pop music. Rap stayed trippy this year, but as with many hip-hop movements, Molly made its way into pop culture at large. It came so far into the mainstream, in fact, that it’s now under consideration to be legally prescribed to treat disorders both physical and psychological down the line. Here in the present, though, MDMA was an agent of chaos more often than rehabilitation. In 2013 it sometimes felt like the whole music industry had gone off that Molly, often accompanied by the attendant Dalí-like meltdowns. Here’s a look back at Molly’s big, sweaty year, mane.
2/13: Rick Ross Describes A Molly Date Rape On Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O.”
Under the guise of his Rick Ross character, former corrections officer William Leonard Roberts II has rapped about buying, selling, and using illegal narcotics, building an organized crime empire, murdering his rivals with the AK-47 he keeps in his car, deporting his exes, speeding, irresponsible spending, whining about his legal obligations, lying to his ladyfriend about impending jail time, being both a no-good blood-sucker and a fat motherfucker, not forgiving even when God would, and, oh yeah, “get(ting) these hoes on the Molly.” None of that seemed to ruffle too many feathers; actually, hip-hop’s waning authenticity police seemed more upset that Rick Ross hadn’t committed most of the crimes he rapped about. But the erstwhile Mr. Roberts finally crossed the line in the court of public opinion by rapping about using MDMA as a date-rape drug. His verse on Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O.” included the lyric, “Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/ I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” Ross denied the lyrics were about date rape at first, but after public outcry intensified and Reebok (whom Ross shouted out in the same breath as the Molly-in-champagne line) dropped him as a spokesman, he finally issued an apology:
Before I am an artist, I am a father, a son, and a brother to some of the most cherished women in the world. So for me to suggest in any way that harm and violation be brought to a woman is one of my biggest mistakes and regrets. As an artist, one of the most liberating things is being able to paint pictures with my words. But with that comes a great responsibility. And most recently, my choice of words was not only offensive, it does not reflect my true heart. And for this, I apologize. To every woman that has felt the sting of abuse, I apologize. I recognize that as an artist I have a voice and with that, the power of influence. To the young men who listen to my music, please know that using a substance to rob a woman of her right to make a choice is not only a crime, it’s wrong and I do not encourage it. To my fans, I also apologize if I have disappointed you. I can only hope that this sparks a healthy dialogue and that I can contribute to it.
Great song otherwise.
3/6: Travis Porter Delivers The Year’s Most Egregious Molly Lyric Not By Rick Ross
“Asked her what’s her favorite trick, she said a ollie / Asked her what’s her favorite drug, she told me Molly.” Unlike the Rick Ross controversy, this Molly lyric didn’t nab any headlines because it was merely a crime against good taste, not against human dignity. In fact, Tom defended it in his Mixtape Of The Week post on Travis Porter’s Mr. Porter:
And yet this line, in all its miles-away predictable awfulness, is also weirdly likable. Because when you make music like Travis Porter, that every-dumb-line-at-once sloppy silliness isn’t a liability; it’s an asset. The gentlemen of Travis Porter don’t sound like ice-veined in-control Players’ Ball pimps; they sound like enthusiastic goofball teenagers doing their best to make each other laugh milk through their nasal passages at the lunch table.
3/29: Tyga Releases “Molly”
In what might be ecstasy rap’s musical nadir, the always trend-conscious West Coast YMCMB associate Tyga released a song simply called “Molly” with assistance from fellow trend-hopper Wiz Khalifa of course. The hook was just a computerized female voice repeating the word “Molly.” If people hadn’t died from the actual drug this year, this song might have killed them anyway.
5/13: Kendrick Lamar Throws A Funeral For Molly In The “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” Video
By May, hip-hop’s ecstasy epidemic had escalated to the point that Kendrick Lamar thought it necessary to stage an elaborate funeral for Molly in his “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” video, although the punchline that all this ceremonial fanfare was for MDMA wasn’t revealed until the final frame.
5/20: A-Trak Calls For Reasonable Conversation About Drug Rap
In a Huffington Post op-ed titled “License To Pill,” hitmaking DJ/producer and Fools Gold label head A-Trak called for a thoughtful exchange about rap’s “psychedelic phase.” Acknowledging that many of his artists are a big part of hip-hop’s Molly movement, A-Trak wondered if it was irresponsible to silently endorse and even participate in this music (see: “Piss Test”) without a corresponding conversation about the dark side of drug use. “My stance is: we can rap about it, but let’s also talk about it.”
5/23: Migos Prophesies The Miley/Molly Connection With “Hannah Montana”
One of the tracks that helped the Atlanta trio Migos break out on the internet this spring was “Hannah Montana,” which I recently described as “an ecstasy song that subbed in white female celebrities’ names (including Katy Perry, Hilary Duff, and, of course, Miley Cyrus) for Molly.” The humorous gimmick rested on the premise that, at the time, the names Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus still elicited thoughts of “Party In The U.S.A.”-style squeaky clean fun. Little did they know equating Miley with Molly would turn out to be prophetic sooner rather than later.
6/3: Miley Cyrus Premieres “We Can’t Stop”
At the outset of summer, The Artist Formerly Known As Hannah Montana released a comeback single of sorts, inasmuch as a 20-year-old millionaire former child star needs a comeback. “We Can’t Stop” and all the attendant Bangerz madness was more of a rebranding, really: Instead of singing with starry-eyed naiveté about G-rated partying with Jay-Z on the radio, she was now carrying on about teenage rebellion while gracelessly shaking her ass and garishly sticking out her tongue in the song’s delusory video. All this scantily clad excess unfolded atop a lush midtempo rap/pop crossover production that hip-hop’s reigning sonic architect Mike WiLL Made It had originally pitched to the eminently racy Rihanna. Although Cyrus’ appropriation of twerking and perceived use of her black backup dancers as exotic accessories attracted charges of minstrelsy, most shocking to her pre-existing fan base was the lyric about “dancing with Molly,” which she initially insisted was actually “dancing with Miley.” Those claims didn’t stand up to scrutiny given the song’s wild-child imagery and the bridge’s Slick Rick-referencing rhyme scheme, and indeed during Cyrus’ infamous VMAs performance MTV bleeped out “Molly,” affirming that, yes, she was singing “Molly.” La-da-di-da-di.
6/14: Kanye West Details A Molly Affair To Forget In “Blood On The Leaves”
When Yeezus leaked on “Bad Friday,” one of the initial standouts was “Blood On The Leaves,” which Tom instantly cited as one of the album’s most incredible musical moments and “probably the most deeply discomfiting song here.” The song concerns a romance gone bad with a woman who tried to “Gold Digger” Kanye into having a baby with him after they partied on X together: “Let’s take it back to the first party/ When you tried your first Molly/ And came out of your body/ And came out of your body/ Running naked down the lobby/ And you was screamin’ that you love me.” That Kanye transposed those ideas with a sample from Nina Simone’s lynching lament “Strange Fruit” was more than a little unsettling; his endless warbling in Auto-Tune throughout the song’s outro delved even deeper into paranoia, ambivalence and self-pity than the similar segment on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “Runaway.” Question: Is “Blood On The Leaves” about “Mary” from “Mercy”? Only Jesus and Yeezus can answer that one.
7/4: Jay Z Raps Against Molly On Magna Carta… Holy Grail
Molly hadn’t gone away by the time Jay Z released his mobile-app-as-album on Independence Day, so in keeping with his carefully cultivated “business, man” elder statesman image, he demonstrate that he was above such child’s play. Thus “I don’t pop Molly, I rock Tom Ford” became the refrain on one of the
album’s opulence celebration’s most respectable tracks. As Jay Z tells it, being a dignified grown-ass rapper is about wearing lavishly expensive high-end fashion, not dabbling in the same party drugs as the kids. Better luck next time, Juicy and Danny. (Jay will still happily get fucked up in Paris or fly down to Jamaica just to get some reefer, though.)
8/13: Gucci Mane Releases Molly Mixtape
Gucci’s 2013 mixtape barrage included a trio of drug-themed releases in the dog days of summer under the somewhat confusing banner of World War 3. Drug rap was nothing new for our fair Guwop, and as Tom noted, these tapes exhibited the former king of Atlanta hip-hop in a mid-career renaissance. But if A-Trak is looking to shine a spotlight on drug rap’s dark side, the Trap God’s very public meltdown less than a month after World War 3’s release is a good place to start.
8/23: Juicy J Releases Stay Trippy
The godfather of drug rap releases his victory lap, a full hour of carefully articulated, chemically altered carnality. He was smokin’, he was rollin’.
9/1: Electric Zoo Cancels Its Final Day After Two MDMA-Related Deaths
Here’s where Molly really got ugly: Two revelers at the New York EDM festival Electric Zoo died from complications related to MDMA over Labor Day weekend. Four others were rendered critically ill, and the city cited the “serious health risks” of allowing the event to continue. Organizers canceled the Randall’s Island fest’s final day and issued this statement:
The founders of Electric Zoo send our deepest condolences to the families of the two people who passed away this weekend. Because there is nothing more important to us than our patrons, we have decided in consultation with the New York City Parks Department that there will be no show today.
At that point, Molly was a full-fledged media frenzy, with news reports tipping off America’s parents to their kids’ hallucinatory exploits. It was becoming clear that the nu-rave scene wasn’t the utopia that the Electric Zoo trailer made it out to be and that there was such a thing as raging too hard.
9/13: Sky Ferreira Is Arrested For Possessing Ecstasy
As summer turned to fall, DIIV frontman Zachary Cole Smith and girlfriend/collaborator/pop auteur Sky Ferreira were arrested for drug possession in Saugerties, New York. Smith had $420 worth of heroin on his person, while Ferreira was carrying ecstasy. Ferreira apologized for the incident, but she later offered a personal defense to Rolling Stone: “Because the truth is, they probably all do ecstasy, but they’re all high and holy. Other people have given me shit about it, and I’m like, ‘It’s on the radio!’ Like every song is a song about Molly. That’s life. I’m not saying that people should do ecstasy, but at least it’s a happy drug.” Expect that happiness to continue when Ferreira tours with noted Molly connoisseur Miley Cyrus next year.
9/19: Danny Brown Releases His “Dip” Video, A Full-Length Tribute To Losing Your Mind On Molly
Detroit tasmanian devil/drug fiend/elder statesman Danny Brown has been rapping about ecstasy since before it was cool; now that everybody else is doing it, Brown’s still doing it better. His monumental Old painted both sides of the Molly experience in stark clarity; “Dip,” from the LP’s hedonistic second half, depicts the drug’s euphoric upside. Brown was on a roll, and like Lieutenant Dan, he was rolling.