In the song “Cocaine,” Royce raps about his father’s substance use, which eventually led him to recovery.
Rapper and performer Royce da 5’9” has a haunting music video for his single “Cocaine.” The song discusses what it’s like to have a parent with substance use disorder, and talks about Royce’s family history of substance use.
In the song “Cocaine,” Royce raps about his father’s substance use, which eventually led him to recovery:
My father’s only next logical step was to go to rehab
And that’s exactly what he did
He went to rehab and got completely clean
Hasn’t done a drug in over 20 years
He did that for himself but he did that because he doesn’t want to lose us
Royce has been open and courageous about his experiences with addiction and recovery. In a powerful personal essay, he wrote, “Alcohol led to most of my bad decisions. I’m not even blaming everything on it. I chose to be under the influence so much, for such a big part of the day, that I was pretty much drinking from sunup to sun down … Alcohol made it easier to work into my life the newfound fame and notoriety as a rap artist. I had the kind of career where you feel like you can drink and still get your job done and have more fun doing it. Alcohol got rid of the nervousness, the anxiety and all of the things that come with being an artist. It was like I skipped right over that part of it.”
He said that he sometimes felt his alcohol use was beneficial to his creativity, though that was an illusion created by his addiction. He wrote, “I thought it made me more creative at the time. In retrospect, I would say that it didn’t. I would say that I used it when I was being creative and the more I used it, the more my brain started to look for it. It was like training a dog so every time he hears the bell, it’s like a trigger for whatever you are training him to do. Basically that is what you do to your brain with alcohol. Like if I was on my way to the studio, I’d automatically start craving that trigger, like it was a part of it.”
In an interview last summer with VladTV, Royce said that his father’s substance use was solely with cocaine. When Royce later struggled with alcoholism, he said had no doubt that his father’s addiction was linked to his own.
“I think the two were related,” he said. “That’s basically what the song [“Cocaine”] is saying, like a metaphor. Once you allow these things into the family unit, drugs and alcohol, it not only follows you, but it follows everybody in the house, everybody in the family, through generations and throughout their lives.”
The “inheritance” of substance use disorder is a well-documented phenomenon. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), “Based on combined 2009 to 2014 NSDUH data, an annual average of 8.7 million children aged 17 or younger live in households in the United States with at least one parent who had an SUD. This represents about 12.3 percent of children aged 17 or younger who resided with at least one parent with an SUD.”
Like addiction, recovery also “runs in the family” for Royce. In “Cocaine,” he raps,
I’m losing my mind tryna figure out how did I inherit so much pain
I drink a lot of alcohol, problems with the law
But I have done better or the same
Royce entered recovery six years ago, after writing partner and rapper Eminem intervened and insisted that he go to treatment. Royce wrote that adjusting to recovery took time, as his body and mind healed and he learned to live without alcohol and other substances.
He wrote, “You don’t realize it until you stop drinking and then everything you try to do feels weird. Public appearances, shows, everything you thought you didn’t need to drink for, but now you are doing those things and you feel like you should be drinking.”
The challenges of early recovery have gotten easier with time, but Royce said that, in the beginning, he had to “fight through it.” He wrote, “I’d have to tell myself ‘I have to get through this without it.’ The very first show I lost my voice immediately, as soon as I touched the mic. My first thought was that if I had a drink to loosen up, then maybe my voice would return. But I knew that was the addiction talking. After that, all of the shows went well. The more I performed, the more I got accustomed to doing them without liquor. Now it’s like second nature. Same with recording.”
Royce’s honesty is empowering, and he’s a strong voice for recovery. Rather than glamorize substance use and its destructive consequences for families, his song “Cocaine” is an emotional flow about how recovery changes lives—for generations.