Jay-Z offers one of the best summaries of The War on Drugs

Jay Z War on Drugs

I went to Montreal for New Year’s Eve 2008 to 2009. First word of caution: don’t go to Montreal for New Year’s Eve. It’s a beautiful city and it has a tremendous food/beer culture, but … on December 31 of a given year, it is extremely cold. I believe it was -12 for part of the actual evening we were up there (we were there from probably Dec. 29 until Jan. 2, I think).

In some ways, this trip was a turning point for my life. 


At the time, I was living in New York — I had been there since September of 2007 — but I still had a crew of friends from Connecticut, where I had lived from 2005 to 2007. I was completely fucking aimless in NYC. Some weekends I’d spend in NYC, watching college football with some friends there. Some weekends I’d go to Connecticut. Other weekends I’d sulk around by myself. Around December of 2008, I gradually started to figure out that two of my good friends from CT — a boy and a girl — were hooking up and not telling anyone. I’m super low on the self-esteem scale and I like to know things about my friends, so I was letting this get to me way too much. In fairness, these two are now married and live in San Francisco, so I guess everything worked out for the best.

I went on this trip and, lo and behold, they started making out at midnight in the bar we were at. I knew long before what was going on, but I hadn’t admitted it. It was a messy, weird evening and I acted like a child in a lot of ways. I like to forget most of it ever happened.

I do remember that the next morning, at about 11am Montreal time, those two went for a walk or something — and I was mostly with people I wasn’t as close with (two of them were hooking up, too!) and it was just kind of a weird situation. It was also about -11 degrees. As such, as I’m wanton to do, I started blasting this Jay-Z song on the balcony and drinking a beer (at 11am) in negative weather. This is how 2009 began for me. Here’s the song:

I say my life changed after that because when I got back, I started hanging out with a different crew of people — and through that crew, I eventually went on a vacation with a few girls to Spain, and that’s where I started up with my now wife. That happened probably seven months after NYE 2009.

I have this song on my iPhone — although in 2009 on New Year’s Day, I was blasting it from a random laptop and YouTube — but I don’t listen to the music on my iPhone a lot. I usually listen to Pandora, especially at the gym, etc. This morning I flipped over and listened to the song for the first time in probably a couple of years. Some of these Montreal memories came flooding back, sure, but I also caught this line that I hadn’t remembered from before:

All these blacks got is sports and entertainment // until we even, thieving // as long as I’m breathing // can’t knock the way a n*gga eating

On Sunday I was trying to get a haircut — my beard looked like a goddamn rat’s nest — and I read the article about how everyone thinks ‘The War on Drugs’ has failed.

First of all: no shit.

Second of all: when El Chapo was captured, do you think that people around the world had access to heroin and cocaine and other drugs the next week? Probably, right?

The War on Drugs is essentially futile.

And it’s futile for a lot of reasons — “demand” might be a high No. 1 — but think about this in the terms of the Jay-Z lyrics. When you get to a big, industrialized nation in terms of drug dealers/middle men, where do they tend to come from? Often minorities, and when not, often people with less “stock” in their day-to-day life. In Chicago, you see a lot of the run coming from the projects.

I’m not trying to make a racial statement here whatsoever — I think it’s just as easy for a white kid’s life to get f’ed up by drugs or dealing drugs — but I had never thought about the Jay-Z lyric before. Everyone’s gotta eat, right?

And if the opportunities aren’t the same for both sides, can we really knock how it’s getting done?

Just a small morsel of food for thought.

Ted Bauer