11 October 2012

The Houston Connection

Or, further proof that everything old is new again.

88 Lines about 44 Women came up in my running play list the other day. The playlist is generated based on BPM; I'm not sure that I would have picked that song otherwise.

It's pretty good though, it's got a very persistent beat. Good for running.

Anyway the song is a series of couplets - 44, specifically - about 44 different women. Wikipedia tells me it's by The Nails. It's possible the only thing of note they contributed to the musical landscape but I can't attest to that.

You get lines like:

"Zilla was an archetype/ the voodoo queen, the queen of rap."


"Jean-Marie was complicated/ like some French film maker's plot."

Ho ho ho. The song is all very New Wave and clever and then I hear:

"Patty had a house in Houston/ shot cough syrup in her veins"



Alright, so this song came out in 1984. That's the first reference to Houston and cough syrup that I'm now aware of. Before that, it was the entirety of Three Six Mafia's discography, but specifically 2001's "Sippin' on Some Syrup". 

What the hell were they talking about? Being in high school and also not living in Houston or having an encyclopedic knowledge of regional US drug culture I had no idea about the close ties that Houston-area rappers had to codeine (or similar) cough syrup (mixed with soda, I forgot that part). "Lean" - on account of it makes you super sleepy and you're leaning over. Tremendous! I then went through a brief period of downloading chopped and screwed remixes of songs from Napster. That would be - playing songs at have speed and chopping them up on turntables. It's sounds like what "about to fall asleep" feels like. I'm sure it's an excellent complement to being out of your mind and struggling to stay awake on prescription strength Oxycontin cough syrup.

In fact... I remember now that one of my earliest blogs (which was then known as a homepage (which furthermore was hosted on AOL or somewhere shitty)) had a rather lengthy rant regarding censorship of references to weed on the radio and MTV - but no problems with an entire song about what amounted to just another drug. I wanted to be the guy that said "Hey! You know that song? About syrup? Did you know it's called drank and it's about this cough syrup that these rapper guys drink? And it's Houston?" I was that guy in high. I still kind of am that guy, unfortunately. 

I think this post attests to that.

Continuing: Cough syrup! I had no idea that this was even a thing and then it turns out that there had been a whole subculture surrounding the abuse of cough syrup that I wasn't privy to. It was like a curtain had been opened. 

Then, eleven years after that song came out I hear an even older song that further cements the ties between Houston and cough syrup. The curtain is pulled back further! But also I realize that Three Six Mafia wasn't onto anything new in 2001 if The Nails beat them to it by fourteen years.

Wheels within wheels, man.

But Why?

Houston is awful. It's 100 degrees year round and the humidity tops 100% most days, based on my exaggerated impressions of a town I've been to once. 

I imagine the bay is slick with a rainbow sheen of oil and everyone there who doesn't work for a struggling energy company lives next to Paul Wall and Mike Jones and hangs out with Slim Thug and UGK at 59 South Lee. 

Why cough syrup? Why mix it with soda? Why does Houston make people want to escape reality in such a unique and candy-sweet fashion? 

I expect I'll never know.

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