STARCK RAVING MAD (1984-1989)
It all started out as a weight-loss gambit. In 1913, German pharmaceutical company Merck patented MDMA (née “3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine”) for use as a diet pill, beginning the country’s long history with the drug (shout-out to trance music). Barring studies and a little experimenting by the U.S. Army during the MKUltra years, it mostly sat on ice for about 60 years; but around 1970, love-addled youth began experimenting recreationally. During the ’80s, the drug was known on the streets as “ecstasy” and became more widely used for its euphoria-inducing properties — famed Manhattan nightclubs Paradise Garage and Studio 54 were havens. (It bore no relation to the eponymous, behatted rapper in anti-drug hip-hop trio Whodini.) By 1984, the Drug Enforcement Administration had announced its plan to move MDMA to a Schedule 1 regulated substance as a “hallucinogen” (proving they’d never tried it — who hallucinates on MDMA?).
The next year, a group of psychotherapists who were utilizing the drug in treatment sued to block the motion, but they lost, and by ’88 MDMA was criminal… and therefore cooler, setting the stage for countercultures like hip-hop to celebrate its more tactile properties. References to the hug drug under a variety of nicknames — “ecstasy,” of course, “E,” “X,” “XTC,” “pills,” “beans,” “thizz,” “blue dolphins,” “double stacks” or “triple stacks,” etc., have been used by rappers over the years; but in the recent past, as hip-hop and EDM have started passing out together, the term “molly” (supposedly MDMA in a purer form, i.e. not “stepped on”) became go-to slang for any form of ecstasy-related rap invocation. But for rappers to fully own their love of the drug, we needed a full-blown crossover anthem, i.e. Trinidad James’ sweaty, pill-silly “All Gold Everything.” The sly track, which has sent parents all over the country into cracked-out fits of hysteria, surprisingly earned the heretofore-unknown James a lucrative recording deal. Pop that! JULIANNE ESCOBEDO SHEPHERD and CHARLES AARON