The Purple Drink originated in Houston, though it is now well-known in all of the major rap cities, including Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis, and so forth. Robitussin and beer were first consumed by blues musicians in Houston’s South Park, 5th Ward, and 3rd Ward neighborhoods in the 1960s. They switched from beer to wine coolers when they were made available.
Rappers from the same areas in later generations took up the beverage. When the Jolly Ranchers were added, it turned into lemon-lime soda, specifically when it was combined with codeine promethazine syrup. The Drank gained popularity as it began to appear in song lyrics, beginning with DJ Screw’s mixtapes in Houston in 1998. “Sippin Codeine” by DJ Screw is the song that makes the most notable Purple Drank reference.
Ironically, DJ Screw passed away from a Codeine and drug overdose. However, this did not stop the cocktail’s rising fame. Lean eventually spread across the country, becoming a popular drug cocktail among rappers and a recurring theme in their music, which frequently reflected the original “chopped and screwed” style pioneered by DJ Screw and now frequently characterized by autotune.
Reference to “Lean” in Popular Music
Rap songs frequently refer to Purple Drank, from Jay Z’s 1999 track Big Pimpin’ with UGK to Young Thug’s 2013 song 2 Cups Stuffed. As long as the beverage remains part of rap culture, lean music has evolved in terms of style.
Rappers like Slim Thug, Lil Flip, Gucci Mane, A$AP Rocky, Future, Soulja Boy, and even Justin Beiber responded to Lil Weazy’s movement. There may be hope that awareness of Purple Drank is growing because some of the more recent music about the drug highlights its addictive qualities. For instance, Future laments that he is an addict in Codeine Crazy, “I can’t even hide it.”