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Purple Drank, also known as “syrup” or “sizzurp,” is a slang term for an illegal recreational beverage that is most popularly used in the southern hip hop community of the United States. The drink consists of prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine, which is typically mixed with a soft drink prior to ingestion. The name “Purple Drank” is derived from the purple color dyes used in codeine-based cough syrups.
Houston-based producer DJ Screw is widely credited with popularizing the concoction and its affiliation with the hip hop sub-genre known as “chopped and screwed.” Both the drug and the music scene initially gained momentum in Houston, Texas before spreading to other Southern states. In June of 2000, Three 6 Mafia’s single “Sippin’ on Some Syrup” featuring UGK brought the term “Purple Drank” to a nationwide audience.
A notable variation of the drink known as “rainbow colors” combines multiple brands of cough syrup in different colors and a Jolly Rancher candy, which creates a spectrum of hues reminiscent of a rainbow as the liquids blend together. Other cough syrup-based drinks have been given similar nicknames based on their unique colors, including “yellow syrup” and “pink syrup”.
Chopped and Screwed
Purple drank served as a major influence on the southern hip hop genre of music known as “chopped and screwed,” in which songs are remixed to reduce the tempo below 70 quarter-note beats per minute. The narcotic effects of purple drank are known to slow down brain activity, which complements a style of music with an extremely low tempo. Peer-to-peer music sharing hubs like Napster helped distribute this brand of music to a wider audience in the late 1990s. On YouTube, edited videos that have been intentionally slowed down are often given the label “chopped and screwed,” though not to be confused with 800% Slower Remixes. For more examples of “chopped and screwed” remixes, check out the video gallery.
On October 1st, 2003, Urban Dictionary user magnum created an entry for “chopped and screwed,” defining the term as a song-editing technique pioneered by DJ Screw. On May 9th, 2005, Urban Dictionary user the ju1ce submitted an entry for “purple drank,” defining the concoction as cough syrup mixed with Sprite in a Styrofoam cup. On April 5th, 2006, YouTuber scil uploaded a chopped and screwed remix of a news report from Mobile, Alabama about a wild leprechaun (shown below). In seven years, the video garnered upwards of 800,000 views and 1,200 comments.
On October 16th, 2008, a Facebook page titled “Purple Drank” was created, which received over 77,000 likes in the following five years. On September 21st, 2010, the Mahalo News YouTube channel uploaded a video explaining the meaning and history of purple drank (shown below). Within the next three years, the video gained more than 100,000 views and 240 comments.
On October 26th, 2011, Vice released a documentary about purple drank and the chopped and screwed rap culture in Houston, Texas (shown below, left). On January 13th, 2012, YouTuber 623SmokeBreeze uploaded a video showing how to make purple drank (shown below, right). Within 14 months, the video accumulated upwards of 89,000 views and 100 comments.
On March 15th, 2013, the celebrity news blog TMZ published an article claiming that rapper Lil Wayne had been hospitalized and was in critical condition after overdosing on purple drank. The hospital reportedly found large amounts of codeine in the rapper’s system and had to pump his stomach three times. The following day, Lil Wayne tweeted that he was doing well and thanked his fans.
I’m good everybody. Thx for the prayers and love.— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) March 16, 2013
The increase in search query volume for the keywords “purple drank” in July of 2010 is related to the arrest of Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, in relation to a series of purple drank drug busts and his possession of codeine cough syrup without a prescription.