Grime music is fueling the use of ‘skunk’, expert warns

Stormzy heavily references cannabis in ‘Shut Up’ – which reached number 8 in the charts

Grime music is fueling the use of skunk because artists are referencing the drug in their chart-topping songs, warns a cannabis researcher.

Ian Hamilton, based at York University, warned the popular music genre contains hundreds of lyrics glorifying the use of the class B drug.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, he described songs featuring mentions of weed, including those by Stormzy, Kano and Wiley, as ‘essentially product placement’.

Stormzy, a 23-year-old artist who has 1.07 million followers on Twitter, heavily references cannabis in ‘Shut Up’ – a tune which saw the Mobo-winner reach number eight in the UK Singles Chart.

And Mr Hamilton revealed that such music ‘brands itself quite well to promoting a product’ – whether that’s Nike, Adidas or even weed. 

He said: ‘It’s essentially product placement by some of these artists about cannabis and other drugs, and it’s not balanced in any way and not countered by evidence. 

‘What we definitely know about drug use and young people is that their expectations about the drug and who they are with have huge influence on them.

‘Lyrics can plant the seed of an idea, and it’s not an abstract idea, it’s something they do pretty quickly and at low risk.

‘If the association, viewing it as a product placement, is cool and something that may enhance their status as a young person, then that becomes quite attractive.

‘They don’t have a choice [young people] about the type of cannabis they can get hold of, it’s high potency or nothing.’

Young people ‘don’t care about breaking laws’ 

He added that the fact cannabis is illegal is irrelevant to most young people because ‘it’s not a concern to them like theft or burglary is’.

However, Stormzy isn't the only grime artist to reference cannabis in his 'bars' - the urban term used to describe lyrics in a grime track, Kano has also

However, Stormzy isn’t the only grime artist to reference cannabis in his ‘bars’ – the urban term used to describe lyrics in a grime track, Kano has also

Wiley, considered to be the 'godfather of grime', also mentions cannabis in his songs

Wiley, considered to be the ‘godfather of grime’, also mentions cannabis in his songs


The latest figures available showed that more than two million people in England and Wales smoked cannabis in 2016.

For the previous year, Crime Survey figures showed a million of these were aged between 16 to 24.

The substance is currently a Class B drug in the UK, and anyone found in possession can face up to five years in prison.

Selling the drug can get someone 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine. The same punishment exists for giving it to friends for free.

It is illegal to be under the influence of cannabis while driving, and can result in a prison sentence and disqualification.

On the streets, the average price of an ounce of cannabis tends to be in the region of £200. This is often enough for 40 joints, depending on how strongly people roll them.

Reports suggest that around 270 tons of cannabis is consumed every year in Britain – which would equate to around £8.6 million at the aforementioned pricing. Some 80 per cent of this is grown here and not imported.

But during 2011/2012, in excess of 1.1 million plants were seized by police – with an estimated street value of £207 million.

However, Mr Hamilton warned that the health problems of grime music could stretch way beyond just high potency cannabis.

Promoting dangerous tobacco 

The lecturer in mental health told MailOnline: ‘The problem we’ve got in the UK is the way that cannabis is used with tobacco.

They don’t have a choice [young people] about the type of cannabis they can get hold of, it’s high potency or nothing

Ian Hamilton, a mental health lecturer at York University

‘The combination may be an introduction to smoking – if someone listens to a bit of grime music, they may be warmed up to the idea of trying it.

‘Chances are they will try a spliff, which contains tobacco, not like an American kid who is more likely to just have cannabis.

‘Grime music acts as a gateway to tobacco exposure inadvertently, for many young people it will be an appealing introduction, or a curiosity they may act on.’

Tobacco is linked to 17 types of cancer, including lung, throat and bladder – and is deemed to be the most preventable form of the disease.

Stop rolling joints with tobacco 

Mr Hamilton issued a warning earlier this year that teenagers should stop rolling their cannabis joints with tobacco earlier this year if they don’t want cancer.

Mr Hamilton warned that the health problems of grime music could stretch way beyond just high potency cannabis

Mr Hamilton warned that the health problems of grime music could stretch way beyond just high potency cannabis


Song: Shut Up  

I take care when I water my plants: Users on RapGenius – a website that allows fans to suggest true meanings behind lyrics – claim this refers to Stormzy watering his marijuana plants 

Dem man still go halves on a quarter: A quarter is a set amount of cannabis that is sold on the streets, referring to a quarter of an ounce

Weed in a cigarette, blue slims: Referring to rolling a spliff

Food in the ends like there ain’t no drought: Food is another word for weed

Song: Big For Your Boots

Drug money in my shoe box: A RapGenius user suggests this is in reference to hiding money from the tax man

Mad stressed so I’m bound to light my spliffs: Stormzy raps about wanting to smoke cannabis to ease his stress 

Song: Wicked Skengman Part 4  

Wait two secs, let me spark this zoot: A zoot is another word for a spliff

Them man there spit ammy and bud: Ammy is short for amnesia – a strain of weed, and bud is considered a weak strain of cannabis

Song: Cigarettes And Cush

But when I get home, just roll my weed, yeah: This is in reference to Stormzy rolling a spliff

Smokin’ smoke ’til we’re wavy and gone: Wavy can be another term for high

But it don’t mean I won’t treat ya to a blunt full of that reefer: A blunt is a cannabis-filled cigarette and reefer is another word for a spliff

Song: Not That Deep 

Spliff in the club, what d’you mean I can’t smoke?: Stormzy’s lyric suggests he is angry about not being allowed to smoke weed in a club

Then I hit a lick, gave man food on the tick, couple man paid me short: Food is a term for weed and a tick is an agreement to pay later

Song: Scary

Anywhere I go, got my bro with the smoke: A user on Rap Genius claims this is in reference to having a friend that always has cannabis

Song: Standard

Cause my jeans weren’t baggy enough to hold food: Food is a term for weed

Song: Bad Boys

Charge three for a Z, that’s banter: This is believed to refer to extortionate prices for cannabis as Z is a term used in youth culture to represent an ounce of weed

Song: One Take Freestyle

Smoke on a medical vibe: Believed to be in reference to the therapeutic benefits of smoking some forms of cannabis

Song: First Things First

Drugs kill, but my n***** make a killing off a drug: Stormzy bragging about how his friends sell a lot of drugs – despite knowing they can be dangerous

Song: Lay Me Bare

Just to get away, I take a toke: A toke is a hit of a spliff

He suggested youngsters should instead smoke the drug on its own if they want to get high because no such links to cancer exist with cannabis.

Mr Hamilton told MailOnline: ‘If someone like Stormzy steps up to the plate to make it clear what the risks are and problems it could help.’ 

Grime music: The origins 

Grime music, which began in London at the turn of the century, has been thrust into the mainstream media in the past year, amid the successful rise of Stormzy.

His debut album, titled ‘Gang Signs & Prayers’, released in February, reached number one in the UK charts – a feat achieved by no other artist in the scene. 

Stormzy’s rise to fame, alongside the popularity of Skepta and J Hus, helped sales of grime to rocket by 109 per cent, according to industry figures.

However, Stormzy isn’t the only grime artist to reference cannabis in his ‘bars’ – the urban term used to describe lyrics in a grime track.

The genre is based around some of the realities of urban lifestyle, including gangs, drugs, violence, guns and negative terms for women.

Wiley, considered to be the ‘godfather of grime’, and other prominent artists such as Kano and Lethal Bizzle have also mentioned cannabis in their songs.


Song: 3 Wheel Ups

If you’ve been shotting in the manor from way back when 

Shotting = a term for selling drugs 

Song: Flow Of The Year 

Used to be the weed guy, now I went beeline 

Song: Ps & Qs

We’ll chief your crew, we’re so hungry we’ll thief your food

Food = a term for drugs 

Song: Drinking In The West End

Last night , we got so high

Song: Deep Blues  

Trap, trap, trap, now everybody’s trapping

Trap = a term for selling drugs


Song: On A Level

High grade got man livin’ in a mist 

High grade = a term for potent weed

Song: Speakerbox 

Drugs on the staircase, drugs in the bait lift, every day I weight lift

Song: Birds N Bars

Smokin’ a J, listenin’ to Mila  

J = short for joint

Song: Pies

Moving skunk by the kilo, that’s a pie

Song: Like It Or Not 

Used to blaze weed, eat food, get the giggles

Song: Marijuana

The entire song is dedicated to weed