Bumb Shah is a Pakistani rapper whose traumatic life experiences heavily influence his music. Like many artists, he began using drugs early in his career, hoping that they would fuel his creativity. Before long, he fell into a rabbit hole of addiction-centered depravity, something that was reflected in his music.
Thankfully, however, he had both the will and strength to free himself from the shackles of addiction. His music has taken a more positive turn as well, as he uses his knack for rapping as a vehicle to motivate others to achieve sobriety. He seeks to prove to the world that quitting drugs is not impossible.
At Age Nine, Bumb Shah Takes His First Inhale From a Cigarette
Many are quick to dismiss the cliche notion that all it takes is one puff from a cigarette to become addicted. However, Bumb Shah insists that his listeners heed this advice.
“Believe those who say that just one inhale gets you addicted,” he said. “Just one puff breaks the boundary between you and drugs.”
His viewpoint is shaped by his own experience: when he was only nine, he took a puff from a half-lit cigarette his father had left in an ashtray.
He had always looked up to his father, and not realizing the habit’s harmful implications, he viewed smoking simply as a way in which he could be more like his hero.
Unfortunately, this single puff would develop into a precocious nicotine addiction that before long branched into addictions to even more harmful substances.
Bumb Shah Discovers His Passion for Music
Bumb Shah became enamored with the power of music during his adolescence. Bohemia, the first Punjabi-speaking rapper to gain widespread popularity, from Pakistan had a particular influence on him.
It was not only Bohemia’s success that influenced Bumb Shah, but also his lyrical content, which was often centered around drugs and decadence.
Bumb Shah began writing his own raps, assisted by his new-found love for hashish (the resin collected from cannabis flowers).
The following excerpt, which is a translation from Punjabi to English, demonstrates how he acknowledges that the drug initially fueled creativity and how it showed in his early lyrics.
“I smoke the green stuff to look sober / Black stuff is always full in my pockets / Morning starts with a puff of Rizla [French brand of rolling papers] / Otherwise, my eyes would not open… I wander carelessly with my red eyes / I don’t fear anything when I’m high.”
Bumb Shah Descends Into Full-Blown Addiction
When his music began reaching an audience, Bumb Shah was overcome with confidence, so much so that he felt invincible. He would try whatever drug was offered to him. By the time he picked up cocaine, drugs had become the primary ruling force in his life, even more so than music.
“These drugs were not enough to get me high anymore,” he said. “I needed more. So this time, I went searching for it… At this point, it became the only concern I had. If someone very close to me had died, I would not have cared.”
To afford his habit, he turned to selling drugs himself. Sometimes he even went as far as to steal from his own family, a regret that pains him to this day. However, his unquenchable need took precedence over his morality at the time.
A Tragedy Inspires Bumb Shah to Turn His Life Around
Despite his belief that nothing but drugs could have phased him, it was the death of a friend that inspired him to begin the arduous journey towards sobriety.
“One of my very close friends overdosed on heroin and died at a very young age. That’s when I actually paid attention to where I was standing,” he said.
“All of my happy memories were associated with drugs. My songs were all about drugs… There were only two things left in my life: drugs and music. This time, the choice was clear.”
With a habit as severe as Bumb Shah’s, quitting drugs is no easy task, and the artist discovered this in the hardest way imaginable.
After disposing of what drugs he had left, he quickly began to experience extreme withdrawal symptoms, his heart beating out loud before he fainted. At this point, he was left with no other option than to confess to his family what he had been going through.
Bumb Shah’s Painful Withdrawal Process
Rather than send his son to a rehab center, Bumb Shah’s father made one for him in their home, where the rapper spent 31 days sequestered, enduring intense emotional and physical withdrawal symptoms.
“If you don’t want to quit by yourself, then no rehab center can help you,” Bumb Shah said. With regard to his experience in his father’s makeshift rehab, he recounted, “All the good feelings were gone. I started having suicidal thoughts. I could not sleep for days. I could not write, and I started to hate music.
However, after months of sobriety, the withdrawals eventually receded. Currently, Bumb Shah is living a fulfilling, sober life. He continues to make music, no longer needing drugs to fuel his creativity. He has earned back his family’s trust. And he has a good reputation within his community. His music, once reflective of his addiction, now reflects his new-found positive outlook on life.
“I am enjoying the true essence of my life without the limitations of drugs,” he said. “When I look back at those memories, I thank god for making me who I am today. And I also thank my dad very much, after all he was the real hero of my story.”
Bumb Shah Is a Hero
When asked to name his personal hero, Bumb Shah was quick to mention his father, who was instrumental in the rapper’s sobriety journey. He went on to say that every person who supports their peers can be considered a hero. Bumb Shah himself is heroic not only because he was able to pull himself out of a desperate situation but also because he now devotes his life to helping others who are struggling with addiction.
“Your health is important,” he said. “And you better spend your time and health on the real matters of concern. I thought that all my life. I had been inspired by people, but now it was time for me to inspire others.
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“People think that quitting drugs is very difficult; I showed them that it is not as difficult as they think it is. Yes, withdrawal symptoms are brutal, but I am currently helping a couple of my other friends to quit drugs, and I think that makes me an everyday hero.”
According to UK Rehab, half a million people in Pakistan—which is one in every 40 people—are addicted to heroin. With the country’s government sponsoring very few addiction resources, citizens are not only generally uneducated on the implications of heroin use, but they are often not provided treatment when they do become addicted.
In such an environment, it is crucial that people like Bumb Shah are able to tell their stories, to warn others of the dangers of drugs, as well as to show them that quitting is possible.
Bumb Shah Resources
To learn more about Bumb Shah and his music, please see the following links: