"White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" is a song by Grandmaster Melle Mel, released as a 12" in 1983 on Sugar Hill Records. The song, which warns against the dangers of cocaine, addiction, and drug smuggling, is one of Melle Mel's signature tracks. The bassline is sampled from a performance of the Sugar Hill house band (featuring bassist Doug Wimbish) covering "Cavern", a single by post-punk band Liquid Liquid.
When originally released on Sugarhill, the record was credited to Grandmaster & Melle Mel (some international issues even credited Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel). This was done to mislead the general public into believing that Grandmaster Flash participated on the record, when in fact he played no part and had already left the Sugar Hill Records label the previous year.
"White Lines" peaked at No. 47 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart in 1983. The song fared better in the United Kingdom, reaching number 7 on the UK Singles Chart in July 1984, spending 17 consecutive weeks in the top 40. It was the 13th best-selling single of 1984 in the UK, selling more than several number one hits that year.
The song was co-written by Melle Mel and Sylvia Robinson. Originally, it was intended to be an ironic celebration of a cocaine-fueled party lifestyle, but it was abridged with the "don't do it" message as an anti-cocaine song as a concession to commercial considerations.
The lines "A businessman is caught with 24 kilos / He's out on bail and out of jail and that's the way it goes" refers to car manufacturer John DeLorean, who in 1982 became entrapped in a scheme to save his company from bankruptcy using drug money. Some of the lyrics in "White Lines" ("something of a phenomenon") echoed lyrics from the song "Cavern" by Liquid Liquid ("slipping in and out of phenomenon") from which the famous bassline was borrowed.
An unofficial music video was directed by then New York University film student Spike Lee and starred actor Laurence Fishburne.
In 1988, the song was used as part of an anti-heroin public information film in the United Kingdom.
UK Singles Chart
U.S. Billboard Hot Black Singles
Duran Duran version:
A 1995 cover version of "White Lines," featuring performances from Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel, was released as the second single from the Duran Duran covers album Thank You. The single reached No. 17 on the UK Singles Chart, No. 5 on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Songs chart, No. 20 on the Australia and No. 31 in New Zealand. The band continued to perform the song as a regular part of their live set into the 2000s.
This single had more promo releases than most bands have releases, and across this myriad of 12" and CD singles the band released more than twenty distinct remixes of "White Lines", a majority crafted by DJ Junior Vasquez. Apart from the singles and the Thank You album, the song also appeared as a B-side on the first single from the album, "Perfect Day".
A black and white video was shot in January 1995 by Nick Egan, featuring Duran Duran, Melle Mel, and the Furious Five performing the song accompanied by breakdancers and people in skeleton masks.
On July 8, 2009, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson did a lip-sync version of the Duran Duran cover featuring puppets on backing vocals.
Happy Go Licky did an improvised version of the song during their brief existence; one live recording of their version appears on their posthumous release Will Play.,
The song is sung by the characters Shaun and Ed in the film Shaun of the Dead and is featured on the film's soundtrack.,
At Channel 4's Comedy Gala, Bill Bailey and Kevin Eldon performed the song in a 'west country hip hop' style.,
Driver (aka Lifer) covered this song on the 2000 compilation album Take a Bite Outta Rhyme: A Rock Tribute to Rap.,
The song "White Lines" has been sampled in many other songs, including:
"It Takes Scoop" by Fatman Scoop feat. The Crooklyn Clan (2004),
"White Girls" by Mighty Casey (2003),
"Tobisugi" by King Giddra (2002),
"Quiet Storm" by Mobb Deep (1999),
"Phenomenon" by LL Cool J (1997),
"Ego Trippin' (Part Two)" by De La Soul (1993),
"Arts in D Minor (Harry Houdini)" by Kon Kan (1989),
"White Lines '89 - Part II" by Grandmaster Melle Mel and The Furious Five (1989)