On The Line: Hip-Hop & Mental Health
Today I’m stepping out of my usual position as blogger for the ‘Audio Dope’ section to post my first ‘On The Line’ piece! The subject of this post is one that hits close to home for me and brings together two huge parts of my life: Hip-Hop and Mental Health!
Hip-Hop’s relationship with mental health is an interesting one to me and as someone who has invested over half his life to the Hip-Hop culture, as an artist, MC, DJ, promoter, blogger and fan, and has suffered from mental health issues, personally and with family and friends, for about the same length of time so the subject is very personal to me.
Mental health issues, such as depression and high anxiety, have plagued me for years as well as a battle with alcohol and substance abuse, in my early to mid 20’s, but the one thing that balanced everything out for me was my love for Hip-Hop but with the exception of a few songs I’d never really seen a strong connection between Hip-Hop and Mental health.
Hip-Hop is very well known for it’s braggadocio, bottle popping, gun toting, drug pushing lyrics compared to being open and expressing your deepest and darkest feelings. While their are artists out there such as Joe Budden, Scarface, Charles Hamilton, Kid Cudi, Cage, R.A. The Rugged Man, Prodigy, Eminem, DMX and many more artists who have opened up about their battles with depression and mental health issues their is still a large percentage of rappers who choose to spit about the more care free aspects of life (even though, more than likely, those same artists probably wrestle with personal demons themselves).
Some artists like 2Pac, Drake and ,worst of all, Troy Ave., as prime examples, have even openly mocked illnesses such as Pac mocking Prodigy of Mobb Deep’s sickle cell, on 1996’s monster diss record ‘Hit ‘Em Up’, a disease Prodigy had openly said had caused him “physical and mental pain” (as heard on the emotional ‘You Can Never Feel My Pain’), Drake on ‘Two Birds, One Stone’ taking aim at Kid Cudi’s mental state even after Cudi checked himself into rehab for severe depression and Troy Ave., on his 2016 single ‘BadA$$’, calling late Pro Era member Capital Steez “Splat Man” and saying “Steez burning in hell” in reference to Steez’s 2012 suicide. This last example was all a part of a beef with Pro Era’s Joey Bada$$ over who wore the crown as New York’s #1 Independent Hip-Hop artist! Like really??? Very low blows indeed by two best selling, and respected artists in the industry (Troy doesn’t fall under best selling or respected in my opinion based on the above…sorry)!
Though mental health is a more discussed public topic nowadays I still feel Hip-Hop has a lot of growing up to do when it comes to the issue which after 40+ years is quite sad to say. Despite a new wave of artists, who have been given the tag of ‘Emo Rap’ popping up on Soundcloud (and the charts), talking about their ‘issues’ to me they come across more like moping teenagers having a moan about feeling ‘depressed’ because they’ve taken too many prescription drugs as opposed to people dealing with real depression which anyone can be hit with on any day. Not to necessarily say all modern day artists don’t speak on their real issues, some do (Logic I see you!), but the majority do come across more as attention seekers with very minor life problems, and to some extent, almost like a gimmick just to latch onto a niche audience.
As an artist myself I’ve found it difficult to speak openly on the issue, outside of music, as it’s not an easy subject to be open about, especially in Hip-Hop, but after reading and watching interviews with people like Joe Budden, Scarface, R.A. The Rugged Man and after seeing Styles P break down on the Breakfast Club, when discussing his daughters suicide through depression, it does make it easier to be more open to my own issues with mental health. I just hope that the Hip-Hop culture as a whole can take note and be a bit more open and honest on the subject as it’s been getting there slowly but, I feel, still has a long way to go.