Hip hop’s tough exterior has been softened by some of the most influential rappers in the game–Kid Cudi, Charlemagne and Logic, among others, are starting to open up on mental health.
“My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember.“
A glamorized lifestyle, illicit drug use, and pugnacious undertones have long prevailed as the base for hip hop lyrics. Rappers’ tales sometimes reiterate the need for mental health advocacy within the hip hop community–take Tekashi69 as an example.
There is great power in hip hop, which makes it a powerful medium for talking about emotions. The genre already represents marginalized experiences through lyrics as a form of therapy; but what if the biggest names in hip hop used their platforms to encourage actual therapy? They could make a huge impact, as African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than those of other racial backgrounds (understandably). However, only about one-quarter will seek help according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
What if the biggest names in hip hop had public conversations about mental health? Well, some have already started. Kid Cudi, Charlemagne, and Logic are three who have spoken about the difficulties in addressing their mental health challenges.
Kid Cudi, also know as Scott Mescudi, publicly announced on Facebook that he checked into rehab in October 2016. He wrote in an open letter that, “My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it. I can’t make new friends because of it. I don’t trust anyone because of it and I’m tired of being held back in my life.” A sense of guilt and trepidation is noted as he apologized for his current situation throughout his letter.
In January 2013, Kid Cudi disclosed he’d stopped taking antidepressants after a grim experience. He was prescribed medication after undergoing a mental breakdown from a relationship fall out, dealing with the loss of his father, and media scrutiny regarding fatherhood.
His 2013 incident sparked a ray of hope, “I need to stop letting motherf*** break me down, and make me feel like shit. I got to be a little stronger for myself and for my family and my fans,” he told Complex Magazine.
After checking into rehab on October 2016, Kid Cudi emerged back on stage in Long Beach, CA in November 2016 where he told his fans, “I know life is crazy, (but) we can make it through. I am living proof,” according USA Today. In line with this statement, Cudi’s music makes listeners feel less alone in their darkest moments.
Radio host Charlemagne tha God, also known as Lenard Larry McKelvey, released a book on mental health, a “blueprint for breaking free from your fears and anxieties,” entitled Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me.
Charlemagne takes his rap lyric being “shook” to a new level by explaining how he must overcome these feelings that hold him back. He relays his years of therapy and dealing with anxiety to try to foster open communication about mental wellness. He also provides great arguments against traditional male mental health stigma:
“Getting help is your right. Therapy and showing weakness are not always easy subjects, but if you go to the gym three or four times a week, why can’t you put that same effort and energy into getting mentally strong?”
Charlemagne has emphasized that “mental health remains stigmatized in the black community due to the sheer lack of information.” Instead of preaching, he notes how stigmatized mental health was in his life–so much so, that his mother went to therapy but he didn’t know until twenty years afterward.
Being able to talk openly about where to get help and how to access that help is vital. Charlemagne advocates for a change in our culture, so people get the help they deserve.
Logic, also known as Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, continuously makes mental health strides with his lyrical advocacy. Logic credits Kid Cudi, former tourmate, for inspiring him to reveal his own mental health struggles. “He was the dude that was like, ‘It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to talk about these things and go through these things,’” Logic told Zane Lowe in an interview.
Logic’s album, Everybody landed him the coveted Billboard No. 1 album and a grammy nominated song “1-800-273-8255.” For those who are wondering: the song was named after the Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s phone number.
Logic had first-hand experiences with anxiety, depression and derealization disorder. He has also experienced out-of-body experiences with his panic attacks. Extensive touring schedules and consistently putting out new music exhausted him. He expresses this journey with anxiety in his song titled Anziety.
Hip hop and mental health
Hip hop music as a form of self-expression has helped amplify mental health messages and break down stigma, but there’s still much work to do. As more and more artists come forward and name their personal experiences, more and more of us will be able to relate. In relating, we will feel less broken and more in control of our own emotional health.