The Message: These 3 Rappers Help Normalize Mental Health
In October 2016 the rapper Kid Cudi shared an emotional post on his official Facebook page. Cudi announced that he had gone into rehab for depression and suicidal urges. His message clearly struck a chord – a year later it had almost 600.000 likes, 55.000 comments and it was shared 137.000 times.
The reaction to Cudi’s statement shows the impact rappers and rap about depression can have on the public discourse concerning mental health. Along with Kid Cudi, some of the biggest and most respected rappers have addressed depression and mental health in the past. The list includes KendrickLamar, KanyeWest, and J. Cole. The following three are the ones that stood out in recent months.
1. Jay-Z raps about therapy
In 2017 Jay-Z released his 13th studio album 4:44. On “Smile”, one of the highlights of the record, he raps “My therapist said I relapsed”. Since the beginning of celebrity culture, vulnerability and weaknesses have been a taboo, silenced by the need for an idealized and unrealistic perfection. Jay-Z is acknowledging that such perfection is a mere illusion. When a superstar as successful and respected as him brings up his own therapist, that tells those that might still be in doubt that really anyone can be affected. And that it is good to talk about Mental Health. Jay-Z continued to discuss the importance of therapy and how helpful it can be. In an interview with the New York Times, he said: “I grew so much from the experience. But I think the most important thing I got is that everything is connected. Every emotion is connected and it comes from somewhere. And just being aware of it. Being aware of it in everyday life puts you at such a … you’re at such an advantage.”
2. Stormzy speaks out on depression
Micheal Omari, better known as Stormzy, discussed his personal history with depression in an interview and stated that he hopes his album Gang Signs & Prayer will help people going through similar situations. In “Lay Me Bare” he describes his experience as he raps: “Like man’a get low sometimes. So low sometimes, Airplane mode on my phone sometimes. Sitting in my house with tears in my face. Can’t answer the door to my bro sometimes.” The Grime-MC from the London district Croydon actively reduces stigma by sharing his own experiences.
3. Logic shares a message of hope
The recent years were big for the 27-year-old Logic from Maryland. His biggest hit is called “1-800-273-8255” – the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the USA. “I made this song for all of you who are in a dark place and can’t seem to find the light,” Logic tweeted. Logic makes rap about depression and his presence culminated in moving live performances at the MTV VMAs and the Grammys. He was accompanied by people who have been personally affected by suicide, wearing T-Shirts that said: “You Are Not Alone”.
The call volume at the Lifeline went up 50% after the MTV performance aired, it even tripled after the Grammys. Logic successfully started a conversation about suicide prevention and he reminds us each time his song is played.
The Way Forward – From Rap as Therapy to Rap and Therapy
The stance in Hip Hop often used to be: The music is our therapy. Today, there is a strong trend towards accepting professional help, without it being perceived as a weakness. Rap about depression is getting more and more common and some artists are even taking open therapy sessions on a web series. The development prevailed throughout the year and it needs to continue. If famous personalities publicly address these topics it can help the countless people suffering from depression around the world. If confident stars like them speak out it also shows that mental illnesses can affect anyone. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Ideally, it will result in real societal change eventually: The end of stigma.