#HipHopTherapy: 10 Rappers Who Were Open About Mental Illness
Mental illness seems to be the topic of discussion in hip-hop more than often, and yet the stigma still exists. Many of our favorite MCs have discussed mental illness and mental health either subtly or blatantly, some we didn’t even notice at first glance. We decided to shine a light on mental health by listing 10 rappers who openly preached or discussed their struggle with mental illness.
1. Notorious B.I.G
Track: “Suicidal Thoughts”
Lyric: “I reach my peak, I can’t speak Call my nigga Chi/ tell him that my will is weak/I’m sick of n***as lying, I’m sick of bitches hawkin’ /Matter of fact, I’m sick of talkin”
In the last track on Biggie’s ‘Ready to Die,’ Biggie calls Diddy and explains that he’s about to commit suicide. Puff tries to teach him out of it as Biggie spits about his demons.
2. Kid Cudi
Track: “The Prayer”
Lyric: “So if I slip away, if I die today/ he last thing you remember won’t be/About some apple bottom jeans/ With the boots with the fur/Maybe how I dreamed of being free since my birth/Cursed, but the demons I confronted would disperse/ Have you ever heard of some shit so real/ Beyond, from the heart, from the soul, you can feel”
Kid Cudi’s music is known for its deep and almost haunting messages. Cudi finds the perfect way to describe the way people feel during their darkest hour within his music, making it seem like a cry for help. It wasn’t a surprise when he finally decided to check into a rehabilitation center for depression and suicidal urges in 2016. As part of his 2008 mixtape, ‘A Kid Named Cudi’ he expressed his existential struggle and suicidal thoughts in the track “The Prayer.”
Lyric: “I’ma make it some day some how/what you telling yourself/But you ain’t focused on what’s important: mentality, health/Everybody in the world only want one thing, what’s that?/Infinite power and a pocket full of wealth/Its like ohhh I’ma bring it back to the basics/Nobody can erase it/People in the street going ape shit/Battling depression but nobody wanna say shit”
Aside from the famous “1-800-273-8255” track, the 11th track off of Logic’s third studio album is Logic describing the way anxiety feels like. It’s his deception of the way this illness completely destroys you, giving hope to those who feel as if they’re struggling alone. The track ends with a monologue, Logic giving hope and presenting a call to action for people to focus on mental health and acceptance.
4. J. Cole
Track: “Cheer Up”
Lyric: I wake up in the morning and I ask myself
Is life worth living, should I blast myself?/Don’t even wanna get out the bed/I got the Glock to my head, feel I rather be dead/Hey, am I hopeless? Raised with rats and roaches/Never liked them teachers, couldn’t stand my coaches/Ask “what’s the matter?” but you can’t relate/Living the life that you hate but you can’t escape/Feel like I’m stuck here, that’s why I don’t give a fuck here/There’s no luck here, nobody to trust here”
J.Cole has been very open about his depression. He became involved with SoulCulture’s mental health awareness campaign #ITSOKNOTTOBEOK in which he dug deep into the depression he experienced while recording ‘Born Sinner.’ He stated, “There’s a mentality that I had that was never shaken, it was quiet, it wasn’t outspoken, it was all in [my head]. The minute that changes and now I’m dealing with a mindstate I’ve never had to deal with before – which is fighting all these negative thoughts – that’s the dark place I’m talking about.” He released “Cheer Up” back in 2011, a less popular track where he referenced 2Pac’s “Changes” expressing suicidal thoughts.
5. Kendrick Lamar
Lyric: “I know depression is restin’ on your heart for two reasons… And if this bottle could talk I cry myself to sleep/Bitch everything is your fault… Shoulda killed yo ass a long time ago / You shoulda feeled that black revolver blast a long time ago /And if those mirrors could talk it would say ‘you gotta go’/And if I told your secrets/The world’ll know money can’t stop a suicidal weakness.”
Kendrick Lamar’s “u” off of ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is an emotional track where he discusses his inner demons, giving the listener a peek into what his life was like growing up. In an interview with MTV, he explained “Nothing was as vulnerable as that record. So it’s even pulling from those experiences of coming up in Compton. It’s pulling from the experience of going through change and accepting change — that’s the hardest thing for man, accepting change.”
6. Isaiah Rashad
Quote: “Don’t go through the problems in your head alone.”
Following Kid Cudi’s letter about his depression, Isaiah Rashad opened up about his own struggles, stating that he cried in a bathroom stall to Cudi’s “The Prayer.” He took to twitter to shine a light on mental health.
everybody's somebody's everything. nobody's nothing.
— young lack sleep (@isaiahrashad) October 9, 2016
Don't go through the problems in your head alone. There's nothing wrong with asking for help. The worst thing to do is think ur alone in it
— young lack sleep (@isaiahrashad) October 9, 2016
7. Tupac Shakur
Lyric: “I see death around the – corner, any day/Tryin to keep it together, no one lives forever anyway/ Strugglin’ and strivin’, my destiny’s to die”
Track: “Death Around The Corner”
It was 1994 where Tupac was perhaps in one of the darkest periods in his life. Accusations of rape, betrayal, and broken relationships allowed Pac to bring one of the most haunting songs in hip-hop history.
Lyric: “Ay yo I’m slippin’, I’m fallin’, I can’t get up Ay yo I’m slippin’, I’m fallin’, I can’t get up.”
DMX has has had his share of situations regarding mental health issues, ultimately checking into a rehabilitation center to find solace. His 1998 track “Slippin” was a cry for help as he expressed the issues that had him feeling hopelessly overwhelmed with life.
9. Joe Budden
Track: “Only Human”
Lyric: “I thought that black cloud was gone/It’s been beside me all along, not the song/I wanna sit in silence, don’t speak for a minute/Tired of being strong, please let me be weak for a minute”
Aside from being a favorite TV personality, Joe Budden’s earlier hip-hop career gave him a platform which he made use out of. He’s been openly outspoken about mental health awareness and highlighted these issues in his track titled “Only Human.”
10. Childish Gambino
Quote:“I feel like I’m letting everyone down/I’m afraid people hate who I really am/I’m afraid I hate who I really am/I’m scared people will find out what I masturbate to/I’m afraid I’m here for nothing/I feel that this will feel pretentious
/I’m scared I’ll never grow out of Bro Rape/I’m afraid people think I hate my race/I’m afraid people think I hate women/I hate people can say anything
I hate caring what people think/I’m afraid there’s someone better for you”
Introspective artist, Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover completely exposed his insecurites on an “Open Letter To Instagram” in 2013. A seven page long, hand-written letter that had fans worried. Although fans believed he was having a breakdown, he just insisted that he “felt like [he] needed to be heard.” In the letter he detailed his fears, anxieties, and existentialism. NME points out that he stated, “I’m not having a personality crisis, more like a personality burst. I just wanted to be honest. People are like, ‘Ah, this guy is unstable,’ but it’s like, you guys are the ones who are unstable, you’re just dying the same way your grandfather died, doing the same old fucked up shit. I’m just being alive.. I don’t see why being insecure is such a bad thing – some of the worst people in the world were very secure with who they were. Hitler was very secure in who he was – he was also a huge asshole and one of the worst people ever. This is who I am, and I’m insecure, so fuck it.”
Photograph via HGHSNBTY