17 Rappers Who Weren't Afraid To Dig Deep And Get Real About Mental Health
Even Jay-Z has had his share of rough times. (TW: Suicide)
Both men and women suffer from a range of mental issues, but men in particular are more likely to aggravate their suffering by staying silent about it. Because men are socialised to show no signs of weakness, they're less likely to seek help from support networks. But now that the dialogue around mental health is changing, more men are willing to speak up. These rappers with mental illness have made music opening up about their struggles.
"I don't know why we, especially in hip-hop, why we're afraid to talk about mental health," Rapper Logic says in an interview with Genius. "I think maybe because it's a sign of weakness or something? ... But I deal with anxiety and I'm not scared to say it and I know a lot of people out there feel the same way so I'm just gonna be an advocate for that, you know?"
1. DMX — "Slippin'"
DMX has been making music about his mental struggles for years. In 2011, he finally admitted that he suffers from bipolar disorder (though he did mention it in passing in his song "F*ckin' Wit' D"). "Slippin'" is a literal cry for help, with X pleading with the listener to help him get back on his feet from rock bottom so he can "tear sh*t up".
2. Kanye West – “Clique” / “Yikes”
When Kanye West's mother Donda passed away in 2007 — just three years after he dropped his debut album — he was shaken to the core. In "Clique", he raps about going through a "deep depression" and even struggling with suicidal thoughts.
3. Aesop Rock — "One of Four (Thank You)"
During his first US tour, Aesop Rock suffered a nervous breakdown that caused him to put his career on hold. And "One of Four" is a thank you song to the four friends who stuck around him when he needed him the most. "I could live to be a thousand years old and never repay them," he raps in the second verse.
4. Kid Cudi – “The Prayer”
Kid Cudi has struggled with mental health issues for years, checking himself into rehab in 2016 for his suicidal urges. In his 2008 album A Kid Name Cudi, he tackles his feelings of loneliness and despair.
5. Nas — "Drunk By Myself"
Here, Nas gets vulnerable and raps about his depression, with verses that go: "I'm a ride to the end of the road if I have to / Praying no car speeds by for me to crash to / Steering wheel in my hand; Trying to hold it steady / Anything in my way is dead / Cause that's the way I feel, I am already."
7. Logic – “1-800-273-8255”
Unlike most rappers with mental illness who simply describe the situation that they're in, Logic asks questions about how society perceives mental health, and what we can do to make things better. Last year, he came out with "1-800-273-8255", which is 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.
— Young Sinatra (@Logic301) April 26, 2017
8. Joyner Lucas — "I'm Sorry"
"I'm Sorry" is about a friend of Joyner's who died by suicide, and how Joyner responded to the heartbreaking tragedy. In the comments for the song's Facebook post, he wrote: "I'm seeing a lot of people come forward and talk about the suicidal experiences they had or have. I just want to say, thank god many of your attempts have failed. You wasn't [sic] meant to go yet."
9. Kendrick Lamar — "U"
"U" is an angry, emotional song that simple sounds aggressive on the surface, but was a cathartic exercise for Kendrick. In an interview with Rolling Stone, He said about this song: "That was one of the hardest songs I had to write. There’s some very dark moments in there. All my insecurities and selfishness and let-downs. That shit is depressing as a motherfucker. But it helps, though. It helps."
10. Geto Boys — “Mind Playing Tricks 94″
When Geto Boys' Scarface was younger, he suffered from manic depression and multiple suicide attempts. " I just wanted to die," he tells Complex. "I spent a lot of time in hospitals for depression. I was really one of those kids that was fucked up. It had nothing to do with the way I was brought up, but I didn’t value life back then as much as I value it right now. I thought about death, I thought about crazy shit."
11. Stormzy — "Lay Me Bare"
"I always saw myself as this strong person who just deals with life and gets on with it and if something gets me low, I always pick myself up. That happens, we march on. That's always been my philosophy." When he went through depression, he realised how fragile people can be. He opened up about it in his album Gang Signs & Prayer, saying that he wanted to help normalise mental health issues and reducing stigma.
12. Notorious B.I.G – “Suicidal Thoughts”
Three years before his tragic death in a drive-by shooting, Biggie released the song "Suicidal Thoughts" in his iconic album Ready to Die. In the song, he's full of self-loathing as he explains to Puff Daddy how guilty he feels for the crimes he committed. The song is hella dark, but it's also emotional and honest.
13. Isaiah Rashad – “AA”
While promoting his album The Sun's Tirade (which features "AA"), Rashad revealed that he became addicted to Xanax and alcohol. In "AA", Rashad tackles his struggles with addiction and alcoholism — hence the title, the acronym for Alcoholics Anonymous.
14. Joe Budden - "Only Human"
After he was accused of assaulting his then-girlfriend and stealing her cellphone, Budden turned himself into the police. The charges were later dropped, and the day after he was released from jail, he recorded "Only Human". The song delves into his mental health and his suicidal thoughts, and he calls it one of the most difficult songs he's ever had to write.
15. Lil Wayne – “Mad”
In this collaboration with Solange, Lil Wayne raps about the different injustices that's become par for the course for African Americans. He also touches on a suicide attempt and how he got up from his despair. "I remember how mad I was on that day / Man, you gotta let it go before it get up in the way / Let it go, let it go."
16. Cage — "Dr. Strong"
In "Dr. Strong", Cage tackles his experience being admitted to a psychiatric ward for 18 months as a teenager. "Dr. Strong" is from his 2009 Depart from Me album, which Cage has described as "an exorcism of sorts", as it was a lot more personal than his previous work.
17. Jay-Z — "Smile"
Even Jay-Z has had his share of ups and downs. In "Smile", he reflects on bad days that have shaped him. In the song, Jay-Z talks about his therapist. Rappers with mental illness used to treat music as their only form of therapy, but now that the dialogue around mental health is changing, looking for professional help is no longer seen as a shameful thing.
"There are gonna be bad times," he told iHeart Radio in an interview. "And those bad times can do two things: they can get you in a place where you’re stuck in a rut, or it can make your future that much better because you’ve experienced these things."