Image by: Takashi Murakami
Creating art can be a very therapeutic outlet. And art comes in many forms – it can be physical, in the form of a painting or a drawing or a sculpture, but it can also be in the form of music. One of the main genres that go hand in hand with mental health: hip-hop.
Mental Health America called Hip-hop and mental health “an undeniable super team for healing and wellness.” The hip-hop genre has been controversial since it became popular in the mainstream in the 1990’s. A primarily Black art form, hip-hop’s critics have disputed the genre’s legitimacy. But art forms take many shapes.
Through lyrics, many hip hop and rap artists use this outlet to address their past trauma, express their gratitude and celebrate their experiences. The genre in 2022 contains so many different sub-genres, each tackling mental health in their own way. You have artists like Kid Cudi and Kanye West who have continually addressed their mental health struggles in their music. In their 2018 joint album Kids See Ghosts, Cudi and West both discuss anxiety and depression. West has publicly discussed his diagnosis with bipolar disorder.
"Y'all been telling jokes that’s gonna stress me out, soon as I walk in I’m like ‘let’s be out", Kanye raps on Reborn, a track that faces anxiety and isolation on the LP.
"Such a lost boy, caught up in the darkest I had. What’s the cost, boy, losing everything that I had,” Cudi raps on 4th Dimension, another song on the release.
You have rappers like Kendrick Lamar sharing and coming to terms with their upbringing in their music. Lamar’s major label debut, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, speaks on his troubled upbringing in the Compon area of Los Angeles, and the impact that had on him.
Jay-Z and other lyricists face their infidelities, address fatherhood and even marriage struggles through their output. Jay-Z’s album 4:44 brought up the very public infidelity in his and Beyonce’s marriage, and how they affected his psyche.
Much like Rock and Roll (another Black art form) was discounted as not being “real” music back in the 1960’s, hip-hop has faced unfair (and prejudiced) backlash that is invalidated by the raw, kaleidoscopic nature of the genre. Songs like 1-800-273-8255 by Logic tackle self-harm and suicide through introspective lyrics.
"I’ve been on the low, I’ve been taking my time
I feel like I’m out of my mind
I feel like this life ain’t mine
I don’t wanna be alive
I don’t wanna be alive
I just wanna die” – 1-800-273-8255 by Logic (also the phone number for the suicide hotline).
But these are only recent examples. Mental health has always been discussed in hip-hop, going as far back as the genre’s conception 40+ years ago. Legendary rapper Tupac addressed the topic 20+ years ago in his popular single Changes, where he went in depth about the effects of growing up in an underserved community.
And these are just a few examples. Hip-hop has continually dived deep to talk about mental wellbeing, while other genres have only skimmed the surface.
One of the reasons music is so therapeutic is because it gives listeners something they can relate to. Anyone struggling with their mental health can listen to hip-hop and feel less alone in the issues they face.
Conquer Life is a media company and online community established in 2019 with an app that features resources, daily affirmations, talks on mental health, documentaries and much more. Check out conquerlifeco.com for more info.
“Mental Health and Hip-Hop: An Undeniable Super Team for Healing & Wellness.” MentalHealth America, 27 July 2021, https://www.mhanational.org/blog/mental-health-and-hip-hop-undeniable-super-team-healing-wellness.#Blog