During my daily dose of YouTube procrastination, I stumbled across a video that gripped my attention.
On Complex News’ YouTube show, Everyday Struggle, which I find is usually inundated with bland, repetitive topics and hot takes, rapper Joe Budden broke down when talking about the stigma surrounding mental health in Hip-hop. For a show that barely scratches at the surface of more serious discussions, it was a pretty sobering moment.
Budden has a public persona of being “bitter” and has been called a “hater” on numerous occasions in the past for his views on different matters. Despite never particularly getting into Budden’s music, a quick browse through his catalogue would show his reputation is quite ironic considering he has bared his soul out in his songs, continually portraying his struggles with mental illness.
With that in mind, it is not surprising to see why he was so moved when the topic was brought up.
“A lot of your favourite artists are suffering from mental illness”
Budden’s words ring disturbingly true.
IS MENTAL HEALTH REALLY IGNORED IN HIP-HOP?
In most art forms, to create an exceptional piece of creative work, artists often visit a rather dark or uncomfortable place in their psyche. Hip-hop is no different. Yet, there is a common misconception that Hip-hop supposedly ignores mental well being.
Hip-hop is a subculture and subsequent musical genre that was birthed in the streets of the South Bronx during the 1970s. Now globally appreciated, Hip-hop originated as form of self-empowerment and rebellion from young, black communities, against the institutional marginalization, which they were faced with at the time (and still do today).
As one of, if not the most, lyrically dense musical genres, Hip-hop has since evolved, for better or worse, but continues to pride itself on being an ever-present voice for the youth. The culture is now ingrained in mainstream consciousness, with Forbes recently listing it as the most popular musical genre in the United States for the first time.
The genre is unique for its emphasis on lyrical content but it is also renowned for artistic authenticity and is founded on rappers describing their mind state, whether through bravado or self-doubt.
Hip-hop’s sensationalism of guns, sex and drugs is well publicized but it has also consistently found a space for self-expression and introspection. Although most artists prefer to take the route of self-glorification, the genre is filled with both explicit and implicit expressions of mental health battles. In my estimation, the relationship with mental illness is definitely a complex one, but to say the culture completely ignores and ridicules it is promoting a false narrative…
Stay posted for part 2…
Written by Ali Humayun
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