In 2016, Kid Cudi publicly confessed his deep depression and mental anguish on Facebook.
“If I didn’t come here, I would’ve done something to myself. I simply am a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday of my life.”
Shortly after, Cudi checked himself into rehab.
Rappers are more commonly known to face death from shootouts or gang affairs. However, Hip-hop has recently witnessed the rise of suicide and overdose from those involved in the culture.
Nineteen year-old promising rapper Capital Steez took his life in 2012, music mogul Chris Lighty committed suicide that very same year and A$AP Yams, spiritual leader and co-founder of rap group A$AP Mob, died of overdose in 2015.
It has not just been bullets that have taken lives.
It bothers me that in regards to mental health, it always takes a public figure to pass away, or for a notable name to go public with their condition, like Cudi, for it to reach mainstream consciousness.
Some may argue, should we really care?
Hip-hop separates itself from other genres because of the manner in which artists share their experiences, and allow us in to their world through their music and lyrics. It creates a connection between fan and artist that is not as commonly found in other genres. It is this bond that builds die-hard fan bases, and why, as listeners we will almost always be aware of our favorite rappers mental frame of mind.
A typical grievance found among fans is that artists produce their best work when they are at their lowest and facing these mental ailments. For example, many state that Eminem’s music was of much higher quality when he was under the influence of drugs.
It is without doubt that Eminem’s best and most impactful work was produced in the early parts of his career, when he suffered from addiction. However, does that mean he should not have looked after his mental well-being for the sake of his music?
From a completely humanistic perspective, should the art not be placed secondary and the health of another human being be the priority?
It does not matter if Eminem’s new music is bland. As Jay-z famously said,
“Want my old shit, buy my old album.”
As fans we get too caught up in the nostalgia of past moments. It reminds us of a certain point we might have also been at in our lives when an album or song impacted us. This translates into cries for artists to recreate that sound, despite the artist being in a completely different mental space later in their career. Art is not meant to move in reverse.
No matter what genre, artists need to evolve in order to progress, and it is entirely contradictory to expect a Hip-hop artist to maintain the same lyrical content, particularly if they are going through different experiences in their lives.
To put it bluntly, I would prefer it if my favorite artists did not become martyrs for their creativity.
I feel that it is also not written in the stars for every artist to have a career of longevity. If any piece of their work is impactful enough to change a single life, their career has been a success. Some might disagree, but that’s just how I see it.
Moreover, I believe Hip-hop artists are more likely to suffer from mental illness than most other artists.
It is a predominantly black genre, and it is proven that mental illness is greater in ethnic minorities due to a number of other factors, such as stigma, racism and poverty.
Many of these artists also come from scarring backgrounds, broken homes and exposure to gang violence at a young age. Their experiences are a caricature of the stigma that currently surrounds ethnic minority groups.
Combine that with the pressures of fame, it can undoubtedly take a toll on any individual. Particularly when some artists achieve success practically overnight.
Eminem, sums up the experiences and relationship between fan and rapper eloquently in his song, ‘Sing For The Moment’.
Written by Ali Humayun