Artwork by Ashee Brunson, Frankie’s Mind, Marcus Lane Print Shop, Its Livai and Misha Korablin
The rap community hasn’t shied away from much in it’s lyrics. Tough topics like sexual abuse, domestic violence, poverty and crime have all been well documented through rap music. What was once an up and coming niche genre is now the most mainstream it’s ever been and all ears and eyes are on rappers.
It’s hard to stay healthy when you’re an artist.
All the things that seem fun at first glance, like catching flights to perform all over the world, hosting afterparties, and entertaining groupies can be really draining on your mind and body. Self-care is tough; it’s especially tough when you’re constantly out of your environment and in a different city each night.
Rap has gotten more in touch with it’s feelings over the last few years and rappers are opening up about their struggles with mental health. It’s tough to admit you’re feeling down and not yourself, especially in a high-octane ultra-masculine genre like rap music. Rappers speaking out about their mental health struggles hopefully comforts their teen fans and lends inspiration to start these conversations in their circles.
Recently, Chance the Rapper pledged $1 million dollars towards greater access to mental health services in Chicago. The announcement comes after his admission of dealing with PTSD and anxiety after the death of close friends. Chance has also been a very vocal advocate of his friend Kanye West, whose mental health issues have made headlines all year.
Here are 5 rappers that are speaking out about their own mental health issues
- Kid Cudi – Cudder disappeared for awhile and fans were left wondering what the hell happened. He came back in 2016 with a lengthy Facebook post in which he described his time in rehab for depression and suicidal thoughts. Cudi was one of the first to speak candidly about how anxiety has made it difficult for him to trust people throughout his life and how his paranoia was once so bad he was afraid to leave his house.
- Logic – Calls to the suicide prevention hotline spiked when Logic performed his touching song about suicide at this year’s Grammy awards. The track 1-800-273-8255 which is also the number for the National Suicide Prevention centre, features Alessia Cara and Khalid and addresses dark but relatable thoughts. Logic was inspired by Kid Cudi to speak openly about his own lifelong struggles with depression and anxiety.
- Kanye West – Kanye is the most prolific rapper to speak about his mental health struggles and also have them play out in the media. Kanye opened up to his fans after being inspired by his close friend and collaborator Kid Cudi. Kanye has rapped about seeking therapy and being on antidepressants in his 2016 album ‘The Life Of Pablo’ and recently went on TMZ where he discussed his lengthy hospital stay where he was treated for bipolar disorder.
- Eminem – It’s unsurprising that many people self medicate through drugs when their mental health issues go untreated and this is how Eminem coped for nearly two decades. The rapper has been vocal about his addiction to prescription pills both in his music and interviews. He kicked his habit in 2008 and credits his sobriety with clearing his mind of cluttered thoughts.
- Danny Brown – Danny Brown may seem like he’s always hype and in a great mood but he’s been very open with his fans about his experiences with depression and sleep issues due to anxiety. He’s admitted that his prior rampant drug use was to numb himself so he didn’t feel these issues as deeply and has repeatedly encouraged his fans to seek help if they’re going through the same things.
This article is inspired by World Mental Health Day and was originally published on Vellum’s blog – SMOKE + MiRRORS.
The entire vibe of the Toronto hip hop scene has changed since OVO took over in ’09. Fast forward six years later, and the sing/rap style has become all too predictable. It’s important to note that there are still emcees like Ontario’s Relic that are foregoing the trendy path to success, and instead creating sound pieces of music, that remain true to vision.
Relic aka Rel Mccoy is refreshing because he’s so heavily involved in all aspects of the creation of his work from writing to production. He’s a DJ, engineer and producer who’s previously work includes most of the production on Shad’s “The Old Prince” as well as doing engineering for rap group Ghetto Concept.
He’s been working on his own music, and recently dropped The 13th Floor, which tackles the everyday woes of Relic as he navigates through life, the chaos and mayhem that follows (or that he perhaps chases). It’s not at all the glamorous portrait of Toronto that’s oft portrayed; there’s no bitches and bottles to be found in his rhymes. It’s real, but entirely relatable, feeling stripped down and without any accoutrements. It’s a man, his bars and a beat – hip hop at it’s core.
Whether or not this raw and conscious flow can crossover in this climate stands to be seen. It’s dependant on Canadian hip hop audiences and their willingness to (once again) support music with positive imagery. If so, Relic will no doubt stand with Canadian emcees like Shad and Choclair as one of the country’s hip hop wordsmiths.
We interviewed Relic on Episode 28 of Screen Girls on Air and asked him to share with us his thoughts on the Canadian music industry and more.
Smoke DZA has been typified as the quintessential East Coast stoner rapper since Substance Abuse his first mixtape. The Harlem born and based rapper has released many sinsemilla inspired songs since then, earning him his “Kushed God” moniker. Even though, he possesses an intimate knowledge of the plant, boxing Smoke in as a “weed rapper” is unfair. Yes, Smoke has waxed poetic about the herb on more than just a few bars. But, the second part of his name (DZA) stands for “Dream, Zone, Achieve” and that’s more befitting of his aspirations for his music.
He’s from a down-and-out area of Harlem, and carries that unmistakable confidence with him, in his raps and on stage. He stays true to the Harlem in him, more bodega than bougie. His rapping style is not confrontational by any means. He’s got a relaxed flow that may (or may not) have something to do with the steady stream of THC flowing through him. He’s become a go to for features, collaborating with almost every new school rapper that matters. From A$AP Rocky to Schoolboy Q, he’s built alliances with artists on both coasts. His fan base is international, and they are viciously loyal to him. Check any music site’s comment section after they release a “best rapper” list and you’ll find his fans screaming bloody murder for looking him over. He’s a perpetual underdog, despite being one of the best performing rappers of recent in both critical and commercial capacities.
What endears his fans to DZA seems to be his willingness to delve into the problems of his community without being patronizing or over opinionated. He’s more of an orator, sharing stories about the hardships and good times he’s gone through while trying to make it as a person and as an artist. His show was an ode to the depth of Smoke Dza as he weaved in advice for the audience and shared stories about how he’d been working his whole life to be on that stage. Dream, Zone, Achieve – it was the theme of the night and the mantra for his life.
Demrick has a storied history as an emcee. He began rapping in Philadelphia, in the same vein of many rappers before him, in the streets and in cyphers around the city. The best thing about cyphers is that it’s an arena where respect really has to be earned. To battle in a cypher you must be quick footed, able to run rhymes around your opponent and anticipate their every move. There’s none of the cushy comforts a studio can bring, no do overs, no second chances. It’s an education in the destruction of the ego, and the first audience stimulus that emcees receive. It was in this environment where Demrick (formerly Young De) found his voice.
It’s been a few years since Demrick’s rap battle days; he’s since moved to California after being discovered by the likes of Kurupt and B-Real of Cypress Hill. The latter whom Demrick ended up collaborating with on supergroup The Serial Killers. It seems that all of the work he’s put into the game, the cyphers, the mixtapes and the collaborative album with the Serial Killers, has all been leading up to the release of his first full length album Losing Focus (released today). In this album, it’s evident that he’s learned some major lessons throughout all of the trials and tribulations the unbeaten path has brought him. His music is very much like his upbringing, it’s unidentifiable to any sound. He’s westcoast but east coast, he makes party music with the best of them but is also able to speak candidly about growing up with next to nothing.
It’s a candour that is refreshing, he seems to have no need for a lavish lifestyle and aside from a few cringeworthy lines on Skyscraper (I got models / I got strippers/ I got bitches I’m a player) he’s steering clear of any familial paths in rap. We spoke to him shortly before he released Losing Focus and got some insight into his thought process during the making of the album and the different approach he had to take in making his own album, versus a collaborative album. Check out the video here