I’ve been a fan since your Degrassi days and when you broke into the rap world I was amazed at your ability to create hit songs while sticking true to yourself and expressing raw emotion so eloquently. With lyrics like “I'm scared that every girl I care for will find a better man and end up happier in the long run” (Missin’ You), you expose your vulnerability and insecurities when it comes to relationships. When you wrote “I pop bottles because I bottle my emotions” (Fear), you open up and admit it’s often easier to push emotions away than accept them. But last week, when you targeted fellow rapper Kid Cudi and wrote “You were the man on the moon, now you go through your phases…You stay xan and perked up so when reality set in you don’t gotta face it” (Two Birds One Stone), I lost the respect that I had developed for you over the last decade.
To give some reference as to why these lyrics are so disappointing, on October 4th, Kid Cudi posted on social media about the struggles he has been having with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations. He writes “Yesterday I checked myself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges. I am not at peace. I haven't been since you've known me. If I didn't come here, I would’ve done something to myself… My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember… I’m tired of being held back in my life”. His post sparked the hashtag #YouGoodMan, giving people an outlet to discuss depression, especially in regards to race and masculinity. One of these tweets from radio host Jesse Thorn reads “Cudi getting help for depression is gutsier than anything Drake’s ever done. #YouGoodMan”.
Earlier this year, another influential rap artist came out about his mental health issues as well. Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC admitted that while he was still performing, nobody asked him how his mental health was. It just wasn’t something people brought up. In an interview, he stated that “No one asked me, ‘D, are you okay?’ I would’ve said, ‘Oh, you wanna know? I’m an alcoholic, suicidal, metaphysical, spiritual wreck that’s about to shoot people up in the mall and then go commit suicide.’”
The increase of conversation about mental health within the rap community is extremely important. As a genre historically popular amongst a mainly black audience, for powerful black men to open up about their vulnerabilities is something that has the potential to change crippling, antiquated cultural expectations. Black men report an aversion to discussing or seeking out treatment for mental health issues, mainly attributing it to the stigma within their community and a fear of being perceived as weak. Although white men report this stigma as well, according to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population, however only about one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of whites.
Realistically, the admittance of mental illness by these two brave rap icons won’t eliminate the stigma within the African American community. Rap is still a genre filled with songs focused around drugs, partying, etc. The songs that truly go into depth about mental health and wellbeing, from artists such as Earl Sweatshirt and Kendrick Lamar, are greatly outnumbered in the genre. Mental illness is still terrifying to talk about, but as Kid Cudi puts it so well, “It’s time I fix me. I’m nervous but imma get through this.”.
So Drake, before you throw insults at someone else for attempting to come to terms with their own mental well-being, perhaps offer them some empathy instead.