Last week, I took the time to create an arena of understanding of the bleak relationship between African Americans and mental health. On my own, I had to discover that many African Americans are not abreast of mental health issues. We live off too many misconceptions of the medical situation. Plenty of times, we misdiagnose ourselves as being “weak” instead of admitting that there are ailments present. In short, African Americans have not taken mental health as seriously as we should.

The problem is that it has cost many their livelihoods and, many times, their lives.

The intricately interesting thing about hip hop is that, without directly saying it, some of its constituents have “cried for help” or “addressed their issues” through the music. Many listeners have caught onto what was happening. Others just enjoyed the ride or understood the art. Some albums were addressing true mental health issues while other just allowed the artist to “clear their minds” or “reflect”. Seemingly, hip hop has served as a platform for artists to sit within the proverbial couch and extract their issues for the world’s consumption.

The Hip Hop and Mental Health Problem

The situation is this: the denial in the lives of African American people has drifted within hip hop’s existence. Yet, the actions of some rappers would deem a review: Gucci Mane sought mental health services and drug dependency counseling after a string of arrests and dumb behavior [1]. The first thing he does after being released is acquire a tattoo on his face. DMX, always deemed to suffer from bipolar disorder mixed with alcohol and crack dependency, couldn’t keep himself out of lock up for some years [2]. So it is safe to say that while hip hop artists have lived in “denial” of their mental health issues, recent times are showing that they are having a hard time escaping them.

Hip Hop and Mental Health: The Music

The music that some artists have made serve as palettes of mental exorcism. A few albums (and even some songs) come to mind. These are not all the albums that serve this purpose. However, they are significant to the demonstration of the existing mental health calamities that truly exist. Like it has been said before: the music is hard to ignore:

1.)    Kanye West – 808’s and Heartbreaks
The album that screams “I’m pretty damn depressed”. After losing his mother and breaking up with his fiance’, Kanye West persevered to create an album that channels his pain and lonliness. Many loved it or hated it. Regardless, it is a timeless piece of “pop art” born from being overwhelmed by personal anguish.

2.)    Evidence – The Weatherman LP
This was the album in which Evidence “weathered the storms” of his life. Like Kanye West, the death of his mother helped produced a composition that is both dark sounding, moody, reflective, and thematically linked to weather. To understand his dealings with the situation, all one has to do is listen to “Chase The Clouds Away”.

3.)    The Geto Boys – Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me
As classic as this song is, it is a song based on paranoia. Scarface trusts no one and pretty much destroys relationships because of it. Bushwick Bill hallucinates and punches the concrete. Willie D looks over his shoulder and peeks around corners. Sometimes, it can’t get any worse.

4.)    The Notorious B.I.G. – Suicidal Thoughts
Pretty self-explanatory. It gets no more descript than this.

5.)    2Pac – a lot of his catalog
Let us be serious: Pac never expected to live too long. Too much of his music celebrated life because he was expecting to die. Seeing death around the corner? Naming himself Makaveli? He was paranoid. Yet, he was murdered. So, in hindsight, he was right. And that is the saddest part of all.

There are other songs and albums (A lot of Atmosphere’s early catalog, Copywrite’s “June”, Eminem, etc). However, I just wanted to name a few to give a good idea.

Hip Hop and Mental Health: The Skinny

Hip Hop music is slowly, but surely, coming to grips with the mental health issues that exist. Rha Goddess founded the Hip Hop Mental Health Project to help artists that are suffering from mental health issues [3]. It is people like her that won’t let mental health become ignored. Understanding that hip hop music is closely linked to mental health issues can only help those that suffer [4]. Although work is to be done, awareness is the biggest tool we have to keeping people interested, informed and alive.

‘Nuff Said and ‘Nuff Respect!!!

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