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Minorities, music, and mental health

Photo Credit: Genessa Gutzait · The Sentry

How rap calls attention to mental health

Rap music has a large influence on setting the trends for what’s cool and acceptable in society. And as it continues to evolve with every new generation, it also continues to set the agenda for what people converse about in today’s society.   

There’s nothing new or special when it comes to rappers talking about mental health. Take for example Notorious B.I.G.’s song “Suicidal Thoughts” from his album Ready to Die, where he contemplates whether or not he is worth being alive as he aggressively raps, “Suicide’s on my fucking mind, I wanna leave / I swear to God I feel like death is fucking callin’ me.” Or DMX’s “Slippin” which discusses his descent into feelings of being overwhelmed and issues that never seem to go away. 

While both Notorious B.I.G. and DMX are legends within the rap industry, today’s generation has left them behind for new rappers. This new wave of rap has brought up topics like mental health and drug abuse in great potency to the point where it’s almost glorified within the industry. It’s as though it is cool to be depressed and abuse drugs to a state of numbness. And with the recent deaths within the rap community like Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy, also known as rapper XXXTentacion, the conversation is ever more present. 

Rapper XXXTentacion made a forceful impact within the rap community with his controversial yet diverse musical style which rode the line between emo and rap. Particularly, his album 17 skyrocketed on US Billboard 200 which included songs like “Everybody Dies in Their Nightmares,” “Depression & Obsession,” and “Save Me.” Or take Kendrick Lamar and his song “U” after his highly successful album To Pimp A Butterfly, where he admits to dealing with depression since adolescence. Another example includes the recent popular song by Juice WRLD titled “Lucid Dreams” which talks about the depths of heartbreak as he sings, “You left me falling and landing inside my grave / I know that you want me dead / I take prescriptions to make me feel a-okay.” 

While all these rappers listed above have the commonality of being rappers who have spoken about mental health, they are most importantly African American rappers who have spoken about mental health. While there have been white rappers like Logic or the late Lil’ Peep who have written and recorded songs discussing mental health, the message translates differently for minorities. 

While not necessarily true for all people, it’s not an unknown or even uncommon fact that minority families don’t seem to take mental health as seriously as they should. Often times, conversations about depression or suicidal thoughts are dismissed or personified as a storm that will eventually pass. 

Though mental health and drug abuse has reached a point where it is glamorized, attention has turned to how minorities deal with and are just as affected by mental health as anyone else. 

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