Hip Hop’s Mental Illness Problem

SAM SORENSON | ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST

On Nov. 15 rapper Lil Peep passed away from a drug overdose. He was just 21 years old. Peep spoke on his struggles with depression frequently in his music and how he used drugs to cope. Following his death I saw people on social media saying that he instigated his death through drug use and claiming that we should not feel bad. This frustrates and troubles me greatly. As a society we need to take events like this more seriously and stop blaming it on extraneous drug use. While this is certainly a drug issue as well, we need to consider the mental illness struggles that many seem to forget about.

Until recently, hip hop was notorious for its dismissal of mental illness. While this is troubling, in recent years many popular rappers such as Kid Cudi and Kendrick Lamar have made a point to openly talk about their struggle. Along with this, Emo-rap has become a popular subgenre that centers around rappers being emotionally vulnerable. I commend hip hop for this mature shift of focus, but fans need to reciprocate this maturity. If someone is going to open up about mental illness, we need to take this seriously, not just dance to the music. Music is a platform people use to speak out on issues and express themselves. Music can be a cry for help and we need to acknowledge this rather than passing it off. Take the music as a way of bringing these issues forward and a way of bringing up important talking points.

Often when people talk about drug use in hip hop they assume the music is encouraging drug use rather than talking about it as a habit:

“Let the liquor take the

kid away like CPS

I love that Jay line talking

bout CBS

I been doing the same

since so I can see BS

Man, this ain’t a swan

song

You can go and save your

tissues

Not too many were there

when I was dealing

with my issues”

Injury Reserve, “North Pole”

This overshadows the people who talk about drugs in a sense of coping with something greater. As a culture we need to look at this more seriously and understand the importance of our support. Many of these young superstars were never taught how to deal with mental illness and they seek self medication in drugs. It is not helpful if we don’t sympathize with these human beings and understand that they have their own emotional burdens.

While this article only scratches the surface of mental health in hip hop, I hope it at least makes you think about the music differently. Not all hip hop glorifies drugs and when someone talks about drugs in their music, it does not mean they want you to try it. Look out for those close to you and be patient of those with mental illness.

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