Bangers for Hip Hop Fans Struggling With Depression
For those of us struggling with depression, consuming pop culture can be a complicated task. While some folks engage with movies, TV shows, and music for their own enjoyment, depressed folks can be unwittingly triggered. They can feel like these pieces of pop culture aren’t for them; like no one feels the same way. Luckily, if you know where to look, there are pieces of media that accurately reflect what’s going on in a depressed brain. And if you’re a hip hop fan looking for like-minded points of view from your favorite artists, we’ve got just the songs for you. (Watch out for NSFW language.)
Ka5sh – “I’m Depressed”
You know that famous GIF of Jay-Z bobbing his head to some music while he looks lost in thought? Ever wanted to know what that would sound like as a song? Ka5sh gives it to you in “I’m Depressed”, a loud, poppy, over-the-top banger that you can rock out to even as the lyrics sneak in hard truths like, “I might not eat for four days cause I’m depressed/ I think I lost 20 pounds cause I’m depressed.” The video is a candy-coated delight, too, portraying recognizable feelings as surreal and funny tableaus.
Tyler, The Creator – “911 / Mr. Lonely”
Tyler, The Creator, even in his most aggressive songs and videos, has always been in dialogue with his depression. Heck, his first studio album had constant conversations with a therapist and an alter-ego representing his mental health issues. For us, this artistic endeavor culminated perfectly on “911 / Mr. Lonely”, a two-part song that gives us both sides of coping with mental illness. It starts with a smooth, summery jam underlining the joy of connecting to those who wish to help you (helped by none other than Frank Ocean). Then, it poignantly transitions into a plainspoken interrogation of just how miserable and lonely one feels when these connections aren’t there.
DJ Quik – 50 Ways
Give it up for DJ Quik, please. He’s an underrated godfather of West Coast hip-hop. Without him, there’s no Kendrick Lamar (Like, literally. Like, “King Kunta” is a straight up interpolation of a Quik-produced song). “50 Ways” flips a Paul Simon sample into a sparse-yet-slinky self-examination of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Ever have a day full of clarity only to see one unexpected roadblock send you into a spiral? Quik knows how you feel: “I couldn’t get the winning hand that I wanted in my sleep / Cause when the dream get good, I get trampled by sheep.”
The Notorious B.I.G. – “Suicidal Thoughts”
Biggie ended his seminal debut album Ready To Die with a vulnerable, haunting, and graphic depiction of how literal the album title should be taken. The song depicts a phone call between Biggie and his mentor Puff Daddy, who underscores the rapper’s bars with emotional pleading. It’s a tough listen but an important one, particularly when appreciated as a product of its cultural context. This was the age of hip-hop warfare, of people killing each other over music, of bravado and shielding being a necessity. To hear the biggest voice in hip-hop be real about his mental health issues was, and still is, astonishing.
This Saturday Night Live sketch lightens the mood a bit, but still gets surprisingly real. Playing Southern-fried trap artists styled after Migos, Donald Glover, Chris Redd, and Kenan Thompson trade triplet-infused bars about money, Lambos, and — their feelings? In a beautiful twist, we see the rappers visit their therapist, where they hash out what’s going on with sensitivity and honesty. Interrogating one’s mental health is never the punchline; we laugh in empathy as they sort through their stuff. Glover and Redd’s final moment of the sketch gets us in the heart every time.
Depression Mashup (Feat. Anxiety)
Here’s another hip-hop comedy sketch that — full disclosure — features yours truly. Coming from viral video sensation and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend actor Tess Paras, the song examines how one handles normally difficult situations (like breakups) under the already difficult cloud of anxiety and depression. It asks the question, “How can humans help each other the best?” But also, it’s funny. And also, it’s a mashup of Frozen and DJ Mustard. And also, I had to ask my therapist permission to use her full name in the video and that was a strange conversation to have.
Logic – 1-800-273-8255
Part of hip-hop’s appeal is its bluntness. It hits you viscerally with the tones of its music (i.e., a bass frequency hitting you in the gut), then hits you viscerally with its to-the-point rhymes (i.e., Migos rapping “Walk it like I talk it!“). “1-800-273-8255”, named after the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, gets to the root of depression at its most severe quickly. “I don’t wanna be alive. I just wanna die,” exclaims Logic, stripping away the sorts of shielding language so many of us use when discussing mental health. As the song continues and these thoughts are examined, the chorus permeates and changes in constructive ways. By the end, Logic is proclaiming, “I finally wanna be alive. I don’t wanna die today.” It’s a song that acknowledges the abyss, then keeps moving anyway. And that’s what we have to do.
What hip-hop songs have you used during the toughest of times? How do you erase the stigma of mental health awareness? Give us a follow Twitter to let us know. And remember: If you need help, ask for help. There’s no shame. You are not alone.