“Liquor has been my therapist, you feel me?” – YG
When you listen to your favorite rapper, what do you think of? Are you trying to figure out how much money he has? How he bagged the new Instagram model you’ve been eyeing? Are you deciphering his lyrics and counting how many times he’s mentioned his favorite strain of weed? Are you even really listening to what they’re saying?
Something about turning up to Future while he talks about how he uses drugs to replace the missing people in his life hasn’t sat well with me lately. Neither has dubbing to Drake while he eerily searches for the one woman he loved in all the women he’s constantly surrounded by.
In high school, I remember forcing myself to learn all of the lyrics to Lil Wayne’s “I Feel Like Dying.” To this day I can recite them flawlessly, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized Weezy was rapping about his drug dependency making him suicidal.
“I am a prisoner, locked up behind Xanax bars/ I have just boarded a plane without a pilot/And violets are blue, roses are red/ Daisies are yellow, the flowers are dead/I wish I could give you this feelin’, I feel like buying/And if my dealer don’t have no more, then (I feel like dying).”
There’s an old stigma in the black and Hip-Hop community centered around mental health. Many times we don’t seek the help we’re in need of because “We don’t need therapy” or the classic “We don’t get depressed,” and “We’re strong.” So, we suppress our darker side in the best way we know how— ignore it. Well, guess what? Just like you, your favorite rapper has feelings and is fighting their own demons too. But, what many fail to realize is: Seeking help doesn’t make you weak just as searching for mental solace at the end of a bottle or blunt doesn’t make you strong.
Recently, there’s been an influx of rappers touching on their struggles with their mental health— and it’s important. Vic Mensa is just one of the rappers who have been very vocal about mental health. Battling depression and pill addiction, Vic used “There’s Alot Going On” and his platform as a window into those suffering with similar issues.
“It’s very outside of the norm for black men to think it’s okay to see a therapist or anything like that,” he said in an interview with Sway. “It’s all just shied away from.” “I think my purpose in making music is to tell my truth as fully as I can. So if by doing that I can make somebody else feel comfortable in their truth then, that’s an accomplishment to me.”
“You shoulda felt that black revolver blast a long time ago/ And if those mirrors could talk it would say “you gotta go”/And if I told your secrets/ The world’ll know money can’t stop a suicidal weakness” – Kendrick Lamar “u”
In a much needed attempt to normalize therapy, YG joined Noisey for “YG and The Therapist.” The documentary shadowed the Bompton rapper as he sought help for his PSTD and alcohol abuse stemming from a 2015 shooting. Though it wasn’t the first time we’ve seen rappers go to therapy (think Celebrity Therapy); it was the first time we’ve seen YG allow himself to be vulnerable.
“All the shit I ain’t wanna talk about, I should probably talk about,” says a reluctant YG. Therapist Siri Sat Nam Singh, PhD. allowed YG to take his time getting comfortable in his presence while he touched on how his father missing vital parts of his teen years, his daughter, and his alcoholism are all effecting the Cali rapper.
“Why does therapy work,” Siri asks while rapping up their session. “Therapy works because if you can do it here, it can transfer to out there.”
“How is this important to the culture?” you might ask.
On social media, we often speak about what’s good “for the culture” and what’s not. Sometimes it’s as simple as a series of nostalgic hip-hop tees or as serious as voting in our community. In a time where suicide amongst black children is growing at a high rate, we can no longer pretend that mental health isn’t important— not in our music and not at home. Musicians using their platform to address mental health and therapy is what the culture really needs. While some artists may continue to drown their issues in their favorite vice, showing an audience being vulnerable with seeking mental solace is not only influential but necessary for the growth of the culture.