An insight on suicide and depression in music’s most popular genre

Kendrick+Lamar+performing+at+the+Roskilde+Festival%2C+Denmark

National Review

Kendrick Lamar performing at the Roskilde Festival, Denmark

With the ongoing growth in the hip-hop genre, controversial themes have arisen with new artists. There is often debate about the references to drugs, gangs, and violence. But there is another important topic that receives far less attention. Many rappers are getting honest about suicide, drug addiction, and depression. Popular modern-day rappers such as Vic Mensa, Logic, and Lil Uzi Vert do not shy away from talking about suicide in their songs. With the genre becoming more open to the suicide conversation, it’s important that listeners don’t take to the lyrics lightly.

But it’s not just new rappers that have brought up this topic. Iconic artists such as The Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, and Kanye West all mention themes of self-harm in some of their most popular songs. In 2Pac’s song “Thugz Mansion,” he raps, “So much pressure in this life of mine, I cry at times, I once contemplated suicide.” Another example can be found in Kanye West’s “Power” when he sings “Now this would be a beautiful death, By jumping out the window.”

While these references may seem insignificant on the surface, they reflect a growing problem in America. Suicide rates have reached an all-time high, and raising awareness about suicide is becoming increasingly important. The suicide rate for girls ages 15 to 19 has doubled from 2007 to 2015, reaching its highest point in 40 years. Likewise, suicides among adolescent males have increased to an alarming 30%. With hip hop being an escape for rappers and teens alike, it’s important that the message conveyed is a positive one.

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Suicide rates of males and females ages 15 to 19 (Photo courtesy of US Center For Disease Control and Prevention)

Traditionally, hip-hop culture and music have provided a sanctuary for economically or socially disadvantaged groups of people. This demographic is statistically more likely to experience drug addiction, depression, and suicide. These days, we see many popular figures who are victims of depression or other similar conditions. Famous rappers are idolized by millions, so when they come forward, willing to have these difficult conversations about their struggles, people are able to relate to them. Acknowledging the issue could lead to more people seeking treatment.

Most cases of depression are treatable. Unfortunately, people don’t reach out to get treatment due to a negative social stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Rap artists such as Kid Cudi have set an excellent example for fans by how seriously they treat mental health: Cudi checked himself into a rehabilitation institution for having suicidal thoughts. Actions like these have the power to influence the way people think about mental illness. New artists using their platform to raise awareness for depression, addiction and suicide are taking a huge step towards removing the negative societal connotations from these dangerous medical conditions.