Special Reports

How Kanye West Helped Hip-Hop To Be More Open About Mental Health


Last week, news broke that Kanye West was taken and admitted to the psychiatric ward of the UCLA hospital for stress and exhaustion. His hospitalization shows how the hip-hop world has come to terms with mental health issues.

With news of his hospitalization, West was barraged with support from fellow hip-hop artists as they tweeted their concern and well-wishes for their colleague. Chance the Rapper told in an interview with BBC that he was extending a special prayer for West whom he referred to as his big brother.

Meanwhile, hip-hop producer and Grammy winner 9th Wonder encouraged West to stay strong in a tweet. He also acknowledged how difficult mental healing is.

The support and acknowledgment was a far cry from how hip-hop artists used to treat mental health issues. In the past, such things were rarely discussed because African-American men had to keep a macho image brought about by the hip-hop culture.

Dr. Akeem Sule, a consultant psychiatrist, and Dr. Becky Inkster, a clinical scientist said that in order to understand this attitude, people have to look at the origins of hip-hop.

Hip-hop was born in the 70s in the South Bronx where gangs roamed the streets and drugs was in abundance. It is also a place filled with extreme poverty, dysfunctional families, absentee fathers, and no support at all. These were all ingredients of a mental health problems.

These struggles were documented in the lyrics of various hip-hop songs and some artists, like Tupac Shakur and Geto Boys, talk about the mental health issues they were experiencing. Despite this, however, hip-hop artists don't talk about them because acknowledging it shows a sign of weakness.

However, as the subject of mental health becomes more and more open in the music industry as well as the psychological effects it has, the hip-hop industry becomes more open about it as well.

More and more famous hip-hop artists are opening about their own bouts of depression and other mental health issues. Perhaps, the most significant figure that broke the stigma was Kendrick Lamar who began publicly addressing his bout with depression and guilt he felt. He admitted that these what fueled his Grammy award winning album, To Pimp or Not To Pimp, which proved that mental health issues are not considered a sign of weakness in the hip-hop community anymore.

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