In the midst of the predominantly rough and tough rap music saturating the rap and hip-hop industry, I often find it is the emotionally vulnerable and open songs which resonate the most. When J. Cole raps about folding laundry for his wife or when Eminem raps about his fear of losing his daughter there is a certain, authentic connection between the artist and the listener. It is not just relatable in terms of “I get money” or “Don’t f*ck with me”, it is relatable because many of us regular, every-day people fold laundry and struggle with family more often than we get stacks of cash or have to check someone. In this way, I often find rap songs which address the darker, more melancholy side to life to be especially poignant. In these songs, the “Rap-God”, the “Head-Buster”, essentially reveals his or her own vulnerability and recognizes their emotional struggles in a way that encourages healing for themselves and others.
One song which continues to resonate with me is Biggie Smalls’ “Suicidal Thoughts” in which Biggie addresses some of the things that weigh on his mind and ultimately drive his desire to commit suicide or die. It reminds of some initial negro spirituals in which there was such a desperate desire for escape that the way in which it came, whether it be physical freedom or physical death, ceased to matter. In songs like “Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child” there is an overwhelming feel of melancholy barely evened out by spirituality. Additionally, the recurring theme of heaven and spiritual release, the action of “stealing away to Jesus”, could be translated as a desire for death or successfully committing suicide.
In his article, “Death Around the Corner: The Lingering Cloud of Suicide in Hip-Hop” Andy James examines the theme and discussion of suicide, depression, and mental illness in the rap and hip-hop industry, and why it has only recently become something socially acceptable. James states “Depression and suicide have long been at odds with the machismo of black masculinity”, somewhat similar to the ways in which suicide and depression were at odds with, or could not be facilitated in the slave’s experiences or reality. Kid Cudi is of the main artists James pinpoints as leading this new re-examination of depression and suicide, and argues that Cudi’s addressing of theses issues has benefited many other rappers and youths who ma be experiencing the same emotions, but are too ashamed or afraid to seek help. Given that James goes on to point out, “According to a study last year, the suicide rate among African-American children has doubled in the last two decades, with boys especially susceptible” these emotions are not as removed or uncommon as believed .
Death Around the Corner: http://djbooth.net/news/entry/2016-10-19-suicide-in-hip-hop