Although, over the last decade, mental-health awareness has greatly increased, stigmas still remain, especially within the hip-hop/rap community. This stigma is rooted in a variety of cultural values that restrict individuals, especially men, from talking about their issues and asking for help. Because hip hop and rap are male-dominated genres, the issue particularly affects these artists.
But in the past few years, rappers and hip-hop artists alike have worked to change this by openly discussing their struggles with mental health. Artists like Logic, Jay Z, Chance the Rapper, J. Cole, the late Mac Miller and, more recently, Big Sean, have opened up about their mental health both in their musical lyrics and social media posts.
On March 25, on the rapper’s 31st birthday, Big Sean posted a series of Instagram videos detailing his experiences with mental health. After a year-long hiatus from music, the rapper’s videos came as a surprise to many fans. Until he opened up about his personal life, the world was blind to the struggles that the top-rated artist had faced.
Big Sean begins the videos by claiming that because of his experiences and realizations regarding his mental health, he now sees the world in a new light. In sharing his experiences in the video, Sean hoped that viewers would find some sense of comfort, hope and enlightenment. Even more so, fans facing similar issues were reassured that they are not alone.
In an effort to explain his emotions, the Detroit native claimed that at his lowest moment, he “couldn’t figure [himself] out and didn’t know why.” The rapper stated that since he was 17, he’s relied on practices of meditation to help him through mental struggles, but this time, it was not enough. He realized that he needed to take more dire actions to fully address his health issues.
After realizing the severity of his anxiety and depression, the artist made the decision to go to therapy. In his second video, Big Sean explains that by talking with his therapist and “some super spiritual people,” he found a sense of clarity that was missing in his life. All of the sudden, everything, from whom he surrounded himself with, what he was doing with his time, to what kind of music he was producing, was clear.
Despite his love for music, the rapper admitted that he felt burdened by music. Instead of being a place to escape and think creatively, music became a mind-numbing and repetitive job. The rapper had to step back from passion to rediscover what he loved about it.
In addition to music, Sean admitted that his toxic relationships were a source of his mental burden. Most significantly, the artist spoke about how he no longer talked with his mom like he use to in previous years. His loss of touch with his loved ones created a negative mindset. Once he realized that this bond with his mother was starting to dwindle, Sean knew he needed to make serious changes in his life.
The last video of Sean’s Instagram series focuses on a particularly important value of mental health: unconditional love, specifically through self-care and reflection. He preaches something that most everyone has heard but fails to practice. You cannot have great relationships with other people until you have a great relationship with yourself.
So how did the rapper Big Sean develop a good relationship with himself? According to his videos, the artist did fun, adventurous and experimental activities to bring joy back into his life. For instance, when the artist went skydiving, he rediscovered himself and found a new sense of energy he enjoyed
Not only that, but Sean took the initiative to nurture his toxic relationships that he had with others, including his mother. As a result of focusing on his relationship with himself and with his loved ones, he admitted that he is “making the best music of [his] life.”
After posting the three-video series on mental health, Big Sean received tons of support and positive affirmations from his fans.
As mental health awareness increases, it’s become increasingly important to shatter the stigma that men should hide their emotions and mental health struggles, especially within the hip-hop/rap community. But this community is not alone. The stigma affects a wide range of cultures, communities and structures in our modern society.
Since preconceived, traditional gender roles and cultural differences play integral parts in people’s views on mental health, it seems difficult to stray from these ideals. But if more and more people speak out against the stigma, including prominent celebrities like Big Sean, they can incite change and alter the mental health stigma.