Hip Hop’s Support Towards Mental Illness, Suicide Prevention

After changing the rap industry, inspiring the fashion industry and selling millions of records, Run-DMC quit touring and lived their lives as Darryl McDaniels, Joseph Simmons and Jason Mizell. At some point before 1997 however, Darryl “DMC” became suicidal, so much so that at rooftop parties he considering jumping to his death in front of his colleagues and fans or drinking poison… until he heard “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan.

So what happens at the height of your career when you could have everything you imagined, but that still isn’t enough? In a recent interview with Impact Theory (a platform focused on empowerment and self success), Darryl “DMC” sat down with founder Tom Bilyeu to discuss his life after music and his road to recovery as an addict, celebrity, foster children advocate and now comic book writer.

This episode got me thinking about the transition we’re seeing in hip hop towards mental illness / suicide awareness (e.g. Logic’s 1-800) because millennial rappers are becoming advocates for themselves and those around them. Maybe we should respect the toughness our rap founders were forced to experience before “feelings” became acceptable in rap culture. It’s true that in R&B, sex & emotions are normal conversation for groups like Boyz II Men, but historically rap is meant to be much tougher – and men were expected to be gun owners and drug dealers that owned their block.

– Related: On the Hotline ‘1-800-273-8255’ (Podcast)

Flash forward thirty years, everything now is about relevancy; we want to feel as if an artist understands who we are on a daily basis. We want to discuss our feelings and struggles with emotion and politics, and if we don’t have a celebrity voice, we hope these artists are speaking for us. Perhaps that’s what Lonzo Ball was referring to in his interview, that artists like Ice Cube or Nas are not relatable to the millennial generation because they are too tough; they’re too “gangster” and unrelatable.

Putting musical respect aside, I think that we should applaud artists like Darryl “DMC” McDaniels for the work he’s done since leaving the Billboard Hot 100. He’s struggled with mental illness and suicidal thoughts at a time where rappers weren’t accepted for feeling anything less than “a man”, and he’s used his battle to write a memoir and speak out to those struggling as similarly as he did.

Unfortunately not all rappers are as lucky as DMC (or Kid Cudi, who checked himself into rehab back in October 2016), who have battled with mental illness and succeeded. Recently rapper Lil Peep died from an alleged drug overdose due to depression, and perhaps his loss of life is another reason for the importance of hearing from someone who’s “been there”.

If it wasn’t for artists choosing to speak out about their struggles (like Lil Wayne did in his guest verse on Solange’s “Mad”) and believe that their personal experience may help even one person, there may be many more deaths to mourn. It’s true that the Baby Boomer generation grew up in a different time than we are now, but we can’t write DMC or anyone else off for trying to follow our footsteps of being more empathetic than they were at our age.

Check out Darryl’s memoir – Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide, wherever books are sold.

Photo Credit: Mike Coppola

Writer & Visual Storyteller | I think mumble rap is like disco, a bad phase.

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