Rap and hip-hop have his­tor­ic­ally been oppor­tun­it­ies for people of col­or to share their exper­i­ences, express emo­tion and frus­tra­tion, and con­nect with oth­ers.

It’s likely no sur­prise to most loy­al hip-hop fans that many indi­vidu­al rap­pers (as well as oth­er artists) have struggled with their fair share of men­tal health con­cerns before, dur­ing, or after their careers.

Mod­ern hip-hop has cer­tainly come a long way, and nowadays a wider vari­ety of indi­vidu­als than ever can be (and are!) involved with writ­ing, pro­du­cing, and shar­ing this sort of con­tent.

More oppor­tun­it­ies for involve­ment means more oppor­tun­it­ies for new voices to be heard, includ­ing those who work to speak up about and advoc­ate for men­tal health. The advice and treat­ment of a men­tal health pro­fes­sion­al can seem like an unat­tain­able lux­ury for some, but hear­ing the exper­i­ences of respec­ted music­al artists can be val­id­at­ing and empower­ing.

Why might rap­pers or hip-hop artists struggle with men­tal health?

Men­tal health con­cerns and struggles are unfor­tu­nately very com­mon, espe­cially in com­munit­ies whose mem­bers may tend to be under­priv­ileged.

Men­tal ill­nesses like depres­sion, anxi­ety dis­orders, bipolar dis­order, and sub­stance abuse con­cerns dis­pro­por­tion­ately affect com­munit­ies of col­or.

A lack of prop­er fund­ing or access to men­tal health ser­vices, social stigma, and fin­an­cial bar­ri­ers, among oth­er obstacles, can all pre­vent an indi­vidu­al from receiv­ing the pro­fes­sion­al care they need.

As a res­ult, many artists turn to lyr­ics and songs to express the emo­tion­al tur­moil they feel.

Rap Songs About Men­tal Health

Some artists speak more con­sist­ently and freely about men­tal health issues than oth­ers, but there’s a mul­ti­tude of indi­vidu­al tracks that are chock full of exper­i­ences and details about what it means to live in such a real­ity.

Rap songs often go bey­ond just stat­ing that an indi­vidu­al has a men­tal ill­ness; they also tend to explore deep, intim­ate details and memor­ies, which can be far more impact­ful for a listen­er.

In addi­tion to giv­ing a sort of sneak-peek into the life of an indi­vidu­al strug­gling with men­tal health con­cerns, rap music also unapo­lo­get­ic­ally chal­lenges the way soci­ety handles these issues. The stigma around men­tal health treat­ment can be espe­cially debil­it­at­ing in minor­ity com­munit­ies, for men, or for indi­vidu­als who are used to being inde­pend­ent.

If you’re look­ing to explore spe­cif­ic songs that tackle top­ics like depres­sion, anxi­ety, and loss, check out these recom­mend­a­tions to get star­ted:

  1. “So Many Tears” by Tupac
  2. “U” by Kendrick Lamar
  3. “Rock Bot­tom” by Eminem
  4. “Logic” by Alessia Cara & Khal­id
  5. “Lucid Dreams” by Juice Wrld
  6. “Fear” by Kendrick Lamar

Rap­pers Who Have Struggled & Shared

Any­one who has exper­i­enced men­tal health con­cerns or been dia­gnosed with a men­tal ill­ness can likely agree that these issues don’t stop at the end of the day. They don’t cease to exist when we close our com­puter screens, put down our phones, or turn down the volume.

Find­ing rap­pers who you feel can truly under­stand and relate to your own per­son­al struggles is an amaz­ing exper­i­ence; not only might you feel less alone, you could gain the con­fid­ence to speak openly about your thoughts to oth­ers.

As men­tioned, men­tal health and men­tal ill­ness are not new top­ics in hip-hop, but many mod­ern artists are more forth­com­ing when it comes to address­ing them.

The fol­low­ing rap­pers and hip-hop artists all have a repu­ta­tion as indi­vidu­als who have not only struggled with their men­tal health but have also channeled said struggle into their work.

  1. The Notori­ous B.I.G. (Big­gie Smalls)

Per­haps one of the most icon­ic rap­pers of all time, Big­gie Smalls has openly rapped about his exper­i­ences with depres­sion.

  1. Tupac Shak­ur

Along­side The Notori­ous B.I.G., Tupac is a late–twentieth-century rap legend. Top­ics like sub­stance abuse, racism, police bru­tal­ity, and the toll that all of these factors can have on an individual’s men­tal health all exist in his work.

  1. Eminem

Eminem’s pop­ular­ity among young listen­ers may have faded over the past few dec­ades, but his hard-hit­ting lyr­ics about the hum­bling real­ity of depres­sion haven’t. Eminem raps hon­estly about his struggles with domest­ic viol­ence, men­tal health, and oth­er related top­ics through­out life.

  1. Jay‑Z

Anoth­er clas­sic! In recent years espe­cially, Jay‑Z has used his music as an oppor­tun­ity to express his feel­ings about the world he lives in. For instance, the con­sequences of racism and class inequal­ity appear in his work.

  1. Lil Wayne

Like many young­er artists, Lil Wayne doesn’t shy away from the harsh real­it­ies of men­tal ill­ness. Lil Wayne cer­tainly has a lot of valu­able exper­i­ences to share with listen­ers.

  1. Juice Wrld

Juice Wrld’s sud­den and untimely death left many fans grap­pling, but men­tal health con­cerns are very pre­val­ent in his work. It’s pain­ful to listen to at times, but the import­ance of men­tal health aware­ness is per­haps heightened by this example.

  1. Kendrick Lamar

As per­haps one of the most pro­lif­ic and cre­at­ive rap­pers of all time, Kendrick Lamar fre­quently incor­por­ates clev­er word­ing and imagery into his work to cre­ate a vivid image of struggles, inequal­ity, and a desire to influ­ence his listen­ers.

  1. Tyler, The Cre­at­or

Pop­u­lar among young fans and across mul­tiple genres, Tyler, The Cre­at­or speaks openly about his struggles to main­tain stable rela­tion­ships, con­nect with oth­ers, and work through men­tal health issues.

  1. Child­ish Gambino

Child­ish Gambino, or Don­ald Glover, blends funky, one-of-a-kind instru­ment­als with hard-hit­ting lyr­ics about all sorts of import­ant ideas, includ­ing racism and viol­ence in Amer­ica, sub­stance abuse, and more.

Rap and Men­tal Health: Inter­con­nec­ted

As time goes on and hip-hop evolves, so too do the issues it tends to address.

A major takeaway is that men­tal health is largely embed­ded into who we are, be it artists or those in oth­er indus­tries, but artists have a unique plat­form with which to share their exper­i­ences. Choos­ing to face one’s chal­lenges through rap, anoth­er form of art, or some­thing else entirely, exem­pli­fy the bravery and inspir­a­tion with­in these indi­vidu­als.


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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.