Kid Cudi Isn’t OK and That’s Why We Need Him
The rapper is utterly frank about his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, and it makes him one of the most vaulable voices in hip-hop.
Image via Complex Original
On Tuesday night, Scott Mescudi wrote a heart-wrenching Facebook post about his decision to seek professional rehabilitation after battling anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
For those who have followed Kid Cudi’s career, his Facebook admission comes as no surprise. Since 2008's A Kid Named Cudi, he’s written songs about his lifelong struggle with drugs and depression. On the first song on that mixtape, “Down and Out,” Cudi sings about wanting to drown himself in seemingly any substance to cope with his dark feelings.
In 2010, Cudi touched on similar themes in an interview with Complex, this time unpacking his alter ego, Mr. Rager. He spoke frankly about how this second self emerges as a response to his own anger. “This song is about someone who is fed up with reality, who looks for thrills and excitement by any means,” he said. “It’s just kind of how I was feeling at that point. I was just so angry. Doing coke revived me, and knowing I was close to death every time intrigued me.”
Even as recently as April of this year, he was discussing his illicit drug usage as a form of self-medication. “I used drugs to try to fix my depression,” he told Billboard. He also discussed how being in the public eye made it even more difficult to be honest about his issues: “I thought about how much of a struggle it has been the past eight years, to be in the news and pretend to be happy, when, really, I was living a nightmare."
In the wake of his Facebook revelation on Tuesday, Cudi’s once-private nightmare is now more public than ever. But the disclosure isn't all bad. Many of his fans stood in solidarity with him, praising the rapper for his bravery and transparency. In fact, it’s that honesty, what feels like an often-unfiltered view into the rapper’s psyche, that won him his fervent supporters in the first place.
he’s breaking, once again, the mold of the Black rapper, providing an example to those who might be struggling.
While Cudi’s amassed a cult-like following for being open about his depression, that’s rarely the case in hip-hop at large. For every Kid Cudi, there are more who believe that debilitating psychological issues are, at best, something to be ridiculed, and at worst, something that doesn’t even exist. Earlier this year, an exchange of diss records between Joey Badass and Troy Ave took an ugly turn when Troy mocked the late Capital Steez, a friend and collaborator of Joey's who committed suicide in December 2012.
“You commit suicide, you’re a buster. There’s no way to celebrate that. We’re not gonna make you into a martyr or nothing. He jumped off a roof like a bozo and a dickhead,” Troy told Sway during a phone interview.
It wasn’t until New York rap legend Styles P inserted himself into the fray, speaking about losing his own daughter to suicide, that Troy Ave issued an apology.
According to the American Psychological Association, depression is one of the most common disorders in the United States, affecting over 17 million lives per year. Black adults, in particular are 20 percent more likely to contend with serious psychological problems in their lifetime than whites. Despite that, Black men are statistically much less likely than other demographics to seek treatment or even acknowledge mental health issues. There is, of course, a complex and long set of potential reasons for this: lack of access to affordable treatment, internalized racism in healthcare, restrictive historical perceptions of Black masculinity that relegate depression to a symptom of weakness, something that can be overcome with sheer power of will. Unfortunately, the latter leads many men to internalize feelings of extreme sadness rather than risk emasculation.
That fear is something that Cudi has never shied from. Rap too rarely discusses mental health, making him the vanguard figure for a new generation. In a time where suicide rates in young black men are on the rise, it’s important that rappers like Cudi, Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, the Creator continue to be open about mental health. One look at the overwhelmingly supportive response to Cudi’s Facebook confession is evidence that his fans appreciate his honesty just as much as his music.
“I love you Kid! Your music spoke to me and gave me hope when I couldn’t feel it. Knowing someone else felt how I did was a reassurance unlike no other. I’m proud of you for taking care of yourself. Always your devoted fan,” wrote one on Cudi’s Facebook post. Another fan confessed to suffering from similar issues, writing, “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with but I know other people out there understand and would be there in an instant if they could, just know we are all out here as well.”
While Cudi has always been open about his struggles, his note on Tuesday takes things further than musing about his mental state in interviews, or using his struggles to fuel his music. It's brave to admit that he needs help and to actively seek it out. By discussing this in public, he’s breaking, once again, the mold of the Black rapper, providing an example, one that that hasn’t quite existed before, to those who might be struggling.
Through Cudi’s willingness to take his confession beyond the more comfortable space of music and expose his struggles so nakedly on social media, he furthered an important national conversation about mental health, specifically among minorities. In fact, it seems Cudi’s candor is already paying off. Shortly after his Facebook note went viral, the hashtag #YouGoodMan began trending on Twitter. Many of the tweets came from young Black men who finally felt comfortable enough to open up about their own mental health issues.
As Black men we've been taught not to talk about mental illness or express our emotions. Glad we're having the conversation. #YouGoodMan ?
The feeling of not being able to talk with our women, love our sons and show love to another Black man without being "weak" #YouGoodMan
Only talking to your homeboys about sports, women & music bc anything deeper forces you to be vulnerable & you don't know how to #YouGoodMan
I thought I had to be Atlas for years. All the problems & worries of others belonged on my back because I had to carry the world #yougoodman
Counseling and medicine are expensive. I smoke every day to cope with my own head. Sometimes it's for fun. Sometimes it not. #YouGoodMan
Cudi is humanizing depression. And in the process, he's letting thousands of other young men and women privately grappling with their own disorders know that it is OK to not be OK.