Hip-hop's history with mental health in Black communities

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TV. Here's a conversation you might remember. I think it's important for us to have conversations about, you know, open conversations about mental health, especially with me. Being black because we never had therapists in the black community. We never approached like taking medication with Kanye West on the show, Jimmy Kimmel live. He's talking about how mental health and simply talking about it. Has a stigma in black communities and their numbers to back that up. In one study out of the United States, 63% of black respondents said that talking about mental health was a sign of weakness and You could see the stigma reflected in hip hop and rap. Mark Anthony Neal is the James B. Duke professor of African and African American studies at Duke University. He's also the co editor of That's the Joint the Hip hop Studies. Reader. So before we get going heads up with this conversation includes topics of depression and suicide, which may be triggering to some professor Neill joined me to talk more about hip hop's long history with the topic of mental health and mental illness. Fester. Neil, Thanks so much for making the time today. Thanks for having me It's a pleasure, So I have a whole lot to get with you today. But just let's start very broadly. How would you describe hip hop's overall track record when it comes to mental health and mental illness? You know, I think hip hop reflects where the conversations about mental health are with black communities More broadly, and particularly with black men s 01 of the real breakthrough was in recent years was, you know Jay Z's 444 You know his own kind of bourgeois way. It was a recording that talked about the significance of actually sitting down and talking with a therapist, right toe work through all kinds of notions of trauma. And you know for someone like Jay Z. You know, part of it's because now he's older, right, but it's also a break with the way that black men have often dealt with mental health. You know where we just man up, right? And and instead of, you know, seeking therapy, you know, clinical psychologist, you know, you find all these different moments reflected in hip hop of black men basically inviting. You know marijuana weed Percocet? Of course, there has become kind of the painkiller of choice in recent years, And this is all you know, young black men responding to a mental health crisis that they're having in their daily lives, right? And if I'm reading it correctly, What you're saying is that you know what we see in hip hop. Is ultimately reflective of the larger historical stigma. Mental health has in some black communities, and there's no question right and it is not just mental health, right? I mean, we're having the same conversations with in black communities and definitely within hip hop. About just things like going to the doctor on a regular basis, Right? Regular kind of preventative health care are the kinds of things that you know if you feel pain, you just, you know, Hustle passed, right. You just grind past it because it takes up time, right? And time is money and all these kinds of you know things that we here in Montrose and circulate within, You know, black masculinity. In hip hop culture, right, so mental health becomes, you know on their team Continuing well, part of what we're doing here today is looking back at some of the pivotal rack records that have explored mental health. So take a listen to this me cause I'm close to Doug Etch. I'm try again not to lose my head. So that's a bit of the message from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious five relation 82 Mel Mel, who's rapping in the Verses. Don't push me cause I'm close to the edge. I mean, incredibly legendary, You know, line in hip hop. I have to admit I had never thought about it in the grander context of mental health before. Right, because it's rage, right? You know, how do I control the rage of my experience in the hood and all the things that are going on right that you know that are both continuous and cyclical. And and we can't seem to get out of this cycle if you will, And so the only thing to express their some sort of sense of rage and again. We typically don't think about that in the continuum of mental health or emotional health, right? But the point is, how do you manage what's going on in your life so that you don't You know, I have this moment We have another clip taken. Listen to them, But I go in. Not without a fight. See, Every time I close, I start sweating and blood starts coming out my nose. It's somebody watching the back, but I don't know who it is. So I'm watching my back to get her boys with mind playing tricks on me. Classic rap record back in 1991. Hear paranoia. You hear anxiety, You know? What is it about The ghetto boys take a mental health care that sticks out to you. You know what's important about a song like that, you know, unlike the Grandmaster Flash, and here is a part of example that you played You know what we see this kind of outward expression of what's happening emotionally and mentally. This is one of the first songs I think really dealt with the interiority of mental health crisis, right? It's the stuff that might be there what it's probably not. But it's so internalized that I can't see my way out of it on by think that particularly resonated for many young black men listening to hip hop in that period of time. You know, because of this kind of stoicism. That's that was expected right that you have to keep everything inside. But you can't let people know how you feel right. And what's going on What pain you're going through, You know, So you internalize so much of this, and I think that song does a great job of capturing what's going on in the mind literally of these men in the soul. But let's talk a little bit about treatment. You know, there have been Rap artists who have argued that they don't need professional therapy because the form itself because the music itself is inherently therapeutic. Listen, I'm not here to deny anyone's truth, I'm not here to get in the way of anyone's treatment path. What were. What do you make of that? I understand this on on several levels, right? There has long been a concern, but then black communities about what we see as Western forms of therapy, you know their feet. It's not connected to the live realities of what it means to be black in America, or even you know, black and African In the world. Um so I understand why you have been expressions of suspicion around clinical psychology right in that context, But I think you know I fall down on expertise right folks who were trained Clinically to address whether it be paranoid schizophrenia or or depression or or the whole range of emotionality is that they're contribute to what we think of as as as mental health. On guy think there's no replacing that expertise and where, at a point in time now, you know to the earlier point, you know that their candidate need made about there, not being folks in the community. Well, we know that there are in fact, you know African American therapists, right? In fact, they're thriving in this period of time, largely because you know, because of folks like saying Jay Z and another, you know, producing black woman writers and artists. Who have talked about the significance of finding a therapist, you know in their life, and so I think it has to be more of a both in right, definitely finding a community find folks that you can work the would talk through. You know who can be that first line of intervention? You know if you are suffering through, you know, anxiety or other forms of the mental health crisis, But But there is an expertise there that that folks need to pursue and again. Jay Z was so critical in this moment because, you know, he basically said, I went to see a therapist, right? If I'm going to be the Ogi of hip hop right, then it's OK. Can you elaborate on how a skepticism of psychotherapy could be related to anti black racism in our society? I mean, it's just that right the fact that we have the largest society that has never understood You know the black frame if you will. The Black is first in this country and I have tried to apply normative structures that come outside of the everyday experience of black folks, too. You know how black folks are working through their their mental health? You know, there's also the larger question of the way that that mental health care is connected to generally health care in America and general suspicion right of the medical profession. When it comes to issues of race. We could just think you know the Tuskegee experiments right? And it just think about those men for a second, right to on the one hand are subjected. You know to physical problems because of the experiments, but at the same time, Ah work into all kinds of levels of schizophrenia and depression, you know, based on the physical sense that they're also is not being addressed. You know, in the context of that movement, if you're just tuning in

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