Music

Vic Mensa Shares His Mental Health Journey for Okayplayer’s PASSAGE

 

PASSAGE is a curated mental health and wellness initiative created by Okayplayer. The program was developed to amplify the collective stories and healing practices of millennials of color. Follow the program here and stream PASSAGE, The EP here.

On February 9th, Okayplayer hosted an intimate and inspiring conversation with Chicago rapper Vic Mensa. The talk, which is the first in a series of conversations Okayplayer is hosting for its PASSAGE series, featured Vic Mensa chatting with Okayplayer and OkayAfrica Editor-in-Chief/VP of Content Rachel Hislop. For more than an hour, the two spoke about mental health, dealing with trauma, and how to handle those topics in the work they do.

The conversation began with a reflection on the past year, which was dominated by the COVID 19 pandemic and social unrest throughout the world. From there, the two spoke about meditation, the process of re-creating traumatic childhood experiences through his music and music videos, and why he believes the finished product gives him the space to heal.

Vic also spoke candidly about his struggles with addiction and embracing sobriety. “I was badly addicted to one thing after another,” he said. “I was addicted to escaping. When I started doing music sober, I was making a lot of my favorite music. I realized the drugs were teleporting me to the top of a hill I really had to get the strength to walk up myself.”

Check out the entire conversation below. And watch the video for Vic’s latest single, “Shelter,” which features Chance the Rapper and Wyclef Jean.

Vic Mensa in New York, after visiting his father’s town in Ghana. Photo Credit: Karston Tannis aka Skinnywashere

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Rachel Hislop: Hi, I’m Rachel Hislop, Editor in Chief and VP of Content at Okayplayer. This month, Okayplayer launched PASSAGE, a mental health and wellness program chronicling collective black healing from the perspective of millennials and creatives in our space. For the launch of our first PASSAGE conversation, we sat down with the Chicago born and bred artist Vic Mensa to talk candidly about mental health, his healing journey, and the lessons they’ve helped him learn about himself and his creativity.

Welcome. Thank you for starters for being here.

Vic Mensa: Thank you for having me.

And going through everything that you had to go through to get here. It’s appreciated.

Oh no, it’s no problem.

So one of my favorite lines of literature is from Their Eyes Were Watching God [from] Zora Neale Hurston and she says, “there are years that ask questions and there are years that answer.” If you were to think about the last year of your life, what was it?

Oh wow. As far as asking questions or giving answers?

Yeah.

I think that a lot of questions that have existed for a long time were answered for a lot of people in the past year. I think that so many things were exposed that existed, and oftentimes we fall in love with comfort and neglecting of recognizing what’s right in front of us, you know what I’m saying? Or at least Americans do. We really don’t.

Right. We don’t get that luxury too well.

But they love to forget about it. We were in a post-racial America when Barack Obama came into power, and people saw a lot of things for what they really were. I think also people were forced to see themselves for what they really are, and the stillness. I think we spoke about that. It’s just the amount of mirror time, you know what I mean? Not even from a vain level but just I’m in the house.

Yeah, I got to sit with myself and my shit.

I got to sit and live with myself, and I have to do that in the middle of a burning house though — as an unwanted guest.

Right. But you still didn’t answer. What was it for you?

For me, I think that it was a year with a lot of answers. But as I grow and I’ve reached many milestones that I’ve dreamed of as a kid, I realize that there’s not a thing that I could achieve that will lessen my desire or make me OK. So something that I did start to just manifest, something that I know intrinsically — that I think we all know intrinsically —  that I started to really live inside of in the past year was accepting that, was accepting that right now is my only key to this happiness that I’ve always been seeking. [The year] 2020 is a hectic right now. But I think it’s like diamonds — pressure. 

But on a new level, truly on a new level. It’s like pressure like we haven’t known. You actually thinking about just reflecting. I know you just got back from Ghana. When you agreed to do this, you were probably what six hours ahead on time and you were like-

My father’s town.

Right. Tell me about that, and tell me about because we’re here to talk about generational [trauma] how these things affect us throughout our lives and the things that we pick up from our families, and that connection back to the land. What was that like for you, for your family in Ghana?

I recognize that I’m extremely privileged and blessed to have the direct link to my ancestry. It’s like, man, I be talking to my brother who’s incarcerated. He’s been gone for over 20 years at this point in time, and he just dreams of Africa. This is one of the most intelligent brothers that I’ve ever known, and I’ve only known through a phone, and he dreams of Africa. He was telling me something. He was like, “Man God” — because he’s a five percenter. He’s like, “Man God you see niggas don’t be knowing who they are, where they at because they don’t know where they from God.” I’m like, “Yo honestly, for real though.” How can you be expected to really, really function in your own skin if you don’t even know your bones? I’m blessed in that way.

My father is from a town outside of Accra, and I’ve been to Ghana quite a few times. I usually stay there. It’s the slums. Gutters, just everything’s falling down and people are all so happy. People are all so living, and people are loving. On many levels I’m inspired by Ghanaians and by Ghana. But one of the most striking things to me about being there was the overwhelming peace that exists. Coming from Chicago or New York, America-

America.

… this place is stressful.

All the time. Never fails.

These Ghanaians, they on Ghana time. They showing up to everything when they get there.

The Ghanaian-American rapper credits meditation with helping him deal with extreme anxiety. Photo Credit: Karston Tannis aka Skinnywashere

When it’s important.

They’re not experiencing mass incarceration. They’re not experiencing this extreme sick gun violence. Obviously it’s not perfect. I think about Africa in our radical imagination, and it takes many forms. It’s a refuge. It’s a safe haven. It’s some utopia. In reality, it may be all of those and much more, you know what I’m saying?

I think there’s also something very special about not having to have that awareness of your blackness, right, because you’re saturated in areas that are predominantly Black. There are times in America where you walk into a space and you can do a quick count and you’re like, “All right, I know where I am.” So I think when that burden of mine was lifted, there’s more room to think about purpose, right? So I want you to think about purpose. Was there a time there when you had a moment of clarity that was provided from being able to have the opportunity to touch back to your ancestral roots, to talk to your people, to get to the family stories? What did that help you have clarity with about your own self?

One thing that I really realized is how much more I need to be there and how important it is, essentially, for me to be in tune with my family, with my history, with the continent in general. I feel like the link is obviously systematically snapped, and I’m talking to Africans about what their ideas about Black Americans and talking to them about Black Americans’ ideas about Africans. I’m just realizing that much of my purpose will be fulfilled in really forging that connection for myself and for everyone. As a specific moment, there was a moment when I was 17 or no I was 22, my grandmother died. I went to Ghana for her funeral, and it was different from any funeral I had ever been to, because I had only been to funerals for teenagers. This was a celebration. It’s a brass band on a truck. My cousins is riding around dirt bikes, and my grandma’s in the truck, and they driving her from household to household before the funeral.

She’s frozen and it’s hot, so they’re hurrying up.

Oh no. Don’t make me laugh like this.

It’s funny though. It’s hectic. In the midst of this commotion, I saw a car accident between a taxi driver and a bicyclist. The bicyclist was knocked on the ground. The taxi driver got out of the car. My mind is immediately like, “All right, so somebody about to get shot.” I’m like, “Something got to happen because that was out of line.” I saw this exchange between them, and it was they just looked at each other, looked real hard. Nobody was happy. But there was an acknowledgement, some type of brotherhood or acknowledgement of the fact like, “Hey man, we ain’t really got streetlights over here,” you know what I mean? There wasn’t no stop sign, that we in this together in a way. That’s the thing that really, really struck me during my time in Ghana, this time, as well is just that these conflicts when that human beings have, they don’t have to go as far as we feel like we have to go.

Right and that’s the trauma that we carry too right? The first thing you’re thinking is, right, “Oh shit, somebody’s going to get shot” or even seeing your funeral and being like, “I’m only used to these for young people. I’m not used to seeing a life well lived being celebrated” right, because people have enough things to say. I think those are the things that we carry with us in this country that doesn’t welcome us. I know this is not a talk about racism in America, but I think that is a thing that-

It’s always talking about racism in America a little bit.

Exactly because when you talk about mental health with people of color, it’s about racism in America. So that’s going to segue actually nicely to the next question that I have for you. I think through your work you do a lot of retraumatizing yourself to make a point and tell a story, whether that’s through the visuals for your music videos, or it’s the actual lyrics that you’re talking about. How do you create that space for healing between the consumption of everything, of just existing, but also wanting to be socially aware, so that means staying plugged in, doing the readings, finding out about the people who are wrongfully locked up and petitioning for them? Always, I think in the work that we do as black creatives, there is this part of us that has to be exposed to the world in order to be able to critique and fight for justice.

So how do you create safety for yourself in your own mental health?

Well to address what you first said, for me, the creation of these ideas whether it’s music or I’m writing a book, or if I’m doing something in the community, it’s all ideas to me. So if the idea behind a song is the things that I’ve experienced mentally, how my childhood impacted my depression, and how that impacted my addiction, and how I’m rising regardless, it will be actually traumatizing. I’d never thought about it as retraumatizing myself. I was writing a song called “2Honest.” When I was writing the song I’m bawling, which is usually how you know you’re doing something dope. When it hits you in that emotional place, and I’m literally from the first line that comes out of my mouth I’m just crying and crying. I don’t write things down, so I’m just pacing around this room crying — real hard.

So clearly it was traumatic to think about these feelings that have just poisoned me for so long, and to express them. But being able to do it, and it makes me emotional now thinking about when I do that shit because being able to do it helps me to release it, start so much shame, and fear, and guilt, and all the things, all the everything bad, what we see as bad. These are the things that when I’m able to express them in music, they help me to grow, and they help me to feel strength, and to feel love, and to feel loved. I start to realize that ain’t no good and bad. It’s like the things I may have imagined to be bad, the things that have troubled me, that have made me want to kill myself it’s like I’m not seeing the whole picture. Half of that was in the dark.

If I just see this holistically, there’s a lesson in there, there’s a blessing in there, you know what I’m saying? The music is what helps me figure that out.

After a 12 step program and difficult recovery from drug addiction, Vic Mensa makes all his music sober. Photo Credit: Karston Tannis aka Skinnywashere

It’s its own healing through just release.

That’s what I’m saying. That’s what helps me figure it out. I had a record one time that I did, this man at the barbershop just told me one of his favorite joints. It’s called “Heaven and Earth.” I’m telling a story about my big bro who got killed when I was 17, and so I’m writing a letter to him. First verse [is] him in heaven, and the second verse, he’s writing a letter to me. In the third verse, I’m in the perspective of his killer and detailing how it all went down, and then how his killer was really just meant to rob him but ended up changing him, and how he felt remorse. When I wrote that, it helped me to forgive because I had been just holding this hatred in my heart for this person I never met, probably never would meet.

I was just holding hatred in my heart like murderous rage and when I was able to put it in music in a certain way, it helped me see the man at the end of the day, that this person was a person. Being Black is crazy in America. That doesn’t excuse shit, but it helped me to let go above all still fucked up nigga but don’t get it fucked up. But above all, that doesn’t help me.

Right. You’re just carrying-

Hatred. That doesn’t help me.

That eats you up. I know you mentioned a couple of things. You’ve mentioned suicidal thoughts. You’ve mentioned depression and all of those things that are a mixed bag. I’m not a therapist or a psychiatrist or anything. I’m a journalist. I know my role, but I do want to talk about the power of healing and confronting things, not trying to go around them, not trying to go over them, but just facing that shit head on, and moving through it, which I feel like you’ve been very honest about in interviews and your music what makes you, what gives you that boost though.

Man, it’s a day by day. When I was in a 12 step program, it was like it’s just the mantra where it’s one day at a time. I remember a point in time, around maybe 2016, I stopped doing drugs for real in 2016 and well for that period of time I didn’t.

I mean, honesty is part of recovery too.

Hey. I mean we can keep it a buck, but I had stopped doing drugs, and I was badly addicted to it. It was just one thing after the other. I was addicted to escapism. So when I had stopped man I was like I was realizing I started doing all my music sober. Before that, I was feeling like, “I need these drugs to be dope.”

Right. That’s to trigger the mind.

I needed these drugs to be able to write something. Then I started doing all my music sober and I was making a lot of my favorite music that I ever have made. I was just realizing that what these drugs were doing with the shit I was writing or what I was feeling was they were, it was like they were teleporting me to the top of a hill that I really had to get the strength to walk up myself. So it was I could only live there for a second on the drugs, because I’m imagining that I’ve already done the work to get up this hill whether it’s sitting down just with the pen, or it’s sitting down and meditating and doing the things that helped me to feel peace, to feel joy or feel content of whatever it is. When I cut it out, I was like I started doing the actual, I started pushing the actual rock up the hill, so I had strength to be there. The rock has always been on me, you know what I mean?

But I’m trying to go up, so it’s like the rock got to come with me.

You build the strength as you push.

Honestly, and so I haven’t always confronted these things head on. Many times I was running, and I was running with drugs, and with women, and you name it, alcohol and everything. But I realized that that’s how they destroy me, you know what I’m saying? I’m just getting older. When I was 22 that same point in time, I did not imagine I would become 27. That wasn’t in my mind to think it could be possible to keep doing this. But I realized that when I confront these things head on, and I spend time with my demons and I let them be my friends, I bring them in the house, it’s like I just greet them like anybody else, treat them like anybody else. “Man how you doing? How’s your day?”

You mentioned meditation as something that helped move you out of this place. A lot of people in the audience I’m assuming are either new to meditation. I mean meditation as a practice or mindfulness as a practice really got me through some really hard times, and I think when we all first start to approach it, everybody meets a different level of whether that’s resistance people are like, “I tried it, didn’t work.” Worked for me. What was your introduction?

My introduction to meditation was probably when I was 17. I started to just experience extreme anxiety and see psychologists and therapists and psychiatrists when I was 15 and take antidepressants and anti anxiety medication and things like that. When I was 17, I was thinking about how I could have addressed this differently, because I realized that this is what was going on with my mind now. So I started meditating, and started doing some yoga. There was a core power yoga in my neighborhood, and they had this hot yoga. Core power they give you a free week, you know what I’m saying? So I went to the core power in my neighborhood, did it for a week, then I went up north to the core power, did it for a week, went out west to the core power and I was just. I was hustling for it, and there was a meditation group in my neighborhood too that would meet in this church or something, yeah a bunch of white people.

They was a little bit over there.

Who introduced you to the even the idea of [meditation]?

I don’t know where the idea came from.

You just joined the white people in the group?

Yeah man. There might have been some spice in there, but I don’t really remember no spice I ain’t going lie. But it wasn’t about that for me. It was just like I wanted to address the mental health issues I was having and I was not trusting of medication because I felt like it would diminish my creativity. That’s before I ever really tried taking antidepressants. I had been prescribed them, and I was taking Klonopin as needed as something, but a consistent SSRI or SSNRI I was like, “I don’t know what it’s going to do to me.” So I found meditation. I don’t remember somebody particularly introducing me, but as I’ve gone down the road and tried different types of meditation more recently, a good friend of mine, who actually is also my publicist, her name is Kathryn, introduced me to transcendental meditation.

So it’s like I loved it because TM is really it’s what you make it, but it’s simplistic. It’s so simplistic. I’m not into guided meditation because I like to guide myself. But when I first started meditating, I was definitely listening to guided meditations. But my meditation is really — it’s a space. It’s my check in with my spirit and my life is better when I do it. When I’m focused and when I’m locked in — and I’m a late worker, I work in the studio until 4AM or something like that regularly — I still go home after that and meditate. [I] meditate for 20 minutes before I go to sleep. I do check ins with the guy who put me down with TM. It’s a cool little club. He gave me the mantra. I’ve never told anyone this mantra, so don’t try to get me to tell it to you.

Aw. You can whisper it. We’re not mic’d or anything.

It won’t happen. I feel like people tell me all the time, “Oh I couldn’t meditate. My mind moves too fast. I’m thinking too many thoughts. My mind’s too crazy.” I’m like, “That’s exactly why it would help you.” There’s not a person on this planet who couldn’t meditate. I think that as I learn more about different spiritual traditions, and African spiritual traditions and priests — in general, meditation is their sport, you know what I’m saying? It’s a spiritual experience. I never grew up praying. Really I pray[ed] only when something bad happened. I was like, “Please God.”

God is always there for you in good times, good things and gratitude too.

I did start praying in maybe 2019 and it was always at the end of my meditation. Meditation in itself is almost a form of prayer to me because it’s a connection with an intelligence or a being that is greater than myself. As the universe I realize that I’m connected to everything.

That’s beautiful. So I think you mentioned guided meditation being a place to start just to be able to get through it and then advance and do your own thing if that’s what works for you. I’m still on guided meditation, so I’m still on the training wheels.

I wanted to say when I started talking that I definitely don’t want to be up here acting like I’m the sensei of meditation. I just like meditating, and what works for me works for me. But whatever works for you. There’s walk in meditations. It’s probably some Buddhists vibe. I don’t know about in Manhattan or Brooklyn. That sound kind of hectic.

Don’t recommend.

I think you were supposed to be in nature.

In nature but I had to work with what I had, so I did it on the way to the park. No, but there are different types of levels and ways to get introduced. I think PASSAGE is where you should start, plug. I’m going to ask you one more question and then we’re going to play a quick game.

What is the thing that you had to unlearn? Try to think of one to make you better.

I think the biggest thing that I worked to unlearn is just my obsession with violence, especially growing up in Chicago. I mean it’s the same in a lot of places. It’s just like everything holds the potential for violence, and it’s always on your mind. I remember one day I was parking my car going into the studio, and I was living in a Hispanic neighborhood at the time, and it was during the Black Lives Matter uprisings…

The OG ones or the revivals?

This is the revivals. And there was a race war in my neighborhood, but it was really just some Mexican gangs declaring war against Black people. So they jumped some of my homies. It was wild. So that influenced my mentality in this moment I’m speaking of, but also this is just everyday shit. I get out the car and I saw a man standing right there. He might have even been Black. I just remember my mind was just racing. I’m like he looked kind of in my direction. I’m like, “Man fuck this nigga looking at.

This is just what my mind is thinking as I’m literally just walking to the studio. I get around the corner and I’m like, “Yo what kind of sick confusion is this that as soon as I see a man I just am like immediately thinking about extreme violence?” Obviously that’s impacted by everybody’s fear. Everybody’s living in fear especially in a place where any conflict can go there instantly. Everybody’s in fear, so it’s been a process of unlearning for me just to not go there. It’s corrosive. bell hooks really broke this down to me in a way that made me understand myself differently, man. We created an identity out of violence. It’s like this is our sense of self. This is your worth. This is your self worth. This is your worth in the eyes of your peers.

It’s like how capable are you of taking it there. How willing are you? Because if you’re not, I could curse right?

Yeah.

And you know how you going feel about that. It’s like, look, this is our valuation of ourselves as Black men and other Black men.

I think that it’s important that you brought up bell hooks. I almost finished All About Love. We talk about living in a loving society. That anger falls on Black women most of the times, and I don’t think what you articulated is brought into the forefront enough right that that angst has to go somewhere. Oftentimes it’s towards and I’m not even getting deep in this, but it’s towards the Black woman whether it’s the mother, the partner, the daughter, the wife, whoever it is, and it becomes somebody else’s burden. That’s why this conversation of healing is so important because if you aren’t doing the work to change that thinking and to find ways to channel that energy because it’s all just energy whether it’s through meditation or creation or whatever, reading and knowing and unlearning that we could the cycle of all of this just continues.

Yeah, man. I have conversations with one of my guys; his name is James. Shout out to James free that man. One of my best friends and he’s in Dixon Prison in Illinois. He recently got sentenced to 15 years. Oftentimes we’ll be discussing this and just dissecting the ways that it’s like we’ve been conditioned from our environment to value ourselves through violence and to value ourselves through domination and manipulation of women, of other men. We definitely were talking the other day just about how he was saying he had an ill line in a rap he was spitting to me, and he said something about iron fist. Then he said, because his brother is gay, and he remembers when his father beat the shit out of his brother. He was like, “My pops beat my brother half silly over who he loved. It wasn’t really love if it ain’t fit with an iron glove,” or something like that.

I thought that was so deep because I was like, “Man we really were taught that love is brutality.” It’s like he really love you because he care that much or she, you know what I mean? This is what many people have learned in their home from their parents. It’s like you’re beating your kids because you love them.

That’s a whole nother discussion.

But it’s all the same discussion because it’s like we’re reflecting that same energy that we’ve taken in from the world around us. We’re hurting people that we really do love because we don’t know how to love. How could we heal for real if we can’t have a clear picture of how to love, how to love ourselves, how to love Black women, how to love Black men, how to love Black trans men and women? That’s the only healing that can be had.

It starts here. We got to silence because the first part of it is silence in the mind, right, and it’s really being able to identify the thoughts and say, “All right this is not what I feel. It’s just a thought right now. Let me silence it.” But if you don’t have that moment to just even prioritize that, there are so many conversations that happen outside of this. Even having a silent place to be in touch with yourself is a whole other thing. OK so I’m going to actually, I have a little game here. Going to let you choose a card. You’re going to read the instructions and then do what it says. Don’t peep.

Wait. How does this work again?

Choose a card. You can shuffle it. Then it’s going to have an instruction for you or a question.

“What are you still trying to prove to yourself?” Oh got to be that I’m enough. I tatted it on my wrist after I took a spiritual journey one time.

I know what that means.

I was like, “You know what?” So I’m always trying to prove that to myself.

OK, shuffle for one more.

“Are you lying to yourself about anything?: No, I don’t believe I’m lying to myself. I think that just the way that my life has gone. I been faced with many of my realities, and I’ve looked to face my truths. Have I come to terms with all of them? I’m sure that I have work to do, but I don’t believe that I’m lying to myself at this point of time.

You’re probably going to be thinking about that on the way home. “Where am I lying to myself?”

Where am I lying? Not me.

All right. So you guys have been dropping some questions in the comments, so we’re going to take them now. So this one is from Canada. “Who do you think of in the industry when you think of ‘Black excellence?’”

Black excellence, man… I’m just going to say the first thing that came to my mind. The first thing that came to my mind was Kendrick Lamar for some reason. Kendrick he just falls into that pantheon of artists that I’ve always loved you know what I mean to the Most Defs and Common and Ye and Hov and just a person capable of expressing and understanding the world on a high level, with the words, with the pen, with the music. That’s what came to my mind. Shout out to Dave Free too because it was really some of their videos that made me think Black excellence. I feel like they’ve really encapsulated some big ideas.

Yeah and I think that’s an example of a really strong creative partnership between the two of them. All right so this is you guys keep dropping your questions in the little Q and A box. This one is about the “Shelter” video which you just dropped.

You know what I will say though is that we was specifically talking about in the video with the flowers and the bodies and the mouths it was a depiction of COVID 19. The director Andre Muir — we went to high school together, I’ve just been wanting to work with all the people I grew up with.

I love that. That is my goal in life too.

One of my best friends — she was just doing the photos. My best friend Angel… recently lost his mother to COVID, and so in our conversations we were just talking about how the whole COVID experience was just a microcosm for the way everything disproportionately impacts Black people. So we wanted to express that.

I’m going to do a question of my own. I have one more. So I was in a group chat with some of my friends and one of them asked, “What’s the most interesting question that someone’s ever asked you in an interview?” I was like, “Somebody asked me once how my heart was.” I was like, “Wow, I never thought about that.”

I just thought about texting that to somebody, but then I feel like people text me that and I’m supposed to me like, “Oh that’s a little bit funny. How’s your heart? It’s like do you really care.”

I would mean I would hope somebody’s asking a question that deep that they do care. Another friend of mine said that one that he likes to use, if your family was on the other side of this camera, what would you say to them about your journey with mental health and healing to far.:

Your family?

Your family — that could be open to any interpretation.

I think I would answer them both because I didn’t realize you was asking me how’s my heart, because I would tell my family man my heart is full. I’ve just been learning to access my blessings and my power of gratitude, you know what I’m saying? My guy who I was talking about earlier — one time I asked him, “How is it that you’re maintaining this positive attitude you know what I mean in this soul crushing experience” which many of us sometimes feel like we’re in one in our own world, and I know I have. He was like, “Man I wake up and I just gratitude. I think about five things I’m grateful for.” So that’s something that a tool I’ve been using recently. My family knows me. My family knows that my heart is true and that I really love and they know that I struggle to have that love for myself.

I was having a conversation with my father the other day, and was talking about how he had been having a conversation with a friend of his talking about raising kids in America because my father’s from Ghana, and having some kids with a white woman. It’s a whole thing. There’s an identity crisis within there you know what I mean, and just that my father was telling me his friend was like that they’re going to have some trouble with themselves, with understanding themselves, but that they’ll get around it. They get through it.

You feel like you had that trouble?

I think I’ve always had trouble. I know I have. I mean I found notebooks in my mom’s house from first grade when I’m five years old six years old filled with pages, “I hate myself. I want to kill myself.” That put things in perspective to me because I was like, “Man, OK, so I’ve been dealing with this my whole life,” and I’ve come to recognize that that difficulty that I do live with and I do experience is also aside from just being a part of my experience. It’s something that gives me a certain power because I’m able to have existed in a certain depth of emotion. So I can feel people. I love addicts. I gravitate to loving these people because I’m like, “Man I feel you” you know what I’m saying? I feel where your spirit has been. Oftentimes man the most influential just some of the most powerful people man, all of the most powerful people that come to mind for me are people that have struggled, people that have suffered in one way or another.

It’s like as human beings we all experience these things. It’s like the real human beings. I was sitting with Michael K. Williams yesterday and he’s just such a real person because of what he been through. He’s such a real person, and it just exudes from him. He knows himself. 

I’m going to throw to one more. How can someone create and foster a safe space to encourage these hard questions and conversations?

Man I think you show up for people, man. I think that you love on people, man. Love on Black people, love on brown people, love on people you know what I’m saying? In my experience, it’s like the realest relationships I have and the relationships where I feel that space is the people that I just speak to about life. Those are the safest spaces for me, the people that I could have a conversation in earnest, that don’t just talk to me when it’s something going on, or need something or I need something.

Keeping that transparency.

You know what I’m saying? There’s people that I speak to about their spirit you know what I’m saying?

All right. I think that’s all we have time for. So I want to thank you so much for agreeing to do this, for coming out in the bad weather.

Thank you for having me. It ain’t bad weather, girl. I’m from Chicago. This ain’t too bad.

 

Okayplayer

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