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34 Rap Songs That Address Mental Health & Depression
Here's a roundup of 34 memorable rap songs about depression, featuring tracks from Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller and more.
Topics centered around mental health and depression dominate our public discourse. The national conversation surrounding mental wellness — online and offline — has aided in the stigma of suffering from depression being removed, slowly but surely.
Though society has recently developed the language and perspective to expand our understanding — through data and first-hand accounts — the current conversation surrounding mental health and depression isn't quite new; it's been subtly channeled through music through time. And historically, rap music has always served as a medium for artists to share their struggles.
The late Prodigy once said, “hip-hop is our therapy.” But the conversation around mental health is constantly evolving beyond that notion — beyond the catharsis of making and consuming music. Hip-hop artists have delved deeper into discussing the reality of mental wellness and how it affects their personal and professional lives, from being vocal about getting therapy to coping through self-care. All these states of transparency in their music help to promote a fuller understanding of mental health.
So, in honor of Mental Awareness Month, here's a roundup of 34 memorable rap songs about depression, featuring tracks from Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, and more.
The Geto Boys — "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" (1991)
In their classic “Mind is Playing Tricks on Me,” from their debut album We Can’t Be Stopped, The Geto Boys capture the reality of Post Traumatic Syndrome within urban communities. Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwick Bill vividly describe the various mental states of paranoia, schizophrenia, and depression. “My Mind Playing Tricks On” Me” was a reflection of Scarface’s own inner turmoil, at the time struggling as a manic-depressive. The truth behind the song gives it an authenticity that is still felt 30 years later.
The Notorious B.I.G — "Suicidal Thoughts" (1994)
Death was a common theme in The Notorious B.I.G.'s music and never is it more apparent than on “Suicidal Thoughts.” Produced by the legendary Lord Finesse, “Suicidal Thoughts” was arguably one of the most exceptional rap songs on the late rapper’s debut album Ready to Die.
“Suicidal Thoughts” is a suicide note that finds Big conflicted about the hand that life had dealt him. He calls Puff Daddy to explain the decision that he has already come to terms with.
The song ends in tragedy with a single gunshot, followed by the phone being left off the hook.
Organized Konfusion – "Stress" (1994)
Organized Konfusion’s anthem about stress helped to change the narrative about the intersection of mental health and hip-hop. “Stress,” which was produced by Buckwild, accurately depicted the lived experiences of young Black America during the '90s. While the duo would never gain widespread popularity, their contribution to the conversation about mental health is a noteworthy one.
Tupac — "So Many Tears" (1995)
Tupac was one of the most compelling personalities that hip-hop has ever produced. His influence still reverberates within the culture. On his seminal third album, Me Against The World, he deals with all of the emotion of the human experience, exposing his innermost feelings like never before against the backdrop of an impending prison sentence. “So Many Tears'' embodies the vulnerability of Tupac as he feared for his life, expressed suicidal thoughts, and struggled with paranoia.
A Tribe Called Quest, Faith Evans & Consequence — "Stressed Out" (1996)
The iconic group A Tribe Called Quest were trailblazers. Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and the late Phife Dawg created the blueprint that so many have drawn from. On their fourth LP, Beats, Rhymes, and Life, the crew spoke about maneuvering through anxiety on “Stressed Out,” which features Faith Evans and Consequence. The track showcased all of the mental gymnastics that Black people have to go through just to simply exist. Released as a single in 1996, “Stressed Out’ spoke to the realities of anxiety, taking prescribed medicine, and building strong support systems long before it became mainstream.
DMX — "Slippin'" (1998)
“Slippin,” from Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, is an exorcism of sorts. The song finds X reminiscing about all the traumatic events of his life and how they shaped him. In the opening refrain, X, with piercing insight says, “This life shit, this life shit is like is like bugged the fuck out, son, for real. See, to live is to suffer. But to survive…Well, that's to find meaning in the suffering.”
Jean Grae — "Keep Livin'" (2003)
Jean Grae is your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Her lyrical exploits have gained her legendary status as an underground female MC. On “Keep Livin,'” from her 2003 release The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP, she steps up to the plate and delivers some insight on how mental issues have impacted her family and how she deals with the stress. With lyrical precision, Ms. Grae explains that one of the ways she copes with depression is to “Keep Livin.”
Clipse & Bilal – "Nightmares" (2006)
Few could match the wit and dexterity of the Clipse when it came to spitting about cocaine and other controlled substances. But even the Clipse could not escape the psychological toil that comes with the drug game. On “Nightmares,” which features singer Bilal, the duo gets real about the PTSD of drug dealing. The paranoia, anxiety, stress, hallucinations —and yes even nightmares —are par for the course.
Lil Wayne — "I Feel Like Dying" (2007)
With the refrain of “I feel like dying”— a sample of Karma's "Once" — on a loop, Lil Wayne tackles the topic of suicidal ideation with vulnerability. While at the peak of his powers, Lil Wayne came to grips with his own mental health journey and admitted his drug addiction. Although drug use has always been a part of hip-hop culture, Wayne — who was the most popular rapper in the world at the time — describing his dependency on the anti-anxiety pill Xanax was a game-changer. Wayne opened the door for rappers to share openly about the destructive nature of addiction and how mental illness impacts us in numerous ways.
Kid Cudi, Ratatat & MGMT — “Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)" (2009)
Kid Cudi - Pursuit Of Happiness (Official Music Video) ft. MGMTwww.youtube.com
Kid Cudi is one of the forefathers of the “emo” rap genre where he was never shy about exploring the emotional rollercoaster known as the human experience. He has a discography full of songs that address various facets of mental health, including “Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)" from his stellar debut album Man on the Moon: The End of the Day. While in search of escapism, Kid Cudi reveals how abusing drugs and alcohol can lead to the dark places that you’ve never imagined.
Eminem — "Beautiful" (2009)
"Beautiful" is a single from Eminem's sixth studio album Relapse. He first began to compose the song during a stint in rehab in 2005 to deal with his addiction to sleep medication. The song would not be finished until he got sober some years later, and he added a third verse. On this melancholy track, Eminem talks about his drug addiction with pathos. “Beautiful” was the only song he kept that he wrote while in rehab. He explained:
One of the only reasons that I put that track on there is that I feel like it's the best song out of that batch that I did when I wasn't sober. At the time I felt like, "This is it for me." I wrote the first verse and a half in rehab, and when I came out, I finished it. It was the only song that marks that period without bringing me back to that place.
Chance the Rapper & Nico Segal — "Long Time II" (2012)
Chance the Rapper wears his faith on his sleeve and is unapologetic about it. But even people of faith are not exempt from the highs and lows that come with the emotional rollercoaster of life. “Long Time II,” featuring Nico Segal, is a passionate plea about navigating through the dark abyss of loss and heartbreak. Over a haunting piano, Chance bares his soul, holding nothing back as he seeks freedom from his inner turmoil.
Pharoahe Monch & Denaun Porter – "Losing My Mind" (2014)
Pharoahe Monch’s reputation as a legendary lyricist is etched in stone. Ever since his days as a member of Organized Konfusion, Monch has probed deep into his own metal issues through his music.
On his conceptual album Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Monch’s creates every track around some form of PTSD. During the recording process, Monch was struggling with depression and trying to maintain his sobriety. PSTD was not metaphorical but a mirror into his experiences.
“Losing My Mind,” is Monch’s attempt to add to the collective conversation of the need for therapy in the African American community. Maneuvering through the darkness of depression, he skillfully depicts the internal struggle when one is suffering from faltering mental illness.
Joe Budden & Emanny – "Only Human" (2015)
Before he became a media star, Joe Budden was a formidable and highly respected MC in hip-hop. Always an open book, he bore his soul on “Only Human.” From his Some Love Lost EP, “Only Human” was recorded the day after he was released from jail, details his struggle with his mental state. It also chronicles his thoughts regarding suicide and depression.
Earl Sweatshirt — "Grief" (2015)
Grief has no expiration date. Death is very much a part of life, a lesson that everyone has to learn, and there is no escaping this reality. The best we can do is simply manage grief from day to day, moment to moment. On "Grief," from his album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, Earl Sweatshirt takes on the topic head-on. Sweatshirt deals with the angst of human mortality. The rapper also addressed themes of paranoia and isolation. He interweaves the loss of his grandmother, distrust of anything and everybody, and all the anxiety that comes along with it.
Kendrick Lamar — "u" (2015)
Kendrick Lamar is one of the most heralded MCs in hip-hop. His lyrical ingenuity allows him to address a plethora of subjects with nuance and vivid insight. Featured on his highly acclaimed LP To Pimp A Butterly, “u” explores his previous encounters with depression, suicidal thoughts, and survivor’s guilt. According to Lamar, it was a difficult endeavor to compose to the song. In an interview, Lamar said, "That was one of the hardest songs I had to write. There's some very dark moments in there. All my insecurities and selfishness and letdowns. That shit is depressing as a motherfucker. But it helps, though. It helps."
Vic Mensa — "There's Alot Going On" (2016)
Vic Mensa has been an open book about his struggles with mental health. His other-worldly talent as an MC is only matched by the internal forces that he constantly wrestles with. For Mensa, his artistic expression helps him to combat psychological trauma and to keep his sanity. On “There’s A Lot Going On,” Mensa looks into his own soul and battles with his inner demons, making a bold artistic statement. Throughout the track, Mensa paints a portrait of his personal experiences of mental health combined with his drug use and consumption of alcohol to ease with the pain.
Kid Cudi – "Wounds" (2016)
In 2013, Kid Cudi suffered from an emotional breakdown after ending a relationship. In 2016, he announced on social media that he checked himself into a rehab because of his struggles with prescription medications, anxiety, depression, and suicidal urges. Cudi’s music is often colored with those metal health battles.
On “Wounds,” from his Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin' album, Cudi moves through the various mental states and the effects that they cause. “Wounds” is an authentic portrayal of an artist that’s fighting for their mental life.
Solange & Lil Wayne – "Mad" (2016)
On her magnum opus, A Seat at the Table, Solange addresses a multiplicity of topics with provocative clarity. “Mad,” featuring Lil Wayne, is an exploration into Black emotional vulnerability. She questions the very notion that African Americans have to justify their anger in the face of American oppression.
Lil Wayne, in one of his most transparent verses, addresses many of things that makes him mad, but he also talks about his suicide attempt at a young age. Weezy has mentioned the shooting before but this is the first time that he reveals it was an actual suicide attempt.
Lil Uzi Vert — "XO TOUR Llif3" (2017)
Lil Uzi Vert represents the wing of hip-hop where MCs are not afraid to express their emotions. Following his break-up with Brittany Byrd, Uzi found himself in a bad space. He explained:
I was speaking authentic on "XO TOUR Llif3." Anyone can relate: I was in a dark space, so I went with it.” The rapper revealed his abuse of Xanax, suicidal ideation, and tremendous heartache. “
The song's famous chorus — "push me to the edge, all my friends are dead" — conveyed the mental torment that Uzi was enduring.
Logic, Alessia Cara & Khalid – 1-800-273-8255 (2017)
On “1-800-273-8255,” Logic tackles the issue of suicide head-on. The song's name is the phone number for the American National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL). Logic addresses homophobia and bullying on the track, two common occurrences that often lead to suicide.
Logic has called “1-800-273-8255” the "most important song" of his career. It's also his most successful, going eight times platinum in the United States.
JAY-Z & Gloria Carter — "Smile" (2017)
JAY-Z - Smile ft. Gloria Carterwww.youtube.com
For years JAY-Z was stoic in his persona. He has shared his past personal experiences through his music occasionally, but he mostly kept his listening audience at somewhat of a distance. But after a very public near-end to his marriage to Beyoncé, Hov learned the art of baring one’s soul through artistic expression, as he does throughout 4:44.
JAY-Z exposes himself in ways that we’ve rarely experienced in his career. On “Smile,” he reveals that his mother, Gloria Carter, is gay, and he cried tears of joy when she met her partner. Also, he talks about how beneficial therapy has been as he attempted to rebuild his marriage that was on the brink of collapse.
Mac Miller — "Self Care" (2018)
Self-care is essential for our mental, spiritual, and emotional wellness. The late Mac Miller was definitely ahead of the game with his track “Self-Care.” The song was written after his break-up with Ariana Grande. At the time, his life was spiraling out of control. On “Self-Care,” Mac Miller is on a journey filled with pain, addiction, mental illness, and heartbreak that tragically would ultimately be the forces that caused his life to end prematurely.
Juice Wrld — "Lucid Dreams" (2018)
Juice WRLD's death in 2019 left the culture with many questions about how to address mental illness and drug usage. Juice WRLD's most iconic record is “Lucid Dreams.” It's a song he described as a "therapy session" that he wrote while going through struggles in his relationship. Sampling Sting’s “Shape of My Heart,” “Lucid Dream” is an emo-rap ballad that captures the mental anguish when relationships end.
Polo G — “Battle Cry” (2019)
Polo G - Battle Cry Official Video 🎥By Ryan Lynch Prod.By JTK & DJAYOwww.youtube.com
PTSD, mental uncertainty, and drug abuse are some of the themes that Polo G addresses on “Battle Cry.” The Chicago native follows the long tradition of” Windy City” MCs who shared their personal struggles with mental health in their music. On “Battle Cry” Polo G is an open book on the track as he shares how his environment shaped him.
Lil Durk — “Crossroads” (2018)
Lil Durk - Cross Roads (Official Video) Shot by @JerryPHDwww.youtube.com
One of the great facets of music is the ability to lament the loss of those closest to us. Borrowing the song title from Bone Thugs N Harmony's classic “Crossroads” Lil Durk put his past pains on display for all the world to see how he's trying to maintain his mental health. Navigating through depression and grief Durk’s “Crossroads” is a journey through life’s most strenuous moments.
Big Sean & Nipsey Hussle — "Deep Reverence" (2020)
Big Sean - Deep Reverence (Official Music Video) ft. Nipsey Husslewww.youtube.com
On Detroit 2, Big Sean speaks openly about the importance of his mental health. Throughout the album, Sean talks about anxiety, meditation, and how therapy has allowed him to be in a much better place. Accompanied by the late, great Nipsey Hussle, Sean cleanses himself of all of the mental barriers that have held him back and makes the commitment to continually work through his issues.
Craig G — “Narcissist Theme Song” (2020)
Craig G - Narcissist Theme Songwww.youtube.com
Craig G, a member of the legendary Juice Crew, changed up his format with the release of “Narcissist Theme Song.” Conveying a vulnerability that’s undeniable, Craig G frankly speaks about dealing with a disorder “in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance” as defined by the Mayo Clinic. On “Narcissist Theme Song” Craig G spreads awareness about the little disorder that he’s fighting with the help of therapy.
Lil Uzi Vert — “P2” (2020)
Lil Uzi Vert - P2 [Official Audio]www.youtube.com
Lil Uzi Vert’s outlandish style is the entry point of one a kind artist he’s not afraid to share his emotional state. A sequel to his 2017 single "XO Tour Llif3", P2” captures Uzi coming to grips with the reality that success and money can not heal your soul. Throughout the track, Uzi also conveys the highs and lows of relationships.
Rod Wave — “Through the Wire” (2020)
Rod Wave - Through The Wire (Official Music Video)www.youtube.com
Just like Kanye West’s classic “Through the Wire, “ Rod Wave utilizes the same title to speak about how he managed to survive a devastating car wreck. Wave raps about how his issues with substance abuse almost killed him as he was high during the accident. “Through the Wire” is almost a therapy session as Wave attempts to give his beast despite all the mental challenges he encounters.
Pop Smoke – “PTSD” (2020)
Pop Smoke - PTSD (Official Audio)www.youtube.com
In his brief life, Pop Smoke left an indelible imprint on rap music that still reverberates today. Although he is no longer with us, his contributions to hip-hop still live on. On “PTSD," Pop Smoke vividly recalls his time growing up in Brooklyn and the devastating effects that gun violence has on his community. One can only imagine what kind of rapper and more importantly a human being if he was still with us.
Fivio Foreign — “Feel My Struggle” (2022)
Fivio Foreign - Feel My Struggle (Official Audio)www.youtube.com
Brooklyn MC Fivio Foreign has had his fair share of struggles and unashamedly shares his battles on “Feel My Struggle.” Fivio gets real about the demons that he fights on a daily basis and reminds us all about our own mental battles that we encounter. “Feel My Struggle” poignantly depicts the constant work it takes to protect our mental health.”
Megan Thee Stallion — “Anxiety” (2022)
Megan Thee Stallion - Anxiety [Official Visualizer]www.youtube.com
Megan Thee Stallion has had to live some of her lowest moments in the public eye. From coping with the passing of her mother to surviving a shooting, Megan has survived and thrived through tumultuous times. On “Anxiety” Meg delves into her struggles to maintain her mental health while under the microscope of her immense personality. One of the bars that Meg spits — which has become a rallying cry for Black women who are trying to make sense of this thing called life — is "bad bitches have bad days too." That’s a fact.
Kendrick Lamar & Sampha — “Father Time” 2022
Kendrick Lamar - Father Time ft. Sampha (Official Audio)www.youtube.com
After a five-year hiatus, Kendrick Lamar made his triumphant return to the rap music landscape with Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers in 2022 and one of the standout tracks is “Father Time.” The song opens with Kendrick speaking with his partner Whitney Alford about why he should go to therapy. Kendrick’s response is, “Real nigga need no therapy, fuck you talkin' about?” She reiterates that he should reach out to someone about his mental health. Throughout the track, Kendrick discusses his daddy issues, depression, and the inner emotional turmoil that he has to fight through. As one of the best lyricists in the game, he vividly paints a picture of the struggles that we have to protect our mental health.
Rashad Grove is a writer from NJ whose work has appeared on BET, Billboard, MTV News, Okayplayer, High Snobiety, Medium, Revolt TV, The Source Magazine, and others. You can follow him at @thegroveness for all of his greatness.
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