Hip to the Game
Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” is proof that hip-hop is opening up to mental health
Kevin Kapenda // The Goat
Less than a year-and-a-half ago, Kid Cudi was reportedly admitted into rehab for depression and suicidal urges. While Cudi received an outpour of support from the entertainment industry, reception to this development from the hip-hop community was not as supportive. Drake released a song shortly after news of Cudi’s rehabilitation, apparently mocking his mental health issues.
This incident set off a firestorm in the media about how hip-hop, despite its arguable status as music’s preeminent genre, continues to be the entertainment industry’s laggard on a variety of issues, from gender equality, support for sexual minorities and mental health. However, Logic’s performance at the 2018 Grammy Awards on Sunday, Jan. 28 was not supposed to be the night’s most memorable one, and along with Jay-Z’s introspective masterpiece in 4:44, has shown that the genre may finally be turning the corner on mental health.
Logic’s single “1-800-273-8255”, the number for the United States’ National Suicide Prevention Line, explores the issue of mental health head-on, but in a way that is still multi-faceted. This was done by exploring the ways in which isolation and loneliness, as well as discomfort with one’s place in the world, contributes to suicidal thoughts.
While the song’s chorus generally follows the same melody, there is a difference in the three hooks that follow his and Alessia Cara’s verses. The first hook which goes, “I don’t want to be alive/I just want to die today,” as described by Logic in a video interview with Genius lyrics, are the words of an individual calling a suicide hotline. The second hook, which sings, “I want you to be alive/you don’t got to die today,” is that of a hotline social worker telling the individual that they should not die and that they want them to be alive, as do others in the world, despite that person’s belief that no one cares about their life. The third hook switches back to the individual who needed help and goes “I finally want to be alive/I don’t want to die today.”
This brilliant piece of storytelling, in which the song is grounded in a series of sequential experiences, really hits at the all too important relationship between mental health and time. The reality is, everybody feels crummy at some point or another for a variety of reasons. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, every year, about one in five Canadians over the age of 15 experience a mental health illness or problem. As someone who recently lost a parent, there are days when I don’t want to get out of bed or carry on with life.
While Logic deserves his due for “1-800-273-8255”, much praise must also go to the work of Kanye West and Kid Cudi in 2008, with 808s & Heartbreak and Man on the Moon: The End of Day. After the untimely passing of his mother due to a complication during a “routine” medical procedure, Kanye West’s typically confident and upbeat personality would be put on hiatus in 808s & Heartbreak. Dealing with both the passing of his mother and a publicized split from his fiancée Alexis Phifer, Kanye was suddenly a lonely man. Dealing with the pressures of being hip-hop’s top rapper, managing a startup label, and churning out a feature for every Lil’ and Young something, this album showed the world how, in his own words, the top can be so lonely. While it is revered as a classic today, the album was not instantaneously well-received, partly due to its contrasting sound in both tone, production and vocals from West’s previous work. However, underlying any technical criticism of the album was its lack of bravado and masculinity – its “sadness” for a lack of a better term. 10 years later, it appears hip-hop may finally be turning the corner on mental health, particularly in ways that don’t trivialize violence or darkness, but express loneliness and sadness, the way most people do.