Although it may not always be a popular topic, suicidal ideation has been addressed in rap before and has led to some of the genre’s most memorable songs, like The Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” or Notorious B.I.G.‘s “Everyday Struggle” and “Suicidal Thoughts.” However, the younger generation of hip-hop does not seem to carry the same kind of unease when talking about the matter, whether it’s through the music or not. Names such as Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi, Logic, and Big Sean are only a smattering of those who are comfortably candid about their mental health.
On the premiere episode of the new Facebook Watch Series One Question One Mike, Big Sean sits with host Professor Michael Eric Dyson to discuss his own personal struggles and the fact that he’s thought of taking his life in the past. The Motor City lyricist has songs in his catalog, more recently like “Deep Reverence” and “Harder Than My Demons” from his latest album Detroit 2, where he has rapped plainspokenly about the subject. But in this format, he’s sought to elaborate on those feelings without the backdrop of music.
“I for sure contemplated suicide a lot of times, having guns in my hand, feeling it for real … planning it out to the point where I said, ‘Hey, if I do kill myself, at least my family will get this amount of money. I did this already,’” he told Dyson. “Because I was just stressed out and not happy. I realized that OK, I need to stop everything I’m doing and figure this out, or I’m going to self-destruct.”
According to a nationwide study of over 198,000 high school students’ records, suicide attempts among black adolescents increased by 73% from 1991 to 2017, while the same metric experienced a decrease among their white counterparts. Furthermore, a deeper analysis of the data “suggests that black boys may be engaging in increasingly lethal means when attempting suicide.”
Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, Ph.D., founder, and board president of the African American Knowledge Optimized for Mindfully Health Adolescents Project, highlighted the alarming information and how it’s flown under the radar for so long. “When we have people of the same racial or ethnic group experiencing a disparity for something as tragic and awful as suicide, everybody should be concerned,” she said. “…[I]n the 23 years that I’ve been doing this work, very few people will name and attend to the unique mental health needs of black children.”
Eventually, Big Sean realized he needed to step away from the music for a while to heal and take the necessary steps before things got too out of hand. “I took the time off, canceled everything I was doing, sought therapy, connected with God more, spiritually grounded myself, and put myself first as a priority for the first time ever,” he said.
Make sure to see the rest of this interview with Professor Dyson and other exciting guests on One Question On Mike, exclusively on Facebook Watch.