In early October, Kid Cudi, in a very public and moving statement, announced he was voluntarily checking into rehab for depression and suicidal thoughts. It was a huge step forward in terms of publically addressing mental health, and almost immediately started a national conversation on the pressures and stigmatization facing black men that keep them from being honest and open about their mental health struggles; Cudi faced a very difficult decision in coming forward and being transparent because of those very stigmas. The pressures of being a “man” turned out to strike a chord within the community, with the #YouGoodMan hashtag being generated as a space for black men to seek help and discuss how their mental health can be navigated.
While Cudi has been openly voicing his thoughts and opinions about the music industry and his life for a while, he has only recently opened up about his own health. Especially in the context of his recent, very public feud with members of the music industry (including Kanye West and Drake), what he wrote was a step in the right direction and a massively open-hearted move on Cudi’s part. And while Kanye ultimately forgave Cudi for his words, taking time at a recent concert to say “Kid Cudi is my brother… and I hope he’s doing well,” Drake couldn’t seem to take the high road. The rapper, who earlier called out Cudi during his Summer ‘16 tour, took to the latest episode of OVO Sound Radio to announce his upcoming album, More Life, and drop a few tracks from the project. The track Two Birds, One Stone, which will appear on the album, stood out in particular. Drake leaves no room for interpretation as to who the track references with the line
You were the man on the moon
Now you just go through your phases
This, of course, refers to Cudi’s album Man on the Moon, representing the stages of his fluctuating mental health as “phases.” While specifically targeting Cudi, this line serves to further stigmatize those who live with mental illness, treating it as though they simply aren’t strong enough to break out of whatever they are going through and failing to recognize this as an ongoing struggle. As if crudely referring to his mental health wasn’t enough, Drake continued later in the song with
You stay xann’d and perk’d up
So when reality set in, you don’t gotta face it
Drake frames medical treatments for mental illness as means to block out the world, likening it to drug addiction and representing those receiving treatment as weak and avoiding of the real world. Not only does this line fail to recognize the strength it takes to pursue treatment, but it discourages those who are in the midst of bettering their mental health. In demeaning Cudi’s mental health so soon after stating that he (Drake) would “rap like I know I’m the greatest,” Drake also suggests that true creative prowess can never come out of those medicated for their mental illness. The stigma surrounding artistic creation in light of mental illness is a big one, and this line perpetuates those negative and harmful stereotypes, possibly discouraging artists from receiving treatment.
Drake ends the song by taking one last dig at Cudi, suggesting that Cudi’s entering into rehab couldn’t just be a coincidence after all he said about Drake:
Look what happens soon as you talk to me crazy
Is you crazy?
As an artist who records music that addresses a wide range of emotions, Drake’s lyrics only add to the stereotype of mental health being completely separate from physical health as a problem with a solution. It creates a society and culture where individuals dealing with and navigating mental illnesses feel stigmatized by those around them and feel pressure to be “normal” in order to not appear weak. In shaming Kid Cudi for making the right decision for himself and entering rehab, Drake shames all those struggling with mental illness and participates in making poking fun at mental illness mainstream. It destroys the safe spaces people use to talk about their struggles and battles openly, and opens the door of hostility towards those who aren’t in any place to defend themselves. For a society that decries Drake’s references to casual sex and drugs, it’s clear his lyrics targeting Cudi, and by extension others battling mental illness, are much more damaging. The black community (and society as a whole) has always had a hard time addressing mental health and doing so openly; even mentioning the idea of seeing a therapist is still taboo. Drake’s lyrics were not only classless, but downright harmful to those he claims to support.
Cover photo by Jaime Rivera.