The evidence of depression, suicide, and mental health in rap music has more than doubled in the past two decades, a new study found.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed the lyrics of the 25 most popular rap songs in the United States in 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2018.
2018 was the year rap first sold country music, and its songs contained twice as many references to mental health as they did in 1998.
The stressed and vulnerable Geto Boys (pictures) rapping “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” in 1991 is no longer an isolated case in terms of mental health, the team said
Songs increasingly refer to depression and suicide, and mix in metaphors about mental health issues, said lead writer Alex Kresovich.
Rappers talking and dealing with mental health could help millions of young people, he added.
“The fact that they are talking about mental health could have a huge impact on how young people perceive mental health, or how they see themselves when they are struggling with mental health,” Kresovich said.
Mental stress between the ages of 18 and 25 has hit new highs in the 21st century, and suicide rates have risen among black teenagers – a significant segment of the rap audience.
But rap listeners are a diverse group with different backgrounds, which, according to the scientist, helps increase the power and influence of artists.
The average age of the artists behind the 125 rap songs analyzed for the study was 28 years.
Most of the main artists were black men and almost a third of their songs were about anxiety, 22 percent mentioned depression and 6 percent talked about suicide.
Krescovich, a former music producer, says that while rap has always been a personal and narrative form of music, he can hear things change.
He said that emotions in rap music have been increasingly debunked by artists such as Drake, Post Malone, Juice Wrld, Eminem, Lil ‘Wayne, Jay-Z and Kanye West.
In the songs that Krescovich analyzed and coded for the study, the most common psychological stressors were love and the environment, they claim.
The study’s authors faced a number of challenges, including interpreting the intended meaning of the artist behind the texts.
What was most surprising when analyzing the decades-long rap lyrics was the rise of mental health metaphors in the songs.
The researchers found that the number of cases of mental health references in rap songs has doubled in the past two decades – they tried tracks between 1998 and 2018
The emotions in rap music have increasingly been revealed between the beats of so many top songs – by artists like Drake, Post Malone, Juice Wrld, Eminem, Lil ‘Wayne, Jay-Z and Kanye West (pictured), the team explained behind the study
Examples are phrases like “marginalized” or “fight my demons,” which the experts say are likely to be talking about fear.
“Using metaphors can be a surefire way to avoid being judged,” says Kresovich. “In men, especially men of skin color, mental health is still stigmatized.
‘Artists kick lightly and won’t say, “I’m depressed”.
“But they will describe feelings in a way that others with depression can understand and relate to,” he says.
“It can also be very difficult to rhyme the word ‘depression’ in a song.”
Over the years, 94 of the total of 125 songs, or 75 percent, were related to negative emotions, and 57 of the songs with negative emotions were related to mental health.
Of the songs analyzed, 35 – about 28 percent – related to anxiety, 28 to depression, eight to suicide, and 26 to at least one mental health metaphor.
The results were published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
If this story affects you, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org.
The depression affects ten people at some points
While it’s normal to feel down from time to time, people with depression can feel unhappy for weeks or months.
Depression can affect anyone at any age and is fairly common – approximately one in ten people will likely experience it at some point in their life.
Depression is a real health condition that people cannot simply ignore or “snap out of” it.
Symptoms and effects vary, but may include constant feelings of agitation or hopelessness, or loss of interest in things that you used to enjoy.
It can also cause physical symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, fatigue, loss of appetite or sex drive, and even physical pain.
In extreme cases, thoughts of suicide can arise.
Traumatic events can trigger this, and people with a family history may be at greater risk.
It is important to see a doctor if you think you or someone you know may be suffering from depression as it can be treated with lifestyle changes, therapy, or medication.
Source: NHS selection