Insane in the Brain: Did Hip-Hop Drive Us Crazy ?

“I keep lookin’ over my shoulders/ and peepin’ ‘round corners/ my mind’s playin’ tricks on me” – “Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me”, Geto Boys

For a time, up and coming attorney, Beauford Jenkins, of the prestigious law firm, Black, Rock and Ron, seemed perfectly normal. Even when he legally changed his name to B-Dawg and got a lollipop tatted on his face, his coworkers thought it was just the stress from his new position as a junior partner. However, when during the weekly staff meeting, he jumped up on the conference room table and broke into an impromptu rendition of Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap”, while tryin’ to twerk, they knew it was time for him to seek professional help from Dr. Feel. After a few sessions , Beauford’s behavior was diagnosed as the effect of a lifetime of over-exposure to Hip-Hop…

One of the most difficult issues to discuss, especially in the Black community, is mental illness. No one wants to believe that Uncle Leroy, who comes to the family reunion picnic every year in a bathrobe and biker shorts, is really crazy. (No, that’s just his swag.) But in a period in Hip-Hop when it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish fantasy from reality, this issue must be addressed, ASAP.

Historically, there have been those who have, purposely, misdiagnosed normal Black behavior as abnormal. According to Dr. Harriett Washington, in her book, Medical Apartheid, during the mid-19th century, Dr. Samuel Cartwright concocted some diseases to diagnose those who resisted slavery. He came up with diseases like drapetomania, which made slaves want to run away, and dysaethesia aethiopica which, supposedly, made the slaves tear stuff up on the plantation.

Also, Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary and others have used the term “Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder” to describe the mental distress that results from centuries of slavery and oppression.

However, as for what is happening in Hip-Hop right now…well, normal people just don’t do that kind of stuff.

To be fair, over the years, Hip-Hop has dealt with its insanity in different ways – some funny, some not so funny.

UTFO had a humorous rap hit in the ’80s called “Split Personality”, which was a spoof on dissociative identity disorder. However, in the real rap world, that could explain why rappers like 50 Cent can make CDs that make them seem like homicidal maniacs, but when they are interviewed by Oprah or Pierce Brosnan, appear to be astute, well-mannered businessmen.

Some of the most graphic tales of mental disorder have come courtesy of Scarface and the Geto Boys, as the “Mind of a Lunatic” was a recurring theme in many of their songs. Scarface once described himself as “a homicidal maniac with suicidal tendencies.”

Perhaps , the most telling mental breakdown moment that best exemplifies Hip-Hop’s current state is the classic scene from the movie, Juice, when “Bishop“(Tupac Shakur) admits to “Q” (Omar Epps), “You’re right, I am crazy and I don’t give a …”, as insanity has become standard Hip-Hop protocol.

So, the major question is, what makes some Hip-Hop artists actually lose their minds in real life?

The most convenient answer may be alcohol and drug abuse abuse. After all, rap music does promote the use of marijuana, sizzurp, and X as forms of self-medication to ease the pain. Although the pharmacist at the drug store requires a prescription from a doctor, the neighborhood “street pharmacist” has no such requirement. Remember, back in 1991, Geto Boy, Bushwick Bill lost his eye, allegedly, after drowning his sorrows in a bottle of Everclear. Also, years before the current hysteria of people turning into cannibals after getting high on bath salt, back in 2002, rapper Big Lurch is said to have eaten a woman’s body parts because of PCP.

However, there can be other factors as well.

Perhaps the least talked about reason for odd behavior among rappers is explored on Cee Lo Green’s (Gnarls Barkley) song “Crazy”, where he seems to be feeling the pressure of one of the most talented intellectual minds that Hip-Hop has ever produced when he was with the Goodie Mob, being transformed into a cross-dressing, pop cultural oddity.

What must not be forgotten is that, in some ways, the themes that are prevalent in much of rap music are also present in ‘hoods across America.

Although the theme of gun shots flyin’, people dyin’, and babies cryin’ is talked about, extensively, in rap music, what is rarely discussed is how living in that type of environment affects one mentally. Could it be that the millionaire rapper from the ‘hood who now lives in a mansion on the hill still has unresolved childhood issues that are reflected in his music ?

When multi-national corporations get a hold of this type of behavior and glamorize it, they make even the most irrational type of behavior a requirement for being “down with the culture.” And if they can make a quick buck sellin’ insanity, so be it.

So the youth become victims of what Coach Alfred Powell, author of the book Hip-Hop Hypocrisy, calls “psycho media perpetrator disorder,” mirroring the behaviors exhibited by their favorite rappers.

While there are economic incentives to promote rap insanity, there are other entities that may have a vested interest in keeping us out of our minds as well.

Psychologist Bobby E. Wright argued in his book, The Psychopathic Racial Personality, that the pathologies plaguing the ‘hood and, therefore, Hip-Hop, are no accidents but are a result of what he termed “Mentacide.” He said that Mentacide was a way for the power structure to combat Black nationalism.

If Einstein was correct, and insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” perhaps the most insane are not the rappers, but the conscious ones of us, who consider ourselves in our right minds, as we have used the same formulas to “cure the insanity in Hip-Hop” for two decades. Maybe it’s time to find a new cure. As they say, “desperate times call for drastic measures.”

As a Public Service Announcement, if you are a 30-something-year-old man and find yourself unable to stop repeating Lil Wayne’s “A Milli”, or a 40-year-old woman who decides to dye your hair pink and get booty injections, seek help, immediately!

Like Ice Cube once said: “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

TRUTH Minista Paul Scott’s weekly column is “This Ain’t Hip Hop,” a column for intelligent Hip-Hop headz. For information on his upcoming lecture series, contact, his website,, or follow him on Twitter (@truthminista).

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45 Responses to “Insane in the Brain: Did Hip-Hop Drive Us Crazy ?”

  1. water_ur_seeds

    stress can cause mental illness, and living in the ghetto or a dangerous life can be very stressful and cause mental illness/paranoia… i guess once your a ‘rapper’ you express those mental thoughts on a track to the public… i think we all have those moments of craziness and paranoia from time to time, i do anyways, its no joke really… 

  2. $18592567

    It’s the mass media. Blaming hip hop directly compartmentalizes a bigger issue. Don’t let them fool you playa…

    • RBG4Life

      Exactly. They are making the most destructive forms of behavior/thought/action into fads or whats cool and feeding them to the youth via the stars they’ve chosen to influence them with the appropriate ideas. The 30+ generation hip hop filled with empowerment/pride scared them so they went to the lab to figure it how to curve that energy into some ish that would drive the unattended right to prisons/death/negative actions. Some of it is our own fault for not being unified in our weakened state to set and expect higher standards for our lives and allowing things we create to be used against us. Unfortunately due to the situation SOME of us have been dealt, many of our youth our impressionable and have parents struggling/fighting their own demons so their minds are vulnerable for destructive programming. The only way we’ll ever change this is to start promoting love between ourselves and pushing our own agenda that calls for us to stop wallowing and misery and start expecting/demanding excellence from ourselves and our children. I swear its the only way. Nobody gonna stop taking care of their own to lift us up out the gutta so why are we always sitting there waiting and looking? Are we really that sorry/lazy? that scared of what it may take? I hope not because its pass time to stop acting like grown childish kids. No one is going to take us seriously until we get back to being people with dignity that command respect.

  3. Romia Blue

    I don’t see how this has to be directly related to Hip Hop. The cost of one’s piece of mind and sanity is what’s in question. Britney Spears had a breakdown, Demi Lovato, the list can go on if that’s where you’re looking. You have to look at the level of fame and wealth that’s coming from these entertainers. Talib Kweli isn’t crazy, Common hasn’t lost it (although some will say creatively he did), Mos Def needs to stick with one name but he isn’t crazy (at least I hope not). The Roots, Snoop Dog, Ice Cube…again, this list can go on.

    Although there is a twinge of truth to this article, again it goes back to perception. Where are you looking and through who’s eyes.

    gucci mane thru a chick out of a moving car and got an ice cream cone tatted on his face…yeah, that ni66a is off

  4. S. Long

    It’s not HIp Hop that drove people crazy, it was the crack in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s what fueling most of these kids to think that what they are doing are right and have there thoughts all screwed up.

  5. illymac

    some of the best music ever made
    was made by artists who was/is oppressed..

    thats what make the music so heart felt..
    Pac wrote All eyes on me while in jail..
    while some people live in bad areas and want more out of life,
    than whats there in front of them..

    to a person who never been thru the ills
    of having to live in bad living conditions,
    we probably do seem crazy..
    but to us its everyday life..

      • illymac

        my point wasnt to compare any artist,
        I only used Pac as an example..
        and by comparing who wrote better music,
        only prevent U from aknowleging the point I was trying to make in my post..

        #stay on topic..

      • uShallKnoDaTruth

        using all eyes on me wasnt a good choice to get a point out…… i feel that was pacs sellout album… #do better

      • Sosa_Limone

        @ushallknowdatruth… ur still missing the point homey! open your eyes and just receive the point illymac is trying to make.. u get caught up on small details and u miss the main point.. that is ignorance #justsaying

      • uShallKnoDaTruth

        i dont need to open my eyes…..i see what he is sayin but once again the choice of albums dont help the point….. now what dont u understand???

      • Sosa_Limone

        if you see the point y u still goin on bout all eyes on me??

      • uShallKnoDaTruth

        last i checked i got my own mind i can say what i want…..u feel the need to keep responding thats on u like i said all eyes on me bad choice…. maybe me against the world…….

  6. brotha_man

    rapping about killing another brotha over jewels and money isnt being oppressed its genocide. but rapping about politics and the way the school systems educate our youth would be a different story. truth is white and black (russell simmons and all)”leaders of music know what sell, and its violence. I have yet to here a rapper rap about anti-bullying. its a shame that the public enemy days of rap are over. Going to college isnt the thing to do in rap “game” its all about Keyz and maybachs.

  7. Medusa777

    Hip Hop did not drive anyone crazy.  These current so-called rappers are insane, they lack inspiration!  Hip Hop is informative and inspiraring.  Rap (non-sense) is not.  Now, that will drive a person crazy if they keep listening to that mess.   

  8. Medusa777

    Hip Hop did not and does not drive anyone crazy.  These current so-called rappers are insane, they lack inspiration!  Hip Hop is informative and inspiring.  Rap (non-sense) is not.  Now, that will drive a person crazy if they keep listening to that mess.   

  9. ccwaterbound32

    it’s 50/50 because we have free will mind you, but I DO agree that the melody and energy put into those records can effect the emotions that lay within us human beings, energy can never be destroyed but transferred from one part of matter to another, if your happy and around happy friends laughing giggling and just having a grand time then the energy in the atmosphere is all positive. now all of a sudden some guy comes along all depressed,unhappy,and completely irate than guess what? that negative energy that ONE guy is giving off goes into everyone having a great time. the energy didn’t get destroyed it just got transferred into several other parties, music has that same effect because down here in Louisiana music is a BIG deal especially with the local club scenes,s*it go to a club with a whole bunch of people in the same mindset who have been popping pills, smoking weed, and drinking heavy liquor (including the D.J) and all of a sudden the D.J throws on a song talkin about “I SEE SOMEBODY IN THIS B*TCH IM GOIN SNEAK (punch) TONIGHT!” and then without warning the whole damn club goes into an uproar where the women are fist fighting and the men are punching and kicking the s*it out of each other! It’s as simple as this… IF YOU KNOW YOU AREN’T A GANGSTER/THUG and you just like the music then cool accept it as just entertainment nothing more nothing less, as for listening to too much hip hop going crazy that’s just flat out ridiculous it’s like everything that goes on in society HIP HOP HAS TO TAKE THE BLAME FOR IT, that’s just like that dude in texas years ago who killed that state trooper and said he was listening to tupac as HIS inspiration for doing it. or blaming hip hop for the rise in violent crime, or blaming the culture because of drug dealing i mean it’s 50/50 parents at some point have to turn the tv and video games off, observe what your kids listen to in their I-Pod’s and laptops and just take action, there are alot of single parent household’s in america so i feel that if there is variety in hip hop the artist who come from these particular environments which are disenfranchised THEN THEY SHOULD BE THE ONES to speak directly to that particular demographic and describe the ills and parallels of the ghetto instead of just glorifying it to just make money. i bet if more of those “so called thug/gangsta rappers” really invested their time into community activism and offering some kind of forum to get the issues out there and into the open then EVERYBODY would get involved and THEN SOMETHING COULD ACTUALLY GET DONE! 

    but hey that’s just me…

  10. Monkeyuncle

    Geto Boys, ain’t the music that drove u Niggas crazy it’s this new garbage, Them brothas back then was tellin a story, now there programming u, Ie Drake, lil Wayne Nicki Menage

  11. justyouraverage

    everybodys crazy everybodys different an there is no set way anyone should act or dose act music all together only has an effect of mood change so it can fuel u to do crazy shit but u always were gunna do some crazy shit anyway if the music didnt hype u up something else would have

  12. Guest


  13. immackulate

    what people dont understand is the music never grows up with you
    it stays young and immature – and any grown man or woman with responsibilities
    rarely wants to hear whats being played – if you are 30+ like it or not you are an elder
    in this game – and either you advanced the culture and make music for your peer group
    to jive to and the youngsters could one day strive to – or get out the game and let the youngsters have it –

    its natural evolution – at the age im at i dont like NEW FRIENDS feel me
    either i’ve known you or of you for a while and we can relate or we can be cordial
    but thats the extent of our friendship – same goes with my music – as i evolve my musical
    taste starts to evolve – to the point i actually listen to gospel music outside of sundays a lot

    i been on this old skool and some what MIDDLE SKOOL (in between new and old)
    aint never been the type to be around a bunch of hard legs anyway – i’d rather have a woman n my company anyday  

  14. LetsBeRealpeople

     As soon as I saw the title, I knew, it was going to be some sh’t. You as a writer must be young, or new to Hip Hop. Maybe even both. If you get bubbled at my assumption, then here is truth: You know nothing about Hip Hop, to even associate it as you do in the title.

    Yes, repetition is tool, but not a function. Every Human has the choice to do what is neccessary.

    Those who know about Hip Hop wouldn’t even start their hindsight in the direction that you pull on every article. How can you fix your head to do the articles you do, I don’t even want to know. Why?
    ‘Cause you are tainted.

    You would do better as cop with a bullet, ready on brother, than to be this constant case of poison.

    There is no such thing as imaginary, in general, Black People. So hang that up. You want to conjer the old negro spirit…ma’fa get your head right first and see where everybody at, and that son is everwhere.

    Hip Hop has been split, and I couldn’t even tell you the factions that veil themself in it.

    (As for me, there is Hip Hop and there is label ridden bull)

    Whoever you are as a writer, needs to read more, and research the entire history of music, black music, and the 6 industries that control the mainstream and then review the history of Hip Hop.

    I’m here to undo every f’cked up assumption you have about Black People and the origins of Black Entertainment. 

    Starting with the fact that you can be Black and still give messed up information.

    What’s worse than finding you been had, find somebody using the right words and pattern of words and stories, to make You think you crazy. And son, We wide awake..and you talking crazy. You trying to relate and get folks to say amen, hell nah.

    I will be damned if I have somebody reading your article looking at me with a preconditioned toe tag.

    According to your article, Black People don’t have a mind of their own, and can be controlled by music.

    You adding to the f’cking social myth, and proving a damn google search. Why
    cause a mug will find this on a “black” website and site what you say as truth. GTFOH.

    We are human f’cking beings, and it is time we correct everyone’s assumption that being the idea that  you can control the behavior of Black People, like we some dogs.

    If you so concerned with the Black Condition, you would uphold the artist that were speaking the truth about what the Government was doing to Black People, Supplying mugs and then scooping them in vans and making mad money from Prisons. Where is your pen on that topic. 

    You obviously don’t know the difference between a ma’fa protecting themselves in thier neighborhood from stupid ma’fa and cops…and trying to get out a ma’fa.

    Know what did somebody like you do: support them tv watching stupid mugs claiming sh’t and lives they did not live. You apathetic mugs shut out truth, and got fed by the 6 industries and drowned out and mismarketed the lyrics talking about what was going on to People all over this country.

    Now somebody like you trying to further insult an artform and promote it as confirmation that Black People are down and out because of the music they listen to. GTFOH.


    We have Free Will like any human on the earth.

    Get your sh’t together, or get pushed out.

  15. LetsBeRealpeople

    Once you change your philosophy, you change your thought pattern. Once you change your thought pattern, you change your — your attitude. Once you change your attitude, it changes your behavior pattern and then you go on into some action. As long as you gotta sit-down philosophy, you’ll have a sit-down thought pattern, and as long as you think that old sit-down
     thought you’ll be in some kind of sit-down action.
    -Malcom X

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