“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 firstname.lastname@example.org, his website, NoWarningShotsFired.com, or follow him on Twitter (@truthminista).