Music and mental health go hand in hand, and more than ever is the cross-section of both a necessary space. While in the past, it may have seemed like mental health wasn’t the easiest topic to touch on within the music industry, artists from all over the world are standing up and coming together to break the negative stigma and raise awareness — a gamechanger when one has the platform to do so.
Insert Luna Clipse, a rapper who’s here to raise the bar and tell his story.
In describing himself, Luna states, “I was born in the Twin Towers prison for the criminally insane, where I lost my sane identity to be resurrected as Luna. That’s the alter ego that I took on when I go to rap battles. I basically turned the lunacy that I was discovering and discriminated against into a weapon in verbal combat.”
Now, he teamed up with 15x Grammy-nominated producer Jerry Wonda for his newest album titled Lunacy. Wonda has worked with everyone from The Fugees and Mary J. Blige to John Legend and Beyonce, and has always had an affinity for mental health.
When the two actually linked in the studio, the synergy was immediately apparent. Wonda was able to help Luna express himself musically while leveraging his “inner lunatic” into a positive phenomenon.
AllHipHop spoke with Luna Clipse and Jerry Wonda virtually to discuss their love for hip-hop, creative process in the studio, mental health, and more.
AllHipHop: Talk about your love for hip-hop and the culture.
Luna: What I love about hip-hop is it was born out of the voice of the voiceless – that was the spirit of it. I just did a track with Dead Prez and Bizarre from D-12. These are guys that I love, because they have that spirit that represents the voice of the voiceless.
When I was in the mental institution, my brother gave me his iPod and I was listening to Devil’s Night. They were rapping about the devil, hell, mental illness, all the stuff I was going through. My man Marco Polo, who I used to rap with was like that too – he rapped about anti-establishment, anti-Illuminati type s###. He hooked me up with Cannabis and Bizzare from D-12 and Sticman from Dead Prez to start doing tracks with them.
AllHipHop: Was Bizarre in person or was that sent?
Luna: No, he got me on the phone with Bizarre, then Bizarre sent his verse – same thing with stic.man, a song called “Scalped Eagle,” on a Havoc beat that sounded to me like Native American Spirits and reminded me of The Shining at the White House, where Jack Nicholson was really the president and his kid was the president’s kid.
AllHipHop: Talk about your creative process and how you work in the studio. Are there certain things you need to record? What’s your environment?
Luna: Well I’m always writing in and out of the studio, but Jerry’s got this energy when he creates in the studio that makes tracks come together in a perfect way. He’s like an alchemist. Can you believe he actually designs his own candles?
AllHipHop: I love candles!
Luna: His daughter just read me my tarot, stuff that I’m into. The spiritual stuff. He has an atmosphere of energy that creates the space for the completion of ideas that I start out of the studio.
When Jerry told me his hero was Quincy Jones, I watched the documentary on Quincy Jones because I was curious. I saw MJ on Broadway, and “Thriller” was the thing that made Michael Jackson blow up. It reminded me of our Joker. People will find out about him soon.
Jerry Wonda: MJ on Broadway was the best show I’ve seen. And I love Broadway, it was my first since the pandemic. The music, the script, the talent – they were all so good. And the room, even the people that came for the show. It was so much fun.
When I met Luna, I got connected to him through his writing and I loved his story. He writes so much and when he writes a song, he basically writes it like a movie. As a producer, I say “okay now this is how our chorus is going to be. Instead of doing 72 bars, let’s do 30, 32 bars. Then 48 bars.” I put some structure to it, and turned his writing and expression into songs.
Luna’s not Luna without his light source. He brings these huge lights to the studio and sits in front of them to meditate before we cut vocals and create. The music basically comes from the air, it’s a vibe.
AllHipHop: What was the first song you guys did and what was the energy?
Jerry Wonda: I’m going to let Luna answer that, go ahead.
Luna: “Lunacy” was the first one we did and it was about losing your mind. Before that, I had never done songs. I just did battle raps. Jerry taught me about song structure and writing. I gave him way too much at first. [laughs]
Jerry Wonda: He gave me the chorus that was two pages long, I’m like whoa okay. What’re going to do here? [laughs]
Luna: That’s right, the chorus ended up leading the song. Because at the end of this amazing chorus — the chorus was “I thought I saw a silver lining. Is this heaven or is this hell I’m fighting? Lights go down, lights too bright, it’s frightening. Am I just losing my mind?”
So the first verse, every couple of bars was a different variation of “am I losing my mind?” But the second verse is telling the world that they’re crazy. You gotta be crazy to do this, to do that. By the end of the song, you’re like “am I losing my mind? Or is the world losing its mind?”
Jerry Wonda: And that was the hook. The album is all about having melodic hooks on the records. All the songs are melodic with meaning. It’s very special to me.
AllHipHop: Why did you name the album Lunacy?
Luna: It’s because everyone’s losing their mind now, not just us. We’re all on the same sinking boat. [laughs] It was an EP, but now it’s like11 songs.
AllHipHop: How important is mental health for you?
Jerry Wonda: It’s everything to a person. Your mental health is so important. As a Governor for the New York Chapter of the Recording Academy and Co Chair of the P&E Wing and owning a recording studio, Platinum Sounds, I work with a lot of people daily – engineers, vocalists, musicians – I see so many people, artists come to the studio that really suffer. One of the things that I put in my goals in life is how do I help musicians? How do I help music creators?
Even you, me, all of us: we get to a place here some days we wake up and we feel sad or we cry. Sometimes you don’t even know why. It’s all mental health, we just don’t talk about it. For me, mental health is everything. I’m also sitting on a board for Backline. Backline’s mission is to help musicians who are on tour that suffer, they are the ones that don’t even go home or sometimes see their families. Some days they wake up and they don’t even know where they are.
AllHipHop: Luna, talk about how you balance your mental disorder.
Luna: Well, I picked up a ton of habits along the way out of necessity. Because 1 in 4 people with bipolar disorder commitS suicide, so it’s the desperation that drives you to pick up things. I do cold showers, I do fasting. I do transcendental meditation. I used to be on too many meds, so I took a lot of time to strip down meds to the bare minimum.
Mushrooms helped me a lot at some point. I also run an hour and a half daily. You evolve over time in your mind and your body because you have to do these things.
AllHipHop: Anything else you guys want to let us know?
Jerry Wonda: We should know the album’s coming out October 14th. We decided to drop it around that time because of Mental Health Awareness Day..
Luna: And it’s the Joker’s month. [laughs]
Jerry Wonda: We want to help raise awareness on mental health and tell LUNA’s account of his Lunacy story. This project is water for the body, it’s food for us. It’s dessert. [laughs] It’s lunch, dinner for people.