Author: Ryan Brown, URMND Founder
Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s long-awaited collective effort KIDS SEE GHOSTS is finally out and I had mixed feelings on how to take on this project from the beginning. On the positive side, I absolutely love Kid Cudi. His debut album “Man on the Moon: The End of the Day” came in the midst of where I was in college, in love, doing drugs daily and often suicidal. Long before my diagnosis of depression and anxiety, music was one of my only positive alleviation from mental stress and Kid Cudi had a lot to do with that. His brutal honesty with his personal demons in his lyrics, the out of this world musical production and unorthodox singing/rapping mixed with his signature humming made for an incredible listen.
When it comes to Mr. West, things are not as transparent. Sure, Kanye has maybe three of my top ten favorite hip hop albums of all time, but the ridiculous negatives are there. Were talking about someone who FINALLY came to terms with telling the world he was mentally ill, but that was only after he was in hot water after the running-up-in-TMZ-and-telling-the-whole-building-slavery-was-a-choice fiasco. How many days off the Lexapro do you have to be to really get to that point? I’m not here for that. After all that, Kanye’s recent solo effort “Ye” was okay and easily his worst album, but I digress.
A week after dropping his mediocre solo album, we get KIDS SEE GHOST with his former signee and frequent collaborator Kid Cudi and my god is it glorious. A 24-minute deep delve into mental health, self-acceptance and navigating between success and failure. It has everything you could possibly ask for; a verse from Pusha-T, an appearance from Yasiin Bey and a killer Kurt Cobain sample that cannot go unnoticed.
But smack in the middle of this seven song work of art, Cudi and Ye gave us “Reborn” and we got one of the best mental health songs I have heard in years. Forget the glorify-drug-abuse-rap that every child between the ages 12 and 22 seems to seriously enjoy right now. Forget that I have Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts” as the greatest mental health song ever. Track five of KIDS SEE GHOST is just one of those honest records that sticks with you.
Kid Cudi’s message on the hook is simple:
“I’m moving forward. Keep moving forward. Keep moving forward”
What else can we do right? Especially as people of color. We are taught to shrug it off, sweep it under the rug, deal with our problems as they come. But when is that enough to actually deal with our problems, issues or mental anguish that comes with our everyday issues? Sadly, often times it’s not enough. Kid Cudi was brave enough to put his suicide ideations and problems with mental health in his music and personal message to his fans. With therapy, rehabilitation and self-affirmation he seems to be in a better space to rebuild his life piece by piece (the “rebirth”). With consistency in managing his health, he is able to do what he says in the hook and that is to move forward…
Kanye’s verse is A LOT to unpack and what really stuck to me about this verse is that my past and present could relate to every single bar. It was uncanny. It also was an extremely hard listen on my first couple go-arounds. I remember muting the song on my ride home one day because I did not want to have breakdown in the middle of Fairfax County Parkway. It was the first song I have heard in years where nearly every word was relevant to my life and it was chilling. So, my dive into Kanye’s verse in the song:
Jumping in… I am a documented homebody. Being in the club, someone’s smoke filled lounge or even being someone’s plus one to an event drives my anxiety to extreme highs. Even in environments where I am getting paid such as speaking engagements or events, in most cases I struggle to be there. I would rather be home. I am getting better at it every single day, as I have to learn to connect with amazing people while building brands, being a journalist, writing scripts for films and working my nine to five dealing with struggling clients, but the need for introversion is still relatively high.
I was off the chain and mentally drained at the same time through a lot of early adulthood. From 18 to until about 24 years old, I was in this flippant stage of needing acceptance, having a lack of self-identity but struggling with mental illness that I did not have a clue I even had. So drugs leveled me out and frankly, I did a lot of them. Mostly of the prescription pill mixed with my daily drinking and lean habit variety. In that rough stretch, I have done a lot in my personal life that I have come to hate myself about. When I was finally diagnosed with my mental disorders, I was totally against taking my medication as well (ironic based on my history with prescriptions pills prior). I was imbalanced emotionally, I was way more angry and confused than ever and my suicide ideations were consistent.
That song brought me back to that ashamed younger 20-something and it was hard. I hurt a lot of people. I lied about my condition just to keep people from getting close. I nearly killed myself if it wasn’t the recreation drugs, it was the idea of just ending it all in one move. But the message of the song was what I needed now that I am more mentally healthy, aware, comfortable and sober-ish (I still have my occasional cognac okay?). I’ve been there, done that and persevered.
Am I consistent work in progress? Abso-fucking-lutely.
Do I struggle with my demons? Every damn single day.
But the songs and albums that these artists create put me in a place to understand that there are people like me and deal with the same things as me. They rap. I write. They perform. I create and moderate a platform for my fellow writers who need to get something off their chest. I am forever grateful for people who tell a story that others can relate to, because they are possibly saving a life and same goes for a platform like the one I created. But as far as my own personal healthiness, happiness and wellbeing, “peace is something that starts with me.”