Aubrey Graham is the king of hip-hop. There's simply no denying this. One may be able to claim other rappers are better either lyrically or musically, but when it comes to popularity, mainstream success, and personal brand, Drake reigns supreme. His latest project Views — perhaps the weakest album in his expanding discography — has spent a whopping 13 weeks atop the Billboard 200 charts, nine of which consecutively. He also has his own record label, OVO Sound, and a line of highly coveted sneakers courtesy of Jordan Brand, and he lyrically destroyed Meek Mill in their over-hyped beef and recently concluded his wildly popular Summer 16 Tour.
Drake has undisputedly cemented his place atop the throne of the industry. In fact, we haven't seen a dominance like this since Jay Z reigned supreme back in the early 2000s. But this past weekend the Toronto-bred emcee took some ill-advised shots at his rival Kid Cudi with "2 Birds, 1 Stone," the latest track from his upcoming project More Life: The Playlist. Drake derides Cudi for his struggles with depression, anxiety, and drugs with the following lyrics:
"You were the man on the moon / Now you just go through your phases / Life of the angry and famous / Rap like I know I'm the greatest / Then give you the tropical flavors / Still never been on hiatus / You stay Xanned and Perc'ed up / So when reality set in you don't gotta face it"
This is of course Drake's revenge for Cudi's Twitter rant in which the Cleveland rapper called out the former Degrassi star for employing ghostwriters. When it comes to diss records nothing is off the table. Rappers routinely take shots at any and everything pertaining to their adversary, from street credibility to money, rapping skills, and even the women in their lives. But Drake's diss is much more than just some clever bars aimed at an industry foe. His lyrics are the personification of the misconception about mental illness and mimic the views held by many within our society.
Contrary to Drake's claims, depression isn't merely a "phase." According to the Archives of Psychiatry, major depressive disorder affects nearly 15 million American adults, or roughly 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older, each year. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide. What's more is that these are just the numbers being reported, as a substantial amount of cases involving depression largely go undiagnosed and untreated. Depressive symptoms are frequently misunderstood as merely "being sad" or "stuck in a funk" with warning signs for suicide commonly misinterpreted as a dire thirst for attention.
And while there's a growing sense that depression only affects white, upper-class, young adults, according to research, major depressive disorder can develop at any time in one's life, regardless of race, with the median age at onset being 32.
Kid Cudi's admittance into a healthcare facility shouldn't be marginalized to a few punchlines in a catchy song. His commitment to getting help isn't something that should be ridiculed, but rather celebrated and applauded. It's an action that may have not only saved his own life, but another's as well, given Cudi's platform as a celebrity. Moreover, it adds to the necessary narrative of mental illness awareness within the African-American community, especially involving heterosexual black males.
Drake is both smart enough and conscious enough to understand this. One doesn't simply experience the sustained success he has without an inkling of common sense. Plus there are a multitude of other slights Drake could have flung at Cudi, like his marginal record sales since dropping Indicud, his beef with Kanye West, his departure from G.O.O.D. Music, or his questionable acting career. (HBO's failed series How to Make it in America is just the tip of the iceberg.) But he decisively chose to poke fun at Cudi's mental illness and drug abuse issues. At best, Drake's halfhearted bars are careless, at worst they're ruthlessly calculated. Regardless, they're incredibly reckless, and only highlight yet another problem in an industry predicated upon faux machismo and bravado. It's certainly not enough to knock him from his vaunted pedestal, but Aubrey Graham should be better than this.