Mental Illness in the Music Industry: Is There Hope?

By Vitória Arantes

It is crucial for the musician to have an oasis; an escape in the midst of chaos. Those who are lucky enough, find their nirvana in the process of music making. 

There is no doubt that modern day musicians are in an endless game against anxiety. Money problems, self medication, and the pressure to please the public are life changing factors that might become great issues in the artist’s life if not treated correctly. Being a musician is a rather emotional rollercoaster, filled with the ups and downs of the thrills of life. However, it is also very exhausting and takes up most of the artist’s energy. According to Genius Magazine, in 2019, the digital distribution platform Record Union conducted a research regarding the music industry. The survey stated that more than 73 percent of independent music makers suffer from symptoms of mental illness, and that anxiety and depression were the most common conditions mentioned in the songs. It is crucial for the musician to have an oasis; an escape in the midst of chaos. Those who are lucky enough, find their nirvana in the process of music making. 

In light of the news that Kid Cudi’s and Kanye West’s Kids See Ghosts collaborative album is possibly making a comeback, it is only fair to analyze a successful example of how music managed to heal a musician’s wounds. 

“I was ecstatic to be alive,” says Cudi to Esquire Magazine when discussing Kids See Ghosts, a collaborative album launched in July 2018 with the rapper Kanye West. Followed by some time spent in rehab in 2016 and a year off making music due to depression, Scott premiered his comeback alongside Ye, who was not only a shoulder to Cudi, but also a mentor who was crucial in Cudi’s path to recovery through music. “I felt a little bit more confident because I had my friend lifting me up,” Kid Cudi stated when questioned about the role that Kanye played during the music making process. The self titled album was released through the label imprints, GOOD Music (an American record label founded by Kanye in 2004, co-signed by Def Jam Recordings), and Wicked Awesome Records. It also has a total of seven songs all produced by Kanye and Kid Cudi, along with the collaboration of worldwide known artists like André 3000, Justin Vernon, Cashmere Cat, and so on.

Mental Illness in the Music Industry: Is There Hope?

“Kids See Ghosts”: a hip hop duo formed by Kid Cudi (left) and Kanye West (right).

The album is filled with messages and symbols that reflect on Cudi’s journey and how he managed to emerge from a catastrophe, stronger and better than ever. In the song “Reborn,” for instance, the hip-hop duo sing about rising above their errors and overcoming the “lemons” that life gives you with lyrics like “I’m movin’ forward,” and “peace is somethin’ that starts with me.” Clearly, the rappers grew a very fruitful harvest with those “lemons,” because two Gold-certified singles (“Feel the Love” & “4th Dimension”), one Platinum track (“Reborn”) and a No. 2 debut on the Billboard 200 albums chart does not grow on trees.

Mental Illness in the Music Industry; Is There Hope?

Album cover of “Kids See Ghosts” debut album. Artwork designed by the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.

On most “recent” events, during an interview with Complex in September 2019, Cudi confirmed his and Kanye’s plan to develop more Kids See Ghosts projects. “There will be more Kids See Ghosts albums. Kanye already told me he wants to start working on the second one,” affirms Cudi. Although this might seem like it is not happening anymore because it was announced over a year ago, an artist’s work should never be rushed. Furthermore, a fan that encountered Cudi on the streets in December 2019, made a tweet testifying that the rapper stated he was working on the album during that time. Could there be hope, after all?

Mental Illness in the Music Industry; Is There Hope?

Tweet made by a fan when encountering Kid Cudi. Via Twitter.

“I’m really learning the art of pacing myself. I don’t think I knew how to pace myself before. I was always just like, ‘Work, work, work, work, work. This is my dream. Ain’t no telling how long it’s going to last.’ …Whenever we feel like we’ve seen it all in life, or there’s nothing more to do, God tells you, ‘Yo, you’re not done here. You still have more work to do here.’” Kid Cudi, on how collaborating with Yeezus helped him balance his work mentality and take one step at a time. 

Thankfully, Scott Mescudi managed to release himself from the chains that his mental illness pinned him into and consequently, showed to the world that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Kid Cudi’s breakthrough served as an example to the world that embracing what holds you down is better than trying to blind yourself from it. Kid See Ghosts is a clear example that there are always better and healthier alternatives to overcoming your obstacles. Cudi used his passion – music – as a way out, and the commitment he made to living in alignment with what makes his heart skip beats played a significant role in his healing. After all, this is what we should all live for: passion. It is what tingles our sense of individuality and stimulates us towards innovation. 

Mental Illness in the Music Industry; Is There Hope?

The album’s “price tag” showing its tracklist, awards, collaborators, producers and release date.


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