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At a time when our collective mental wellbeing faces constant internal and external threats, messages calling attention to the importance of mental health have come from an unlikely place—controversial hip hop superstar Dababy.
Previously, we highlighted the deadly toll the pandemic and other factors, such as racism, have played on the mental health of Black communities. For instance, between March and June of 2020, suicide rates among White residents in Baltimore, Md. decreased by 45%, while they increased by 94% for Black residents.
Dababy—born Johnathan Kirk—recently released a music video for his single “Lonely”. The song trended at #1 on YouTube this week. “It’s a profitable topic for y’all , sh*t real life for me,” the rapper wrote on Instagram.
Dababy won’t stop making music after backlash from homophobic comments
No stranger to controversy, Dababy faced backlash over the summer for homophobic comments he made at a July 25 performance at summer music festival Rolling Loud Miami. The reaction was swift. Several celebrities and LGBTQ advocacy groups immediately condemned the comments, and several festivals canceled Dababy from performing.
Yet, even as the music world appeared ready to toss him aside, Dababy has relentlessly released a flurry of projects and music videos, while continuing to perform in front of large crowds in the weeks since his controversial comments.
“Lonely” opens with the rapper dressed as the Joker from Dark Knight. Dababy, who also directs the music video, terrorizes a street before two police officers order him to drop his gun.
Next, the first verse of the song opens with Dababy rapping at an insane asylum. He brags about being able to kill someone for therapy and get away with it.
“I can use the murder for therapy. / I could make the news with it, break the internet. / Have ‘em all nervous and scared of me.”
Dababy reveals his own mental health struggles in “Lonely” music video
Diving into the chorus, Dababy repeats the same phrase several times: “Lonely, lonely Baby.”
In the second verse he explains why he’s lonely, talking about the memory of witnessing a loved one get shot to death right in front of him.
“As if I got a reason to act like I’m lonely. / I saw my big brother laid out with his brains blown out. / It’s been catching up on me.”
The next lyrics reveal that Dababy’s brother committed suicide, with the memory of the act continuing to haunt the North Carolina-based rapper to this day.
“Shit how would you act if your bro took his life, / and you know that you rappin’ make all of these millions, / and don’t even trap and you livin’ your life / the best you ever had just to see it come crashin’ down burnin.”
He goes on to paint a picture of being alone in a car with a bottle and a pistol.
“In the car with a bottle of liquor a pistol a lonely killer. / Ain’t no love at the top just a lonely n*gga.”
Message inspires others to check on mental health
Going back to the chorus, Dababy’s message comes full circle. Perhaps, he’s speaking about the external struggle that comes with trying to please his fans amidst controversy. Perhaps, Dababy’s message focuses solely on the internal struggle living with the memories of his brother’s sudden death.
Either way, the transparency in his lyrics combined with the chaos of the scene around him illustrates his desire to reach out to listeners who may be struggling with their own mental health issues.
Importantly, though suicide rates have generally decreased across the nation, communities of all colors in at least one state have had to cope with a rising rate of suicides in 2020.
Residents in Oklahoma actually experienced a 15-year-high in the suicide rate across the general population, according to an analysis by Oklahoma Watch. It’s a state that regularly ranks in the bottom half of U.S. states for mental health.
Lil Wayne collaborates with Dababy in “Lonely”
Featured in Dababy’s illuminating project is rapper Lil Wayne. The collaboration doesn’t appear to be conincidental. In recent weeks, Lil Wayne opened up about his own near-deadly experience with a suicide attempt when he was a child.
In an episode of “Uncomfortable Conversations with Emmanuel Acho”, Lil Wayne said “I couldn’t have what I wanted, what I dreamed of, what I desired, and that was to rap,” he recalled feeling at the time. “I was willing to die for it,” the rapper said, explaining he had no one to vent to at home or at school.
He eventually shot himself in the chest, but survived. He said he and his mother grew closer after the incident, and he wanted to open up about his story to help others going through mental health struggles.
“What I wish they knew is that it’s real,” he said. “That it’s real. There is no bar to measure how real. It’s real.”
In “Lonely”, Lil Wayne joins Dababy at the insane asylum. Bringing a more light-hearted and seductive vibe, he uses his verse to entice a lonely woman to join him.
“Let you stay on it, Let you skate on it / let you play on it, then lay on it / and cuddle on ‘em then jay on em / like you are not alone.”
Mental health resources
Hip hop has long been known for portraying the lived experiences and attitudes of marginalized Black men in the U.S. But the level of transparency around mental health struggles that Dababy portrays in this project gives listeners and watchers fresh motivation to seek out mental health services for themselves.
The video ends with a message from the “Rockstar” artist. “Mental Health Awareness Matters,” the final text reads.
“100% of us either deal with or know someone who is dealing with issues revolving around mental health on a daily basis. Take a moment after watching this video and check on your loved ones.”
To access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-8255.
For more resources on how to help prevent suicides, click here.