Danny Brown

Brown has been transparent about his struggles with mental health.

The circus of fame is no place for the weak. The feeble of heart, mind, or will rarely fare well in the spotlight. The hip hop ring of this circus is one that runs on crafty posturing, clever boasting, and the masterful glossing over of all but the shiniest aggrandizing details. For a rappity rap dude, keeping the smoke and mirrors in place is a full-time job. Transmitting gritty opulence, superiority and invincibility is no easy feat. Displays of weakness: not allowed. As such, it’s not common to see a member of this circus peel back the curtain to show the reality beyond this world of bottle popping, groupie love, and opulent grit.

This week on Twitter, rapper Danny Brown did an oddly rare thing: he admitted that he’s not doing so well. No, the Detroit affiliate wasn’t tweeting through a hangover or an unfortunate encounter with drug du jour Molly. He was, however, speaking candidly about his mental health issues, talking openly about depression, insomnia, drug use and death.

“I can't sleep my anxiety is at an all time high (sic) but don't none of y'all care about that sh*t,” Danny confessed. Then, “Depression is serous y’all think I do drugs cause it’s fun.”

He touched on fake rapper friends, specifically naming Mac Miller, whose purpose I have still yet to identify, as well as those who collaborate with him just to steal his fan base.

Brown has publicly stated that he had kicked an addiction to lean, which he’s spoken of previously,  for the sake of his health, but now feels worse than before. He graduated from using the drug for recording and performing to needing it to get through regular days and party nights. Now, his withdrawal prevents him from sleeping and functioning normally.

While many will view this as the inevitable mental unraveling of a drug-loving rappity rap dude, it led me back to the heartbreaking losses of Michael, Whitney, and Amy, three greats whose stars all dimmed gradually until they lost their lengthy battles with substances. Three masters both of stage and staged attempts at being okay at least while cameras rolled, each one gone. Now, I’m not likening Danny to those greats in terms of prominence, but he matters to his fans. He deserves consideration because he is a human, and has now officially reached out—to anyone listening—for help, for sympathy. As much as hip hop lovers tout the genre as a way of life, something greater and more powerful than merely glorifying crime and materialism, a public showing of support by a peer would be a great look. Now having heard his call, feigning ignorance is no longer an option.

Black men are conditioned against emoting and encouraged to shun vulnerability. Crying is outlawed, flaws are neatly tucked in, and everything is always “all good.”

Among the many gripping moments of his outburst, the most memorable came via his remark that the public looks for and encourages his antics, wanting him to “be goofy and make a damn fool out of [himself].” In short: "Nobody cares if I live or die...That's the bottom line...Y'all want me to overdose just don't be surprised when u get what u asked for." 

He is right.

We love a sh*t show. Our grim fascination with the demise of the mighty keeps blog pages filled and news broadcasts packed with scandal and celebrity strife. In the arduous months and years before Michael, Whitney, and Amy left us, circulating reports of their antics become commonplace. They became MADtv skits, YouTube parodies, comic strips. Videos of Winehouse stumbling and slurring though performances as the band played along regularly went viral. There were endless debates over how high Houston was during a given appearance and who was to blame. And then there was Jackson, known more as punch line than legend in his final decade of life.

Where was the showing of love they had all so selflessly given unto us?

There was none. Because we assumed that they, loopy and unpredictable as they may be, would always be around. Here. With us. Forever. Regardless of how pained their lives had become. Give us music. That’s all that matters.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Now I can admit that I didn’t know what a Danny Brown was until news of him receiving (allegedly unwanted) oral sex from a fan while performing hit the internets last spring. But after I watched him introduce his demons to the world this week in real time, I was both intrigued and impressed. And then saddened. This level of transparency, a rarity from the famous and infamous, saves lives. In the case of Amy and Whitney, it was perhaps their fierce defiance and insistence on the nonexistence of any cause for concern that ushered them both into the next lifetime. Brown’s outpouring presents a chance for someone, anyone, to do what we were unable and unwilling to do for the other’s we’ve bid farewell to.

Maybe Danny Brown means nothing to you. Perhaps you’ll read of his woes and write this all off as a publicity stunt (he has since announced a tour) or as part of the gift basket of f*ckery that comes along with fame. Instead, he should be commended for his honesty, as should anyone bold enough to admit they’re not okay.

Black men are conditioned against emoting and encouraged to shun vulnerability. Crying is outlawed, flaws are neatly tucked in, and everything is always “all good.” Conversely, Danny has been quite open about his failed G-Unit record deal, less-than-ideal appearance, and money problems. He is the anti-hip hop star. He holds no punches about his battles and shortcomings. Basically, he set aside the expectations of polished stardom and had a relatable, human moment.

These same characteristics that have apparently rendered him alternative, weird, and relegated to the suburbs of mainstream appeal have, in my eyes, made him more likeable. He doesn’t put on any airs of wealth and status unlike your favorite rapper who secretly cries himself to sleep on his boxspring at night. There is no grandeur. The struggle is very real.

True to form, with a tour to promote and prepare for, it appears Danny will set aside his anguish and continue making those around him richer. Rather than ridicule or dismiss him, a bit of compassion will go a long way here. Whereas other famous cocaine cowboys remain breezy (or, should I say, "Breezy") and flippant about such matters--- even though we all have eyes and can recognize a train wreck--- let’s applaud this man for his bravery and hope he inspires others to face their own demons head on, and ask for help when it all becomes too much to bear.

Thank you, Danny.

Alexander Hardy is a writer and cultural critic living and working in Panama. He shares his experiences on his site, The Colored Boy. Tweet him at @chrisalexander_.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally contained incorrect references to both Adderall and Brown's affiliation with A$AP Mob. We sincerely regret our error.)