#OKNotToBeOK:<br />
Hip-Hopâs Manic Depression<br />

Hip-Hop’s Manic Depression

Marsha Gosho Oakes of the UK online music mag SoulCulture speaks on #OKNotToBeOK, a campaign launched to address depression in hip-hop

Alexandra Phanor-Faury

by Alexandra Phanor-Faury, July 25, 2013

#OKNotToBeOK:<br />
Hip-Hopâs Manic Depression<br />


As for her own parents, they may have suspected she was going through some hard times over the years. But they, along with everyone else, learned the true extent of Oakes troubles by reading her post. “Me not sharing it with my parents prior to my post had nothing to do with them not supporting me. They are very supportive of the campaign,” explains Oakes, “I just did not want them to worry and blame themselves.” 

Prior to hoping on a plane to New York the day #OKNotToBeOK kicked off, she emailed her post to her parents. “We have yet to really talk about it,” she says. “I think this will happen when I get back to London.” (Weeks later in England, she finally addressed the issue with her mum. “I actually just spoke to my mother about it a couple of nights ago whilst hugging a bottle of wine,” she emailed. “Still more conversations to be had. I’d say we only scraped the surface.”)

Considering the high level of isolation and alienation associated with depression, this is another big step forward for Oakes towards managing her mental health.

“In the industry, when it comes to Black artists, the only context we really discuss if people are OK is if they have an accident or get shot. But if we witness one of them going through mental issues, we are very judgmental and label them crazy,” Oakes points out. Hip-hop artists are quick to express anger and rage in their music before ever touching on their sadness, for fear of being labeled weak.

“If a rapper came out talking about needing therapy, how would that go down? It’s not a reality right now because there’s not enough compassion out here. I’m hoping to get there one day soon with this campaign,” explains Oakes, who believes getting artists who lead seemingly flawless lives to speak up about their personal experiences can persuade their fans to alter their views on depression and mental health care.

#OKNotToBeOK launched its celebrity interviews with a candid Ne-Yo speaking about the anger and sadness he harbored as a child growing up with an absent father, and how therapeutic music was to channeling his depression in a positive manner. Since its launch, Oakes has recruited J.Cole, who touched on his bout with depression, while recording his sophomore album, Born Sinner. Chrisette Michelle talked about the advantages of a healthy diet on the mind. Most recently, Janelle Monáe stressed how important it is to ask for help.

“I think artists are the ones most inclined to feel a lot of pressure and understand depression, but they are less inclined to show it or share it,” says Oakes. “We talk about strong communities, businesses and fighting injustice. But what about building healthy spirits? That’s where it starts.”

Alexandra Phanor-Faury is a Haitian-American writer living in Brooklyn, New York with a slight (OK, major) addiction to fashion and pop culture. When she's not up in the middle of the night filling her online shopping carts and catching up on style blogs, she's writing about fashion and entertainment for a number of websites and her blog, Fringueuse.

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