Inside The Heartwarming 'Men's Health' 'Hip-Hop Health: Mind Over Music' Panel
From left: Doug E. Fresh, Lute, Dr. Olajide Williams, Men's Health senior editor Keith Nelson Jr., Nick Cannon. Photo credit: Philip Friedman for Men’s Health
For the last 50 years, hip-hop has dominated our culture and its pioneers have transcended into legends. However, how much do we really know about them?
Men’s Health hosted “Hip Hop Health: Mind Over Music” SoHo Works DUMBO (which took place on April 7) saw different generations of hip-hop unite in a candid conversation surrounding the genre's unique relationship with mental health. The panel included Nick Cannon, Doug E. Fresh, Dr. Olajide Williams and Lute.
Moderated by Men’s Health Senior Editor Keith Nelson Jr., attendees arrived to find familiar faces, complimentary wine and a breathtaking waterfront view of Lower Manhattan. Guests found their seats within the intimate space, preparing for an even more intimate conversation.
Kicking off the panel, the speakers took turns discussing powerful songs that have had an emotional impact on them. The answers ranged from Tupac’s “Keep Ya Head Up” to Solage’s “Mad”, speaking to the genre’s multi-generational influence.
Digging deeper with his answer, Dr. Williams illustrated the power of hip-hop by shedding light on societal issues. He explained that this power has been apparent since the genre's conception, citing Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message”.
“Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge,” Dr. Williams recited. “What's so incredible about it is it connected social circumstances to mental health… It’s the social circumstances caused by structural racism that has created the environment that pushes people to the mental health cliff, and that’s why that song is one of the most pioneering mental health songs of all time.”
From left: Nick Cannon, Doug E. Fresh, Dr. Olajide Williams, Lute. Photo credit: Philip Friedman for Men’s Health
Afterward, the panelists opened up about their struggles within the industry. Cannon elaborated on his conflict with fame and what he describes as “access to excess”.
“That’s one of the biggest struggles for people who find themselves in our positions as artists and entertainers because everyone wants to cater to the artist,” Cannon explained. “You have to have a self-metric system and strong moral values, but a lot of us are just happy because we’re in it and we’re getting it… We look back and say, ‘Wow, I was on this amazing journey but I turned my back on a lot of people, or I was toxic in that headspace of trying to get to the bag, and I didn’t really care about others or my own feelings and health.”
Each speaker presented various ways of dealing with their struggles. Lute explained the importance of songwriting, treating the process like a journal entry. He also detailed that during hard times, he optimistically attempts to recognize the pain as material for great music later down the road.
View this post on Instagram
In addition, Cannon discussed the pivotal role that therapy has played for him throughout his career. He described it as an ongoing process that has helped him tremendously in working through grief and other complicated emotions.
Fresh detailed finding therapy in a non-traditional sense. He offered exercise, eating, rest and socialization as integral factors in balancing mental health. He explained that something as small as a walk around the block or a quick conversation can drastically change one's outlook.
“We have been taught as Black men that we should not cry,” he noted. “The line, 'man up,' has been misinterpreted, overused and abused and is the craziest bit of bullshit in the world. If a man has to cry, he should because it’s a release of energy that he may take and do something else with… When you cry, you release something that allows you to heal. My honesty and my vulnerability is that it’s okay to cry.”
The conversation concluded with questions from the crowd. One attendee asked the speakers to offer one word or phrase that described what is significant to them as Black men. The panelists took turns responding with the final words of the night:
"Peace of mind, love, family and God."
The night emphasized the need to prioritize mental health in hip-hop. As Nelson reminded those in attendance, the genre has lost too many artists at a young age, and the issue has become especially apparent in the past decade. The night shed light on the silent battles that figures with the genre have faced, stressing the importance of normalizing mental health issues in order to change the culture for the better.