Deep Dive: Critical Thinking of Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar


maya egan

The History Of Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West


When people think of artists that are open about their mental health, their mind often wanders to well-known pop singers including Demi Lovato, Billie Eilish, and Halsey. A lot of the time though, quintessential men in the industry are overlooked, including rap singers Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West. Let’s dive into the history of these two men as rappers that share their struggles with mental illnesses through their music.

Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick Lamar is one of my favorite rappers because of the authenticity displayed in his music. Lamar’s started rapping in 2003 with the name of K.Dot. He became more well known years later through his album Good Kid, m.A.A.d city that came out in 2012. This album has many powerful songs on it, and two that come to mind are “Money Trees” and “Swimming Pools.” In “Money Trees,” Lamar alludes to the idea that with money, many of his mental health struggles would be resolved. In, “Swimming Pools,” Lamar talks about his struggles with alcoholism with this line in particular: “fillin’ up my cup, I see the crowd mood

Changin’ by the minute and the record on repeat, took a sip, then another sip, then somebody said to me..” Another part of the song is actually being told from Lamar’s unconscious mind telling him that he must continue drinking: I know that you’re nauseous right now

And I’m hopin’ to lead you to victory, Kendrick If I take another one down I’ma drown in some poison abusin’ my limit.” Both of these songs are still popular to this day because of the prevalence on the app Tiktok, and also the fact that they are so powerful in their message about mental illness. As the 2010’s progressed, Lamar gained more traction towards his music. His most well-known album, Damn. came out in 2017, and many of the songs on this album became top hits of the year. He was also featured in the soundtrack of the infamous Black Panther movie. Although he hasn’t created music in a few years, because of his amazing old music that displays a really important message, he is still relevant in this day and age. 

Kanye West. Everyone knows Kanye West in 2021 through his outrageous behavior online and because of his very public divorce with Kim Kardashian. Although he often has a negative face in the media, his music is incredibly impactful to everyone that listens. West took the entertainment industry by storm in 2004 with his song “College dropout.” He would later produce more well-known albums in the coming years, some include: Graduation, (2008) Yeezus, (2013) The Life of Pablo, (2016) Ye, (2018) and Jesus is King. (2019) Kanye West is very open about living with Bipolar Disorder, and people often invalidate his struggles in the media because they do not understand the complexity of his manic episodes. In his more recent music, Kanye has been very raw in regards to his struggles with mental illness. For example, in his 2018 album, Ye, in the song “Ghost Town,” there are some mentions of a loss of childhood and he opens up about some of his struggles with substances; “Yeah, and nothing hurts anymore, I feel kinda free…We’re still the kids we used to be, yeah, yeah…I put my hand on the stove, to see if I still bleed.” Many people love his music and how raw the lyricism is, yet these same people invalidate his struggles with Bipolar Disorder and Depression, which I think is very interesting.

Why these men are significant. In our society, men often feel as if they have to suppress their emotions and struggles because it would make them look less strong and macho-esque. Especially online, men often make sexist jokes online towards women, most likely to make themselves seem more masculine. The amount of times I’ve seen tiktoks that state that women should stay in the kitchen is absurd. On the other hand, there are prevalent men such as Harry Styles that have no issue wearing dresses, or other “feminine” clothing. (I just want to clarify I do not believe that pieces of clothing should be confined to gender, I just wanted to point out that some people would consider a skirt to be more feminine.) Unfortunately, though, Styles has gotten immense hatred for wearing specific articles of clothing, especially by Candace Owens who believes that we need to bring back “masculine men.” Okay, boomer. Anyways, if people continue to have this mindset, finite change will never take place and toxic masculinity will continue to thrive. Hatred is inevitable because everyone has different opinions, but having men like Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar opening up with their struggles in such an authentic way through their music, makes men and women realize that their struggles are validated and that it is okay to be open with your struggles. In regards to Harry Styles, he has begun to normalize the idea that clothing isn’t made specifically for one gender, which also does a lot in regards to breaking down gender stereotypes. All of these men have done a lot for toxic masculinity as a whole– when men are able to speak about their feelings and wear whatever they want without fear of judgment, then societal constructs regarding masculinity will be broken down. As a society, it is clear that the more exposure that we have of people defying gender stereotypes, the more normalized this behavior will become, which leads to decreased toxic masculinity and probably a world where men aren’t afraid to share their feelings.