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Buzzing rapper, CYN co-founder and author Kai Ca$h caught up with REVOLT for Mental Health Awareness Month to discuss his own struggles with anxiety, self-care during the pandemic and how artists can use their platforms to open up a dialogue about mental health with their fans. After seeking out natural coping mechanisms for his anxiety such as meditation, exercise and journaling, Kai shared his journey with fans in his book, “Tranquil: Overcoming the Experience.”
“It was my way of figuring it out and it could be a way for everyone to figure it out,” he told REVOLT. “I felt I needed to give people some insight on how I’ve dealt with it.”
Like Kid Cudi; Tyler, The Creator; G Herbo and others, the Birth In The Borough rapper has used his following to start an honest conversation about mental health. In this exclusive interview, Kai talks about decreasing the stigma, his new Mental Health Mondays and why self-care is important — especially now. Plus, read on for details about his upcoming music, CYN collaborations and more. Read below.
Tell us about your mental health journey that you documented in your book, “Tranquil: Overcoming the Experience.”
Yeah, of course. Basically, I found out I had anxiety in 2015. I really didn’t know where it came from or how to deal with it. So, at first, it was kind of like a bunch of panic attacks, heart palpitations and just those uncomfortable feelings. I’ve always been a person that likes figuring things out. So, as the year progressed, I went to a new college and I just decided, it was time for me to try to figure out what’s going on and how to, if not defeat it fully, then how to cope with it.
I just started journaling and figuring out really how I was able to handle it on my downtime. I started picking up exercising and reading more and watching funny things, being more active to keep my mind off things, but it worked out for me and I was able to cope with it. It never really went away because I don’t think anxiety is something that goes away. But, I was able to cope with it and know how to turn it off.
Why was it important for you share your experience with others through your book?
At the time, I was a sophomore in college and I just knew, college was the common ground. Most of the students felt the same way, I know they were anxious. People in general — anxiety is one of the common things with people. Everybody has a form of anxiety. I wanted to share my story, and I let people know that it wasn’t a guaranteed remedy. It wasn’t a clinical remedy, but it was my way of figuring it out and it could be a way for everyone to figure it out. I felt I needed to give people some insight on how I’ve dealt with it.
Mental health has become more openly talked about in music, but how can artists be doing more to create that dialogue?
Using their platforms to have more open discussions. Social media is kind of like vital right now, and with things like [Instagram] Stories, where we can ask questions or do polls, I feel like there’s a real need for people with big platforms to extend their hands and just check on their fans. Even if it’s like a quick post with a caption and just insightful information, it will help people understand they aren’t alone. I feel like a lot of musicians deal with anxiety. We hear it in the music, but being that it’s music, it never seems like a real, serious situation. But, I feel like some of these songs are a cry for help sometimes. People should just be engaging with their emotions and checking in on the people that support them. The platforms, now, are so big that people take heed of what their entertainers [and] their athletes are saying, what they’re doing. With the quarantine, Instagram Live is so big, and we’re paying attention to what people are doing at home and I feel like it’s very vital for entertainers to at least take some time just to raise a flag, and let people know you’re not alone and feel free to have these conversations. That’s why I started Mental Health Mondays ‘cause I wanted the people that do tune in to be open to having that conversation.
When did you start hosting your Mental Health Mondays and what are some of the topics you’ve talked about?
I started it late 2019. It’s fairly new. The topics that we speak on are anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anything dealing with mental health. Now, my topics are more so like prompts and just getting feedback from people seeing how they feel about certain things. Like, this week, I asked how people how they’re going to feel if Coronavirus lasts longer than we expect. The conversation just grew deeper and deeper and as it progressed, the conversation really allowed people to speak on how they felt. It just gives people a space to be open-minded and relieve themselves of whatever stresses they feel.
Mental health has become more and more discussed in hip hop — with the passing of Juice WRLD, G Herbo releasing his PTSD album and more. Why is it important, especially in hip hop, for artists to keep shedding a light on these topics?
Hip hop is the dominating genre right now, we have the biggest audience. The musicians themselves — as we’ve seen with Juice WRLD, as we’ve seen with G Herbo, as we’ve seen with XXXTentacion — music is just expressing yourself. If we really listen, there’s messages in the music. It’s necessary for us to relieve the stresses that we have [in the music] and let people know that it’s common. It’s not something that’s super unique and you’re not the only person feeling this. There’s people that have the most money in the world that feel exactly the same way as people that aren’t fortunate at all. [Mental health] is our common ground.
I feel like sometimes people brush off their mental health problems because they don’t want to be a burden. But you never know, people around you might be dealing with the same thing. That’s why I feel like it’s very important for us, as artists, especially on big platforms, to speak on these things.
We’ve at least seen some stigma around mental health decrease in hip hop and music in general. But, there’s definitely more to be done.
Yeah, I definitely agree with you, 100 percent. It’s getting better.
Especially right now, with Coronavirus and self-isolation, how are you taking care of your mental health? What is some advice you would give to fans?
What I’ve been doing is just being inspired by just small things that I wasn’t inspired by before. Like going outside and just looking at how the trees have grown, how the grass is growing — it seems like earth is just cleaner. I’ve been looking in the sky more like. In the daytime, we can see the moon and that’s just so crazy to me! Being able to create, reading more, writing more, or watching more inspirational documentaries. Exercising, meditating, praying. Those are just like my tactics and how I’ve always dealt with my anxiety. So, my advice to everybody is pick up new tactics, good habits, write out your goals and work toward whatever you’ve been thinking about with this new free time. I think it’s important for everybody to just learn themselves, for one, and tap into something new.
On the music side of things, you just dropped your video for “Sturdy.” When did you film that?
We actually shot that, luckily, a month before all this stuff started happening. So, I was able to be outdoors. I just bought a camera yesterday and I’m about to start making my own videos at home. I want to build an aesthetic. That’s how I’ve been working now – I teach myself a lot through YouTube how to edit and stuff like that. Basically right now, with creating videos, I’m trying to learn how to do it the best way I can, as well as make it part of my brand.
You also recently teamed up with Chris Brown and K Wales on “Tank.” Are you planning to drop a video for that collaboration?
Yes, we’re looking to do so. I just gotta get to CB, that’s the biggest thing. With this whole quarantine thing happening, with him being in L.A. and me being in Georgia, I’m trying to figure out if we can shoot some clips separately and put them together. But, I’m definitely looking forward to having that video shot very soon.
How did you and Breezy link up for that song?
It was crazy. One of my friends from CYN, my boy Ralph, he’s actually a good friend with Chris Brown, and I had sent him the song when it was just me and K Wales on it. CB was just a fan of the song and how fun it was. I was in college at the time. They called me at like 6 in the morning, I was asleep and they were in the studio. I woke up to the call and I heard Chris Brown’s voice and I was just like, “Yes! This is lit.” And the next morning, they sent me a voice message of the whole song back. From there, we just became cool. That’s a friend of mine now.
You’ve been dropping off a few singles this year. Are you leading up to a sophomore album?
I’m just dropping loose singles for now. But, I definitely have a plan for a sophomore project. I’m just waiting for this whole Corona[virus] situation to die down. For the time that I have isolated, I’m gonna just be releasing singles, and now that I’ve got the camera, I’m going to be releasing more videos.
You tweeted that you and CYN’s Niko Brim are looking for some beats. Are you guys working on something?
Yeah, me and Niko ‘bout to work on something crazy together! We’re gonna drop a project together, I don’t know how long it’s gonna be, but we started working immediately. We probably have like three songs already. Me and Niko work super quick together.
What’s CYN up to these days?
Everybody’s in the same kind of realm. We’re all just working on new music, exercising, checking in on each other. We just started CYN Gaming, so we go live on Twitch on Tuesdays at 7 pm. We play Call of Duty Modern Warfare, stuff like that. But yeah, for the most part, everybody’s been good. We actually are all working on music together, as well. That new music should be coming very soon from CYN.
Would you like to add anything else about taking care of your mental health or your upcoming music?
Everybody, no matter how you’re feeling, find a way to get it off your chest. Either with someone you trust, or buy a journal, or something like that. And, like I said earlier, try out some new tactics — meditate, pray to whoever you believe in, exercise, go outside and just enjoy the fresh air. The small things in life mean a lot.
As for music, stay tuned. I have some very, very exciting things coming.