Music is all about displaying emotion and hip hop is a true example of that. In the midst of songs about celebration and excitement lies some classic material from Biggie, JAY-Z, and Nas (and their successors) about heartbreak, despair, and even suicidal thoughts — topics that, at one point, were taboo at family reunions, barbershops, and hair salons within the Black community.
This is also the case in regard to drill, the considerably darker sub-genre of hip hop that’s taken over the streets of Chicago (it’s heavily agreed upon birthplace), London, and Brooklyn, as well as the many notable areas that encompass those cities. As it continues to receive a bad rap for violence, many drill frontrunners are diving into their mental health to discuss the tragedies they witnessed before fame and fortune.
One of those very frontrunners is none other than Fivio Foreign, an outspoken proponent of his art form who has already transcended drill’s negative-only stereotypes with his debut album B.I.B.L.E. As he stated often during his promotional run, drill is merely a sound, and the words contained within can become whatever he or his peers choose.
Below are lyrics from 9 drill artists who have opened up about mental issues on wax, further solidifying the fact that the younger generation is searching for ways to heal from past (and, for some, still present) realities.
1. Kay Flock – “Being Honest”
“Lately, I’ve been feelin’ alone, but I’m clutchin’ my chrome, pray to my mama I’m gon’ make it homе, twenty missed calls, I ain’t answеr my phone, then I heard JB ain’t make it home, they say, ‘Flocka, keep up and be strong,’ nah, why? ‘Cause that shit was wrong, and I told him to keep that bitch on ’em…”
Taken from last year’s The D.O.A. Tape, the ShoBeatz-produced offering samples the late XXXTentacion and sees the Bronx talent opening up about loneliness due to the loss of his loved ones — something that he was still coming to grips with at the time of this release. Unfortunately, Kay Flock is currently fighting legal issues, which will presumably add to the strife that his exponentially growing fanbase hears in his music.
ALSO CHECK OUT: “Being Honest (Remix)” feat. G Herbo
2. G Herbo Feat. BJ The Chicago Kid – “Gangsta’s Cry”
“I stayed up the longest when my nigga died, I poured up some more so I can stop from cryin’, relapsed after quittin’ like my second time, but I know I just wanna numb the pain that’s inside, I know I just wanna clear the rage in my mind, my younger days, will I still feel the same all the time?”
If there’s anyone who has no problem leaving his heart on his sleeve, it’s G Herbo. The Chase Davis-backed cut — from the Gold-certified PTSD — is only one of many choice tracks from the Chicago veteran that lets listeners know what he’s been through and how it affects him mentally today. His feelings on the importance of mental health is just as recognized as his music acumen — he’s even launched his own initiative “Swervin’ Through Stress” to assist the Black youth that are in need of support.
3. Dave – “Psycho”
“You ever fall ‘sleep ’cause you don’t wanna be awake? In a way, you’re tired of the reality you face? If you’re thinking ’bout doing it, suicide doesn’t stop the pain, you’re only moving it, lives that you’re ruining, thoughts of a world without you in it…”
Dave’s Psychodrama earned critical acclaim thanks to the Streatham emcee‘s penchant for attacking his and his loved ones’ mental health issues head-on. His follow-up, We’re All Alone in This Together, continues this pattern. The album’s intro, the Kyle Evans-backed “Psycho,” plays out in the midst of a therapy session, where he reveals how dark his thoughts have become.
4. Fivio Foreign – “Feel My Struggle”
“They think it’s over now, like it ain’t no more storm clouds, ’cause they see me on Rolling Loud, nah, I go through shit, I just hold it down, you gotta toughen up, you getting older now, when you on drugs, your body get broken down, we ain’t stop the drillin’, we just slowing down…”
As mentioned, Fivio Foreign is determined to show the world other sides of drill, which the Brooklyn rhymer has done successfully with his official debut. Helping to get his point across is the AXL Beats-produced “Feel My Struggle,” which — as the title suggests — sees him getting vivid about not only the struggles that got him to this point but also the inner demons he continues to fight today.
5. Pop Smoke – “PTSD”
“‘Cause when you come from where I come from, I ain’t playin fair, my lil’ homie die and I ain’t drop a tear, I just rolled a spliff and put it in the air … my PTSD startin’ to kick in, so I gotta get high…”
A bittersweet choice on this list, Pop Smoke‘s Meet The Woo standout sees him mixing his usual brand of hard-hitting subject matter with lines about suffering mentally as a result of what he witnessed growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. Given the many different sounds that can be heard on his first posthumous release, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, it’s only fair to believe drill would have continued to take over commercially if he was still with us.
6. Digga D – “What’s Love”
“She don’t like when I go on the glide, but it’s like on the roads I reside, and what’s love, ’cause I don’t know the meaning, and I’ve been lookin’ but it’s so hard to find, I’m actin’ like I ain’t got feelings, but deep down, I’m broken inside…”
Fans of Digga D are more than aware of what he’s had to endure as a result of his West London surroundings, having experienced violence, legal battles and multiple stints in jail before he turned 21. Years before he’d end up at the top of the UK Albums chart via his critically acclaimed Noughty By Nature album, the drill crown-bearer made big waves with his debut mixtape Double Tap Diaries. The tape includes one of the most unguarded lines heard by an artist of his caliber — on “What’s Love,” he admits to internal turmoil despite the mask he puts on for everyone else.
7. Polo G – “Battle Cry”
“Addicted to this ecstasy, I like how it feel, it’s like I been poppin’ X ever since I tried a pill, shit got me through some hard times, I lost my mind for real, lot of shit happened way too fast, I ain’t have time to heal…”
Drug addiction, mental instability, and PTSD are the main topics heard on Polo G‘s Die A Legend standout “Battle Cry.” It’s music like this that has propelled the Chicago star to the top of the charts, with his most recent drop being last year’s Hall of Fame and its 2.0 deluxe upgrade. Also of note is the fact that the video for “Battle Cry” is well past 69 million views some three years after its release.
8. Sheff G – “Black Sheep”
“Can’t take back what happened, you gon’ reap what you sow, nigga, got a lotta pain, lotta rage, in my soul, nigga, I like the way that it’s makin’ me feel, but I like the way that it’s makin’ me feel, bitch, I never fitted in, never was a lucky kid…”
2020 was a busy year for Sheff G. In between the well-received releases One and Only and Proud Of Me Now was the five-track EP Just 4 Y’all, a gift to his fanbase that housed the scarily evocative “Black Sheep” with the above lines in the song’s chorus. Presumably, we’ll be hearing plenty more songs from Sheff G bearing this level of depth once he’s freed from prison.
9. Lil Durk – “Cross Roads”
“That shit with Fredo got me tweakin’, they not cryin’, they just tweetin’, ain’t no time to do no grievin’, Percocet come out my pores, you don’t feel that when they die ’til it happen to yours, yeah…”
Lil Durk has experienced more loss than many, and this Just Cause Y’all Waited standout sees him lamenting over many of those unfortunate deaths. The track also details a powerful epiphany with regard to one of the greatest artists to walk this earth:
“That’s why 2Pac was so great, you feel me? He spoke his mind, nigga ain’t gotta be no gangster…”
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