AWKWORD Champions Mental Health With ‘#AaronSwartz’
Mental health is the elephant in the room of hip-hop that very few people want to acknowledge. When someone commits suicide, we take a moment to mourn for the deceased, but far too often, we allow the tragedy to occur in front of our eyes and try to pick up the pieces instead of being proactive in prevention.
Rapper AWKWORD broaches the seldom addressed topic of mental health in his latest song '#AaronSwartz,' named after Aaron Swartz, the late Internet activist and programmer.
The last six months have seen the loss of two up and coming rappers to suicide. Seattle rapper Freddy E shot himself in early January. He was 22. On Christmas Eve, Capital Steez of Pro Era also killed himself. He was just 19-years old.
The rap game's competitive spirit can be cannibalistic. "Here today, gone tomorrow" isn't just a phrase, it's a mantra that dictates career trajectories for everyone except a select handful of artists. Outside of the stars, money and the opportunity to make money is scarce. Competition can inspire better music, but it also can cut down the dreams of younger artists before they can be realized.
For fans, hip-hop can be a form of therapy. Music has the power to relax us and clear the mind. Message has been an important part of hip-hop from its early beginnings, but a lot of times this has only gone into the realm of addressing societal disparity. With mental health a growing concern worldwide, it is important that emcees take on the challenge of tackling the issue.
One of the first hip-hop platforms to address the issue of mental health was Soul Culture, which is in the midst of their "OK Not To Be OK" campaign. In this interview series, Soul Culture has talked to artists ranging from J. Cole to Janelle Monae about the issue of depression. A very personal issue for site founder Mars Gosho Oakes, the series also contains self-help tips on how to cope with the symptoms of depression.
New York rapper AWKWORD is also not afraid to back down from the issue of suicide prevention. He has released a new song called "#AaronSwartz," an homage to Swartz, who committed suicide at age 26. AWKWORD spits bars of motivation over a beat from Steel Tipped Dove, with a powerful hook from L*A*W capping it off. The song shouts out the late Capital Steez and Freddy E, but also gets personal, with AWKWORD talking about his own friends who took their lives.
Listen to "#AaronSwartz below. Hopefully initiatives like these will open up the dialogue about what it means to battle depression, to prevent the premature loss of more brilliant minds.