“People have this misconception that meditation will chill you out and make you soft, but the opposite is true.” - Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Recordings
Hip Hop is a cultural force in the world. The Hip Hop world and genre has evolved, as artists have started opening up about the inevitable life challenges that we all face as humans. In 2016 Kid Cudi courageously shared that he checked himself into rehab for depression, as depression and anxiety ruled his life for so long that he couldn’t leave his house. In the mix of hip-hop’s dive into mental health awareness, it’s no surprise that several mainstream artists have opened up about their methods for coping. Jay-Z advocates for therapy and many others use mindfulness practices, specifically meditation. 50 cent was interviewed by Oprah, who was surprised (as I was I) that he meditates! He uses a mantra given to him by Deepak Chopra. In J Cole’s song “Friends” he advocates finding a better way to handle challenges, by meditating instead of self-medication and even acknowledges that it’s not perceived as ‘cool’:
“I understand this message is not the coolest to say
But if you down to try it I know of a better way
But as an increasing number of rappers shed light on their practice, it can’t help but get ‘cooler’. To name a few, Mac Millar, Big Sean, J Cole and Kendrick Lamar are avid meditators who have spoken about the practice as impacting many areas of their lives and creative output. Def Jam Recordings label founders Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin, both moguls in the hip hop world, share that much of their success is from meditation.
“There’s a great deal of bullsh*t that people think about when they make music, things that don’t matter,” Rubin says. “[Meditation] kind of wipes that away, and you focus on the real job at hand, as opposed to thinking about what the management wants, or what the record company’s saying, or what somebody at a radio station might think.”
That being said, we all deal with an overloaded and constantly racing mind in our daily life, whether we're making music or something else. Mindfulness practices are methods to exercise and strengthen the mind, and calm our body so we can see reality a litter clearer and start to choose how we behave. It's like taking your mind to the gym. First you need to learn what the exercises are, how to do them with good form, and which ones work for you, then you get stronger with practice.
If you're not convinced, you probably need to listen to more rap.