May has been recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949. “More than Enough,” this year’s theme, is a reminder that one’s worth is not determined by circumstance. This sentiment is echoed throughout Hulu’s RapCaviar Presents, a six-part docuseries addressing society’s most challenging issues, including mental health, through the stories of rap artists influencing our culture.
The RapCaviar Presents mental health awareness episode takes a deep dive into the emotional wellness of Black youth. It challenges societal norms, and even showcases the healing property of rap. Through interviews with Polo G, The Game, G Herbo, mental health professionals and others, the episode focuses on the traumatic effects of gun violence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2021 than in any other year on record. This included record numbers of both gun suicides (54%) and gun murders (43%).
Though gun violence is an issue throughout the United States, Black Americans die from gun violence at nearly 2.4 times the rate of white Americans. For nearly 50 years homicide has been the leading cause of death for Black males ages 15-24. And from 2018 to 2021, the firearm suicide rate for Black people ages 10 to 24 rose 58%.
Polo G speaks candidly about the traumatic impact of gun violence throughout the episode. As a young child, his uncle was a gun violence victim, altering how he viewed his environment. He stated, “I just was always aware of being depressed, bipolar, having mood swings. There’s days when I just don’t want to come out of my room.” G Herbo, another rap artist featured in the Hulu docuseries said, “Violence, it’s killing our culture, our neighborhoods, our businesses.” He went on to say it’s time to “switch that around” and “teach the kids that’s not the way to be.”
HEALING FROM TRAUMA
RapCaviar Presents also explores rap as a tool for healing from trauma related to gun violence. Polo G describes joining the Louder than a Bomb youth spoken word program in Chicago as a high school student in 2016. He said, “Writing was like therapeutic for me. It was just like an outlet. An extra outlet for expressing myself.”
In an American Psychological Association article, Howard C. Stevenson, PhD, director of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative at the University of Pennsylvania said, “We should place less emphasis on whether Black men are resistant to therapy, and more on understanding the contexts in which they already feel comfortable talking about their feelings and traumas. If a Black man is able to find a treatment that is culturally responsive, that he understands, and that embraces the uniqueness of his difference, he is more likely to use that service.”
Throughout the episode, Taurus Bartlett, Sr., Polo G’s father, shared the benefits of therapy and the importance of having strategies for dealing with stress. He also described the positive shifts that occurred in Polo G’s life when he began creating music with empowering and inspirational messages. G Herbo said, “Now that we got money, and we got influence we want to put that back in our community so they can do differently and want differently for they self. They don’t know unless we teach them.” RapCaviar Presents showcases Hip Hop culture’s utility as a tool for empowerment, which is also an aim of Hip Hop Appreciation Week.
HIP HOP APPRECIATION WEEK
Hip Hop Appreciation Week was co-founded by KRS-One and Professor Z in 1998 to increase self-awareness about the positive power of Hip Hop culture. Commemorated annually during the third week of May, this revolutionary celebration launched on the BET news program BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley.
Polo G decided to become a rapper one year after joining Louder than a Bomb. A year later, he had his first hit song, “Finer Things”. When reflecting on rap’s influence on his life, Polo G said, it allowed him to feel “good about something.” He went on to say, “everybody wanna be good at something. [Rap was] just something that I could be confident in that felt good.”
This year marks the 25th celebration of Hip Hop Appreciation Week, and the theme is “History”. As we continue to celebrate 50 years of Hip Hop culture, Hulu’s RapCaviar Presents series reminds us that the generational trauma the Black community faces due to gun violence cannot be ignored, and Hip Hop culture is a tool that can turn the tide.