Artistes are stepping up and sharing personal experiences about mental health, which is bringing the topic into the spotlight and inspiring others to open up too.
June is men’s mental health month and though it may come as news to some men, we hope it becomes a normalised culture that won’t need reminder at its time. Here are a few deep-cut songs,with themes around mental health that men should listen to.
Trigger Warning: there are mentions of suicide and suicidal thoughts.
Duade — Show Dem Camp ft. Cina Soul
In 2019, SDC released its classic album, Clone Wars IV: These Buhari Times; an audio-documentary of the Nigerian political, cultural and mental ecosystem. The fourth track, Duade, (featuring Ghanaian singer-songwriter Cina Soul,) explores the topic of masculinity and depression. Tec opens the song with a message about how men in this part of the world don’t have an outlet to talk and often grow up thinking it’s wrong to express themselves emotionally or be vulnerable.
A Self Evaluation of Yxng Dxnzl — M.I Abaga ft. Niyola
This song starts with a voice note of M.I’s mum telling him to always do the right things and not forget where he comes from and. But all M.I wants to do is “drink, fuck, smoke, chill, party all day still,” with an admission that he’s been battling a deep depression and can be the worst guy sometimes.
This song comes from his most vulnerable piece of art, Yxng Dxnzl (A Study on Self Evaluation). Across the ten-track album, listeners experience the rapper at his most human and honest form, tying mental health awareness with his personal journey, insecurities and short samples of his therapy sessions at the end of each song.
Wetin We Gain — Victor AD
Wetin We Gain was of the biggest hits of 2018. Apart from its catchy chorus and relatability, different meanings (like quick wealth and internet scams) have been attached to the song, in opposition to its actual message; a cry to the heavens for a breakthrough. But it’s even deeper. The most memorable lines of the song expresses the daily fear of average Nigerian men, who feel pressure to be the breadwinners of their families.
I’m A Mess — Omah Lay
After his latest release, Boy Alone Deluxe, we can all agree Omah Lay is the current Nigerian poster boy for vulnerability and emotional travails. On I’m A Mess, he deeply expresses his broken heart, sadness, and finding escape in liquor. Baring age and gender, everyone can relate to this song due simplicity, both in production and lyricism.
It’s Okay To Cry — Yinka Bernie ft. Joyce Olong
Nigerian multidisciplinary artist Yinka Bernie accurately describes the feeling of being stuck; an experience that a lot people today can relate to, on Joyce Olong-assisted It’s Okay To Cry. Inspired by personal experiences which made Bernie doubt his music career; he soothes listeners with an encouraging message of hope and the acceptance of vulnerability “it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to feel lost inside.” This song feels like reassurance in audio form.
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Odeshi — Alpha Ojini ft. Ogranya
Alpha Ojini’s Tears Are Salty For A Reason EP is filled with deep cuts tracks of vulnerability, but Odeshi explores masculinity and mental health profoundly. Ogranya lays a chorus that expresses bottling up tears and other emotions, and Alpha details struggling with mom’s demise and the ‘manly’ approach his tough dad gave him to deal with the long-time grief. All of this is coupled with the mental stress of surviving Nigeria and an ex serving him breakfast. Ogranya ends the song with “I go still commit” which translates to taking one’s own life; an expression of the last resort if the darkness doesn’t stop hovering over him. It’s a powerful record that reminds one why mental health is important and issues shouldn’t be bottled.
A Song About Suicide (Mr. Babalawo Reprise) — PayBac iBoro
Nigerian rapper PayBac iBoro has been a big advocate of mental health since he made an official entry into the Nigeria music industry in 2015. On his 2018 album, The Biggest Tree (his present to all depressed West African kids), is A Song About Suicide. PayBac expresses strong suicidal thoughts and his final wishes after he’s gone, over a dark fusion of Afrobeats, African percussion, trumpets sounds — all instruments you’d find at interments. Overall, the song is based on his fight to hold tightly to life and his beloved family and friends.
Dance In The Rain — 2face Idibia
This is one of 2Baba’s greatest recordings. A record that pushes a message of deep appreciation for life and enjoying it, taking every breath of air, being present in the moment and staying open to possibilities. In a period like this, this song is a good refresher and great reminder to chin up and stay positive.
How Bad Could It Be — Burna Boy
Off of Burna Boy’s 2022 album Love, Damini, this song opens with the voices of U.K singer Jorja Smith, Nigerian boxer Kamaru Usman, dropping statements about self-control; and making rational decisions during intense situations. Burna Boy glides on the guitar and laid-back beat that accompanies it, singing about the punctures of anxiety and dreadful feeling of searching for answers in the wrong places.
take a break — Odunsi (The Engine)
Odunsi talks about his mom’s constant complaints about his absence from home. But she needs to understand he’s been busy working hard to achieve success and make her proud. If he’s not making things happen for himself, who else will? These are some of the mentally-challenging situations inspired by his personal experience, the song encourages resting and recharging to avoid burnout.