When it comes to his mindstate and his mental health, Joe Budden has always been an open book with fans. On his 2009 album, Padded Room, the Jersey rapper acknowledged having suicidal thoughts ("In my head I die often, I use to think of suicide often / Good suit on and a nice coffin / But that ain't something I would try myself / Still they locked me in this room all by myself") and his battle with depression can be found in just about every entry in his catalog.
In a new interview on the Grass Routes Podcast, Budden was asked by hosts Brandon Hall and Erin Ashley Simon to describe the darkest days of his life and past suicide attempts.
"For me, there have been less than five times where I've actually attempted suicide," Budden revealed. "That wasn't in '03, '04, 'Pump it Up' was out then. But that didn't mean that the days weren't dark. That didn't mean that the suicidal thoughts weren't there. So those probably left, when I say '04, that's when I didn't really have those thoughts anymore."
Later in the interview, Budden, 37, stressed that neither fame nor money caused his mental health issues but that both helped to magnify problems that already existed.
For as long as hip-hop has been around, its practitioners have been led to believe that showing vulnerability is a weakness. Budden, however, appears to be on a mission to advocate for mental health in the rap community. In addition to shouldering the responsibility himself, Budden also credited Charles Hamilton, Logic and Anderson .Paak as three artists who have done a lot of good for raising awareness.
"As open as I've been when it comes to mental health, it wasn't until air quotes retirement that I was able to dive into some of the things the fans have seen," Budden added, referencing his 2014 solo Shady Cypher. "That would have never happened if I was still an active rapper. As an active rapper, I have to protect everything that comes with being signed to Shady, all the politics, all the behind-the-scenes, what it takes to get the job done."
Unlike some of his younger peers, who Budden himself credited with advancing the mental health conversation while actively rapping, Budden seems to believe that his mission couldn't fully take flight until now. While some fans might have been able to better connect with Joe's battle with depression and suicide through rapped lyrics, the reality is that his platform with Complex as a co-host for the show Everyday Struggle allows him to now reach a far greater audience.
The lingering cloud of suicide in hip-hop won't ever go away—no matter how many A-list rappers feel comfortable publicly exercising their personal demons—but the fact that the conversation is now positive and has picked up in recent years suggests brighter days are ahead.