Hip-hop exists far beyond the music. The lifestyle of hip-hop as we know it has contributed to some amazing collaborations and innovations within the music industry. But today, I would like to highlight a much bigger, and darker issue that exists within hip-hop- addictions. Addictions come in many forms- drugs, alcohol, and sex. While they shouldn’t be normalized, they are more prevalent than we think.
Earlier in the year, Kanye West opened up about dealing with a pornography addiction since the age of 5. In an interview with Beats 1 West got incredibly real about how Playboy was his gateway to a porn addiction. “My dad had a Playboy left out at age 5 and it’s affected almost every choice I made for the rest of my life,” West said.
When LL Cool J dropped his critically acclaimed autobiography I Make My Own Rules, fans were stunned to find out his admission of being out of control with sex and drugs. In the book the rapper recounts the numerous groupies he enjoyed during the early days of his career as well as an addiction to pornography.
Back in 2006 when Kirk Franklin was on his Hero Tour, he opened up his pornographic addiction. His song Let It Go explains his journey as well. He received much backlash for being a gospel artist revealing his “dirty secret.”
Just last year, Q-Tip opened up to Jonah Hill about his struggle with pornography as well. Tip admitted that people treated porn like a drug. “Because of the lengths you had to go to to get the shit.”
While these examples mostly highlight men, women aren’t excluded from the conversation. Just recently, Jada Pinkett Smith admitted that she dealt with a pornographic addiction before meeting her now husband, Will Smith. On Red Table Talk, the actress detailed her “unhealthy relationship” with pornography with her daughter and mother.
Actor Terry Crews opened up about his addiction on an episode of Black Love, and how the addiction put a strain on his marriage.
We often put celebrities on a pedestal, giving them more credit than they deserve. Precisely because everyone is subject to flaw–regardless of status, money or popularity. Pornographic addictions are way more common than we really think, and it’s more powerful than we acknowledge. What we view as harmless, has long-lasting, detrimental affects on the mind and the body. The human mind develops these addictions unconsciously.
By now, you’re probably thinking, why did Shelby write this? This think piece has been on my mind/heart for some months now, and I never had the courage to write it. Mostly because it’s an issue that’s very close to me. Much like these mega stars within the industry battling sexual and pornographic addictions, I’ve battled with these same issues most of my life. Similar to Kanye West, I was exposed to sex at a very young age, which has impacted my mind and thoughts since then. And there’s a thick layer of shame added on to it. I know it sounds crazy, right? While my problems may not be on the extreme end of the spectrum, I realized it was a major issue for me in high school and college- and still now, in the present. It still remains an everyday struggle to overcome.
I’ve dealt with being a perfectionist most of my life. I’ve hidden behind a façade most of my life, so people wouldn’t be able to see my everyday struggles and flaws. But I want to share with you today that- I no longer strive for perfection, I just want to be real and authentic. I may not have all the answers, but this is me at my most open, bare.
Outsiders can look at our world of hip-hop and think that it’s the genesis for promoting sex, money and other material things, but it spans a lot farther than that. The music and the lifestyle itself aren’t to blame here, but it does perpetuate the “sex sells” narrative. But in that same token, it provides healing as well.
In a grander scheme of things, these addictions highlight bigger issues not just in the hip-hop industry, but within the Black community alone. Within my group of friends, I notice we all have minor struggles here and there, but our coping mechanism is what can push us to derails us further.
I’m not perfect here, and don’t want anyone to think that I am. While my addiction is still a daily struggle, I have used music as my solace. My fear of being vulnerable haunts me daily, and I believe this is the beginning of my release. My journey to vulnerability exists in something that I love the most–music. Where I can relate, I can overcome. And there’s so much beauty in that.
God saved my life, and music is keeping me company along the way.