My own mental health and wellbeing was never something I’d really considered until a few years ago, when an interview meandered down that path. I was sat in an empty boardroom talking to J. Cole about his forthcoming album ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’ and he was explaining his intention to connect with the things that truly made him happy. “I was really consumed with career and success,” he explained, of his previous albums. “My happiness being based on my success rather than appreciating what I have.”
This seems obvious now, but at the time I’d never realised that climbing the career ladder and happiness, aren’t necessarily reliant upon one another. At that time, I believed that the two were linked, and I couldn’t have one without the other. I’d subscribed to the idea that sacrificing a few years of my life to stress and hard work would ultimately pay off when I arrived at the top of my career mountain and reaped the rewards and riches. Obviously this doesn’t happen, the inbox never empties, there is always some way we can do better, and I’d have undoubtedly found myself decades down the line wondering where all my time had gone, or worse.
As our conversation went on, it transpired that many of these ideas had been instilled in us by the competitive braggadocio that we’d grown up on as hip-hop fans; a culture that’s largely built around hyper-masculine posturing and competition. We’d watched Jay Z sign unprecedented endorsement deals and 50 Cent make millions from Vitamin Water (after dealing enough lyrical blows to Ja Rule to ruin his career completely). It seemed like every rapper became an entrepreneur. And they boasted about these deals in their lyrics, in the same way that up-and-comers these days document their brand-endorsements, gifted products and exclusive parties on their Instagram feed. We’re now fighting FOMO and living through other people’s images and experiences, or too busy showing off our own, to truly enjoy the world around us and live in the moment.