Man Down: The Evolution of Masculinity and Mental Health Narratives in Rap Music


Mental health
toxic masculinity
rap music
lyrical analysis
coping mechanisms


This article explores how one of the most typically hyper-masculine cultural arenas in Britain and America has evolved over the past 30 years, as rap artists decide to reject the stoicism of toxic masculinity in favour of promoting healthier conversations surrounding men’s mental health and associated coping mechanisms. Though rap has always been vocal about mental distress, its dominant narratives have evolved over the past 30 years to talk more specifically and positively about mental health issues. Over time rap has begun promoting therapy, medication, self-care and treatment, rather than self-medication via drugs and alcohol, or violence against the self or others. This is symbiotically informing and being informed by society’s changing ideas about masculinity and the construct of gender. In order to explore the evolution in discussions around men’s mental health from the 1990s to the present day, this article is split into three sections, each focusing on a different decade. I closely analyse the lyrics of one rap song in each chapter, which has been selected to represent rap’s general trends regarding discussions of mental health from that decade. I also briefly explore other songs that prove the decade’s trends. This article draws upon academic research as well as personal interviews undertaken with Solomon OB (2016’s National Poetry Slam champion), and Elias Williams, founder of (an online media platform engaging with social issues and shining a light on young men of colour). I posit that rap culture is often wrongly overlooked as a forum for progressive social change, explaining why it is crucial that academia further appreciates and examines rap’s potential for changing cultural perceptions of masculinity and mental health.


To cite this paper please use the following details: Hart, R. (2019), 'Man Down: The Evolution of Masculinity and Mental Health Narratives in Rap Music', Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 12, Issue 1, Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at

Authors are responsible for obtaining permission from copyright holders for reproducing through any medium of communication those illustrations, tables, figures or lengthy quotations previously published elsewhere. Authors are also responsible for adding these permissions to the acknowledgement footnote that precedes all other notes or crediting the source and copyright of photographs or figures in the accompanying captions.

The journal's policy is to ask authors to grant us the licence to publish their work, which gives us the exclusive right both to reproduce and/or distribute their article (including the abstract) in printed, electronic or any other medium, and in turn to authorise others (including Reproduction Rights Organisations such as the Copyright Licensing Agency and the Copyright Clearance Center) to do the same. In return the author(s) assert their Moral Right to be identified as the author, and we promise that we will respect their rights as the author(s). That is, we will make sure that their name(s) is/are always clearly associated with the article and, while they do allow us to make necessary editorial changes, we will not make any substantial alteration to their article without consulting them.

Copyright remains with the author(s), however, the author(s) authorise us to act on their behalf to defend their copyright if anyone should infringe it, and to retain half of any damages awarded, after deducting our costs. The author(s) also retain the right to use their own article (provided they acknowledge the published original in standard bibliographic citation form) in the following ways, as long as they do not sell it or give it away in ways which would conflict directly with our interests. The author(s) is/are free to use their article for the internal educational or other purposes of their own institution or company; mounted on their own or their institution’s website; posted to free public servers of preprints and/or articles in their subject area; or in whole or in part, as the basis for their own further publications or spoken presentations.

If you have any queries about copyright please contact the Journal Coordinator, Fiona O'Brien, at


Download data is not yet available.