Rap and hip hop music do not necessarily seem like they would be the artistic expression of someone who meditates. Often, the music is provocative, even angry, raising the adrenaline levels of the listener by espousing messages of “hustling til you die.”
Yet, meditation and hip hop have had a long and rich history together. Cultural mogul and co-founder of Def Jam Records, Russell Simmons, has been meditating for the last 20 years. In fact, he ascribes a great deal of his current success, and more importantly, his happiness, to the practice of mindfulness, so much so that he wrote a book about it.
“All of us want less thoughts. The calmer the mind, the happier the spirit. So when the mind is settled: bliss. If we have a mind full of fluctuation, then we have a mind full of suffering. When you see people and they’re starting off, there’s so many thoughts in their mind and it causes suffering and sadness. When you see people who are awake and present and clear, then there’s happiness. It’s that simple,” he said in an interview with Oprah about his new book Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple.
Kendrick Lamar is another hip hop great who practices meditation. Lamar has won 40 awards from 114 nominations, including 7 Grammy Awards and the ASCAP Vanguard Award for his work as a composer. In an interview with GQ Style, he described his meditation practice.
“I have to have at least 30 minutes to myself. If it’s not on the daily, every other day, to just sit back, close my eyes, and absorb what’s going on.”
Lamar proceeded to cite the importance of meditation in the hectic life of a musician.
“When you in music — and everybody knows this — the years are always cut in half because you always have something to do. […] So I have to find a way to understand the space that I’m in and how I’m feeling at the moment,” he said.
GQ Style interviewed Lamar at the same time as Simmons’ former partner, Rick Rubin, co-founder of Def Jam and MTV’s “most important producer of the last 20 years” in 2011. Rubin began practicing Transcendental Meditation around 40 years ago as a teenager, per doctor’s advice.
“When I was 14 years old, I went to see my pediatrician, the doctor who delivered me, because my neck hurt when I went to school. He said, incredibly for his day, that it was stress and I needed to learn to meditate,” he stated in an interview with Rolling Stone.
One of the many musical artists Rubin has worked with is Mac Miller, a rapper who’s been 7 years in the music industry. Not only did Rubin work with Miller on the music, but Rubin also taught Miller some of the fundamentals of meditation to give Miller the strength to get sober.
“[Rubin taught me about] just being still, and how important it is to be able to quiet your mind and be honest with yourself,” he told Rolling Stone in a separate interview. Miller had been struggling with an addiction to promethazine and codeine.