Remaining aware of modern events can take a toll on one's mental health, especially in the days of a pandemic and police brutality becoming more visible than ever. Dallas-based rapper Bryson Cole has recently taken some time to reflect and embark on a mental health journey of his own.
On his upcoming album, Letters to Myself, Cole documents his journey from peace to pain in the form of 12 hip-hop tracks.
The rapper has been releasing music since 2016. Growing up, he wasn’t always interested in music and spent most of his time drawing cartoons and writing poetry.
“I didn't learn to appreciate music until I was 14,” Cole says. “My mom used to ask for custom CDs that she could play in the car, so I would burn her CDs of her favorite rap songs, usually consisting of Chris Brown, Missy Elliot and Ludacris. After a year of burning rap CDs you begin to appreciate the music.”
For his 16th birthday, Cole asked his parents to take him to a recording studio to cut a track. They went to Fifty 50 Studios, where Cole put his poetry skills to the test to create a rap track. He says that this took place around the time that Kendrick Lamar had lost Best Rap Album to Macklemore at the 2014 Grammy Awards.
“Let’s just say, I felt compelled to speak on it,” Cole says.
He later uploaded the song to Soundcloud, and it caught the attention of his school.
“Most of the rappers at my school wrote generic rap songs,” Cole says, “so I think people were impressed that a 16-year-old was writing rap songs about racial injustice and rap politics that wasn't putting kids to sleep. This was just the start to my musical career.”
To this day, at 22 years old, Cole still uses his platform to talk about important social issues. Upon Letters to Myself’s release this Friday, a portion of the sales will go to George Floyd’s family’s GoFundMe, as well as The Bail Project.
On the album's lead single, “Elevate,” Cole talks about his journey of self-reflection and using his pain to grow as a person.
“Once I found God and realized His plan was far greater and better than mine, the reasoning behind my pain and struggles became clear,” Cole says. “The track ‘Elevate’ serves as a reminder to me and others that we don't quit, we just reassess our situations and know that our life is in His hands.”
Cole says that he began taking mental health seriously about two years ago after a co-worker of his took his own life. This event opened his eyes to how many people struggle with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. As he became a confidant to people who were facing such struggles, he realized that he didn’t know whom he could confide in.
“I began to reflect on my own life and saw that I didn’t have the companionship that people found in me,” Cole says. “In 2019, I went soul searching. I began to understand life and build stronger relationships with my inner circle. Once I learned how the world worked, how God worked, and how people worked, I began to appreciate the world for what it was. My goal is to bring that same reassurance and peace to anyone that goes through depression.”
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Letters to Myself is coming at a crucial time. Cole believes that people should take extra care of their minds with the same fervor that they would take care of their bodies, and that includes distancing themselves from people who drain their energy and offer little to no support in their lives.
"This is a pivotal time in history, and I believe it is our responsibility as human beings to stand up for what we believe in," he says. "To stay informed, I educated myself through social media, through friends who marched through the city, and news articles about everything going. With deep pain in my heart I still sought out time to meditate and pray on the situations. This in return offered me affirmation and peace.”
While times are tough, Cole still believes in a brighter future. Through his music, he is finding peace within himself and hopes to inspire people to stand up for what’s right.
“In my lifetime, I’ve personally never witnessed so much outspoken mutual pain for the racial injustice and systemic oppression in our country,” Cole says. “I have seen videos that have disgusted me to my core, of police killing people that look just like me. But I have also seen videos that bring me to tears from people that aren't black but that march alongside black people ready to conquer the injustices together."