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West Michigan rapper uses rhyme to challenge stigma around mental illness

Courtesy of 5iveit Entertainment
Rick Chyme is known as Grand Rapids' hip-hop poet.

As part of our series "Minding Michigan," we explore mental health issues in our state.

Today, we introduce you to Patrick Cleland, better known as Rick Chyme.

He’s a rapper from West Michigan who's been collaborating with local artists from around the state and has several project in the works.

This year, Chyme was featured with the indie folk band The Accidentals. Then, a dance film was made to his original track “Pull Me Back” off his new albumBald Since Birth.

Despite his success, Chyme struggles with depression. And he talks about it in his music, produced with friend Jason Burke, stage name Nixon. Together they mix beats with lyrics to form a blend of hip hop and spoken word.

As a young kid Chyme was obsessed with basketball. He played in high school and some in college. But, at the age of 15, his dad died in a plane accident and that really changed the direction of his life.

"So after the crash happened I completely submersed myself into basketball and then around that same time into hip-hop," said Chyme.

Each song on the album tells a part of Chyme’s story, from the loss of his dad to where he is today.

He began writing the lyrics shortly after Art Prize 2013, the year he performed a 17.5 hour freestyle rap.

"It was in pursuit of a Guinness book record and you could only stop for five seconds, and there was just consistent content coming from these different sources."

Chyme did not get that record for longest freestyle rap. But people were paying attention, and he was gaining notoriety. Still, he felt like something was off. "Here’s all this love coming and feeling like you don’t deserve it."

Chyme knew his depression was keeping him from truly being comfortable in his own skin, but he didn't know what to do.  

Around this time, Chyme started working with The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan. He was learning about mental health first aid, and using his music to connect with kids. 

"I’m using this music as a vehicle to articulate these messages to these young people. But at the same time, I’m learning what the signs and symptoms of depression and about mental illness are myself."

Chyme finally found the help me was looking for. He wrote a full-length album documenting his journey. He says if other people can put the stigma behind them, they can get the help that they want.

"A lot of people are sitting there knowing that they could probably benefit from an outside perspective someone with professional training. There’s a difference between knowing that and going and making that move to put yourself out there … and we’ve been taught that vulnerability is not a strength … there’s nothing wrong with going out and getting a coach … don’t think you have to navigate this as a solo mission."

Chyme continues to talk with young people about suicide prevention and the signs and symptoms of depression. He also mentors young rappers. 

The last song on his album is called "Today," and it strikes a hopeful note. Chyme says he’s committed to finding balance in his life and he encourages others to do the same. 

Minding Michigan is Stateside’s ongoing series that examines mental health issues in our state.

Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of Stateside.
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