Lil Wayne is opening up about a suicide attempt at age 12, with the rapper saying he shot himself in the chest after his mother told him that he needed to stop rapping.
The 35-year-old rapper opened up in an interview with Billboard, saying that he found a gun in his mother’s house and pointed it toward his chest, pulling the trigger. The bullet just missed his heart, and Lil Wayne played it off as an accident, he told the magazine.
He would go on to recover, and his mother relented and allowed him to pursue rapping — as long as he didn’t swear in his lyrics. It would take only a few more years for Lil Wayne to gain national prominence, with the 1998 breakout hit “Tha Block Is Hot.” He did not swear in the song.
The rapper recounts the incident on his upcoming album, Tha Carter V, and said he believed the time was right to share the struggle he went through before making his name as a rapper. The suicides of designer Kate Spade and chef and television host Anthony Bourdain inspired Lil Wayne to talk about his own suicide attempt, said the president of his Young Money Entertainment label.
“He just told me one day that he was ready to address it now,” said Mack Maine, via Hollywood Life. “Just being an adult, reaching a level of maturity and comfort where it’s like, ‘I want to talk about this because I know a lot of people out here might be going through that.’ “
Lil Wayne had referenced the shooting a handful of other times in his songs, but had not spoken about the motivation behind it. He has been hailed for efforts to open up about mental illness, leading the way for a number of others in the rap industry to speak openly about their own mental health issues and allowing it to become a theme of their music.
Experts say that has helped not only in the rap world, but in the greater black community.
“In the black community we sweep those things under the rug, because we just don’t know how to have those conversations,” Dr. Daphne Watkins, director of the Joint Ph.D. Program in Social Work and Social Science at the University of Michigan, told NBC News.
Lil Wayne’s album is due out next week.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.