In the fast-paced, swag-filled world of hip-hop, slowing down the mind can seem as improbable as Tupac’s return from the grave.
For many, the hip-hop lifestyle is all about cranking out raps, and indulging in the material riches that come with the success they reap.
But Devi Brown, a media and radio personality who has covered nearly every celebrity in the hip-hop arena, is seeing a change of mind, so to speak.
More and more rappers are meditating, and talking about it.
“You are surrounded by excess and fame, and it’s not necessarily natural,” Brown, 30, said. “That can lead to your questioning what more in life there is. It’s such a sacred thing when we make music, but I see this is a time where a lot of people are disillusioned with the things we put value on. Meditation is a remedy and a tool to lead to deeper understanding of self.”
Meditation, which is the practice of concentrated focus, is known to help reduce stress, improve concentration and even boost overall health. Many celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Katy Perry, Gwyneth Paltrow and Will Smith, practice it.
Of course, there’s also hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who has been doing yoga and meditation longer than many of the new faces of rap have been alive. But a growing number of millenial rappers – including Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, Big K.R.I.T. and others – also are espousing its benefits.
Take Big Sean, for example.
The Detroit native and Grammy-nominated rapper talks about balance on his latest effort, “I Decided,” and has said his 30-minute morning meditation helps get his started day “right.”
Brown picked up on the rapper’s zen-ness immediately during a recent interview.
“He was all about self growth. He envisions each chakra lighting up, and it helps take his practice to the next level,” she said.
Brown meditates daily and became a certified primordial-sound meditation teacher through the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, Calif., in 2016. Around the same time, she launched Karma Bliss (karmabliss.com), a company that provides meditation tools, resources and products such as journal, crystals, chairs and beads. She even quit her job as morning radio personality at 93.7 The Beat last month to focus on her company full time.
Brown now splits her time between Los Angeles and Houston. Her husband, Duane Brown, is an offensive lineman for the Houston Texans.
More artists, she said, are looking for ways to balance the challenges of fame in their daily lives.
Lamar, who dazzled the world with his Grammy performance in 2016 and took home four awards that year, has said he spends 30 minutes of almost every day in silence. On his single, “Untitled 03,” he raps: “Meditation is a must, doesn’t hurt if you try. See you thinking too much, worried about your career, ever think of your health?”
Rick Rubin, co-founder of Def Jam Records and one of the most revered producers in hip-hop history, is also a meditation fan. Now in his 50s, Rubin started meditating at age 14 when a doctor urged him to try it to relieve stress pain in his neck. He has since meditated with artists such as Tom Petty and members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Each time a rapper or a hip-hop celebrity talks publicly about meditation, it helps to demystify the practice, Brown said.
Some of the common misconceptions are that meditation is a religious endeavor, that it’s only for those seeking enlightenment, or that it takes a lot of time and is difficult.
Brown said she started dabbling in meditation about five years ago during a stressful period in her life. She had moved to three states in two years and developed shingles. Her doctor, like Rubin’s, told her it was directly related to stress.
More peace please
“I needed and wanted more peace. I wanted to breathe easier and not feel so chaotic every day,” she said.
But being still for any amount of time was challenging. So Brown signed up for a 10-day Perfect Health retreat, which included a type of detoxification called panchakarma, at the Chopra Center. She couldn’t use a cell phone or have much communication with the outside world during the process.