Cork rapper — I was depressed and a sex addict... but music saved my soul

Men are taught from an early age to bottle up their feelings, and that is a culture that has to change, Cork rapper Bubba Shakespear tells SHAMIM MALEKMIAN, as he prepares to launch his debut album after a crowd-funding initiative
Cork rapper — I was depressed and a sex addict... but music saved my soul

SPEAKING OUT: Bubba Shakespear says men should not be ashamed of talking about their feelings

CORK rapper Bubba Shakespear doesn’t want to ‘man up’ anymore.

After years of battling sex addiction and depression as a result of bottling up his emotions inside, the musician is on a mission to rid Irish men of a sense of shame that may be inhibiting them from revealing their innermost pains and weaknesses.

“I was often told to shut up and man up if you’re a man, your role is to be silent and if you express your emotions you are considered to be feminine or gay, and that’s where all the difficulties arise,” Bubba says.

The 30-year-old, who lives on Bachelor’s Quay in Cork city, is now a big noise on the Cork rapping scene, having been influenced by the literary genius after whom he named himself.

“I read William Shakespeare and was fascinated by how he told stories, but tried to heal the world at the same time with his stories; I would like to do the same,” says Bubba.

MUSIC WITH A MESSAGE: Bubba Shakespear performing with the band Clockworks in the Killarney Grand venue. 
MUSIC WITH A MESSAGE: Bubba Shakespear performing with the band Clockworks in the Killarney Grand venue. 

Now he is crowd-funding to raise money for the release of his first rap album.

As a young boy growing up in a rural town, where he says it often felt like it was expected of men to drink their emotions away, Bubba quickly learned to be embarrassed about his urge to exhibit his inner feelings.

“From my experience, an emotional man was something very hard to come across, it was all drinking, gambling and playing sports,” he recalls.

“You couldn’t say, ‘Oh, I feel like this’, it wasn’t promoted, and it’s not anybody’s fault; our culture doesn’t promote it,” he says.

Petrified of talking about matters of the heart, Bubba began to pour his heart out on paper. He says he wrote his first poem at the age of 12.

“I was a loner and picked on a bit, and I didn’t have an outlet, so I started writing poems.

“One day, I showed them to my teacher, and he said, ‘That’s good, you should keep doing that’,” Bubba says.

Inspired by rap musicians’ ability for revealing their innermost emotions through their music, he began rapping himself: an initiative he has never stopped pursuing.

Over time, he has made a name for himself within the city’s rap community.

His demons, however, often caught up with him.

“I bottled up everything inside for so long, and it eventually manifested itself in form of addiction,” Bubba says.

Alexandra Duque, a clinical psychologist with Cork-based Spectrum Therapy, part of a network of psychology and counselling clinics, points out that the ‘deliberate’ avoidance of discussing emotions can have negative consequences.

“That means that you’re not processing your emotions as well as you could be if you were talking about them, because to talk about emotions is to understand them,” she says.

Bubba’s addiction to sex brought on depression and self-loathing; and contempt for oneself finally bred suicidal thoughts in his head.

In her social study, ‘A Matter of Life and Death: Men, Masculinities and Staying Behind in Rural Ireland,’ Caitríona Ní Laoire, a Cork-based social scientist and UCC lecturer, identified ‘struggles for power and masculine identity’ as primary causes of the growing rates of suicide among young men in rural areas.

“If you grow up in a society where the norm is to drink and talk about sports and not talk about how you feel, you’re going to become depressed, that is why so many men in Ireland commit suicide,” Bubba reasons.

Irish men between the ages of 20 to 29 are five times more likely to die of suicide than women, according to RTÉ’s analysis of the country’s suicide statistics. Cork and Limerick are reportedly the nation’s most suicidal counties.

According to Ms Duque, people’s attitudes toward gender roles is primarily defined by their culture.

“Our culture says that we have different gender roles and women should be more focused on relationships and talk about feelings and men need to show a strong image of themselves, and be status-oriented and competitive,” she explains.

“In that context, men will feel ashamed of talking about their emotions.”

Bubba says: “We’ve got to get better at this; we have to believe that telling someone about your problems doesn’t mean that you’re weak; it is a strength. To me, that’s true masculinity.

“Because I always had to man up, I ended up hiding all my problems, I am afraid that I won’t be liked if I tell people that I have a problem.”

When discussing self-worth, the musician sounds positively convinced that he has none, although he is taking steps to change that.

“I don’t believe that I am worthy enough or I’m good enough, so I need somebody to need me,” he says.

Bubba has been in dysfunctional relationships with partners suffering from issues as serious as addiction to cocaine.

Becoming more ‘self-aware’, however, has helped him get out of abusive relationships, ward off his addiction to sex, and try to inspire men to be open about their emotions by sharing his story as a cautionary tale.

In his efforts to live up to his name and become Ireland’s Shakespeare of rap music, the Cork artist launched a GoFundMe campaign in November to raise money for his debut rap album.

People have donated more than a thousand of the €3,000 needed to produce the album so far,” he says.

The campaign has had a therapeutic impact on Bubba; he says that each donation made him believe in himself a bit further.

“It became more about the emotional journey for myself, I needed to conquer my underlying emotions that I can’t attract support,” Bubba says.

Bubba has pulled strong support from Cork men to his initiative.

“I did a gig testing the album, and it was in a room full of men, it was a godsend, it seemed to have a great effect,” he says.

“I was telling them my stories, mistakes and fears and I got loads of hugs afterwards and it’s so important for men to hug each other.” Corkonians tired of manning up may listen to the first track of Bubba’s album and donate to his campaign through https://www.gofundme.com/understanding-myshadow-album

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