Kai Roberts is a Pittsburgh rapper and educator who uses music as a means to spread awareness about mental health.
Roberts struggled with anxiety as a student at Carnegie Mellon, and channeled his experiences into the 2013 release Carnegie Cafe. He has since become a speaker with Active Minds, a peer-to-peer nonprofit group that seeks to de-stigmatize mental health disorders among college students. Roberts has travelled to campuses around the country, leading hybrid workshop/open mic sessions during which students write and perform rap verses to express their own experiences with and perspectives on mental health. Roberts’ empathic, buoyant message shines through in his music, too. “808s and Nostalgia,” from his new album, The Great Escape, finds Roberts taking a warm look at his own past. He begins the song’s first verse, “We didn’t grow up perfect/But I had all I needed,” a few bars later proclaiming that “Every day was worth it.” Now, I like angsty/depressing/brooding music as much as the next person, but it’s refreshing (especially on a Monday morning) to hear some wholesome content like this. I get a strong Chance the Rapper vibe from this song; Roberts’ velvety, auto-tuned croon couldn’t be more different from Chance’s boyish squawk, but a sunny, grateful line like, “First kiss, can we do it again?/Nothing in this world like falling in love with your friend,” wouldn’t sound out of place on Surf or Coloring Book. Give “808s and Nostalgia” and The Great Escape a listen if you want some positive, uplifting hip-hop to begin the week.
Check out the rest of The Great Escape