I created a rapping alter ego to deal with my soul-crushing anxiety

“I will send an ambulance if you really want me to.” 

These were the words I heard over the phone, as I lay crumpled on the bathroom floor. I was in high school, at a party, and I had just tried marijuana for the first time. My chest was pounding, and I was convinced I was having a heart attack. Annoyingly, the 911 operator did not share my sense of urgency. In fact, she said marijuana-induced panic attacks were common and that this “didn’t qualify as an emergency.” And, to my great surprise, I did not die that night in 2009.

In a moment of boredom two years ago, I turned this memory into my first comedy rap about my , in the style of and . It was thrilling. In fact, the experience was so therapeutic that I decided to take more recent anxious “episodes” from my life and rap about them.

Like keeping a journal, writing comedic raps about my anxiety is a form of emotional release. Condensing problems into silly couplets allows me to organize chaotic thoughts into a structure that makes more sense. The self-conscious version of myself, the version that can‘t or won‘t discuss my anxiety, goes away and I inhabit this rap persona where I feel comfortable talking about my deepest fears and insecurities. I decided to name this rap alter ego, “Steve.” There is no grand philosophy behind this choice other than I think the name Chris a.k.a. ‘Steve‘ is funny.

Comedy rappers like Lonely Island and Lajoie speak to me because they use the hyper-masculine genre of hip hop to sing about things men are conditioned to see as emasculating. Instead of boasting, “I‘m the strongest, I‘m the coolest, I‘m the sexiest,” these guys boast, “I‘m the weakest, I‘m the sorriest, and I lack sex appeal.” It validated the way that I felt about myself. They were performing with the same bravado men were supposed to feel, but rapping about how they really felt. 

I took this formula and made it more personal. Lonely Island and Lajoie play characters in their raps to make a point. I want to remove that comedic distance. I’m not really playing a character as Steve but rather playing myself as if I were a rapper. This small distinction makes me feel comfortable discussing in public the things I would never discuss as “Chris.” It allows me to be funny in the most honest, self-deprecating, and vulnerable way possible. 

I‘ll be the first to acknowledge that some of my fears are ridiculous. I tend to assume any cough lasting more than three weeks is HIV — I’ve been tested five times. My last three relationships have ended because I‘m convinced I‘m unable to fall in love. I‘m afraid to fall asleep because I think I might die. These thoughts terrified me, and I harbored them inside. But almost immediately after I posted my first video Xanax on Youtube and Instagram, people started to reach out to me and say things like “This happens to me!”  

Steve provides me with a platform to engage with other anxious people. It’s remarkably easy to relate and, even better, laugh about some of the irrational thought patterns we share, or don‘t share but recognize as anxiety. That bond — knowing you‘re not alone — can help lessen the power anxiety has over you. 

I chose rap as my medium of expression because I love the art form and it helps me feel better. Yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge one glaring point: I am a white rapper. I have tremendous respect for the black artists who made rap what it is today, and I’m not attempting to ‘spoof’ hip hop or the cultural forces that created it. Much of my anxiety stems from excess. I recognize this is a very privileged form of anxiety to have. 

“I want my music to not only make people feel less alone, but also to make them laugh at the same time.” 

Nevertheless, I think there are a lot of “closeted” anxious people out there, for lack of a better term. I was one of them for a very long time. It can be very isolating. I want my music to not only make people feel less alone, but also to make them laugh at the same time — in the same way that Lonely Island did for me when I was a kid. I hope Steve can help remove the stigma around discussing mental health by creating funny, relatable music. I hope these songs compel people to examine their own mental health experiences and their willingness to discuss them. 

I recently released my first , called Anxious Rapper. I discuss things like Xanax and how I use it as a crutch in nerve-wracking social situations, instead of confronting the issue head-on that elicited the anxiety. I rap about giving “a lot of fucks” in a world that glamorizes not giving “a lot of fucks.” I chronicle the inner torment I experience every time an employee messes up my order at Chipotle. Comedy rap affords me an outlet to expose these silly but honest truths. 

In the end, “creating” Steve was the best medicine for me. Also Zoloft, but mostly Steve. 

Chris Allport is a comedy writer originally from Portland, Oregon. He currently works as an associate producer on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in Los Angeles.