Memphis-made rapper NLE Choppa went viral and found fame almost two years ago. While he has continued to reach millions with his music, the now 17-year-old experienced mental health challenges throughout the past year that sent him into what became a fight for his soul.
“I was pretty much slaving in the studio just to make an album, just to keep finding these new sounds. At a point, your soul just starts to hurt, and your soul just wants a break,” he said. “I never knew how to get that break.”
This August, he released Top Shotta, an album packed with 20 songs ranging from hype to emotionally raw. Making the album was about a two-year process. It was towards the end, Choppa said, that he found meditation and, through it, much more.
“Once I realized, I’m more than just a worker, I could create my own future—because your thoughts are your reality—I realized you don’t have to work as hard. You can just sit back, breathe, think about your next move and then think of that next move as if you already accomplished it and everything’s gonna come to you.”
At the young age of 16, NLE Choppa dove into the frenzied world of the music industry—abundant with a matrix of deals, contracts and constant judgement. Building up to his success, his music and accompanying dances caught the attention of hundreds of millions, which led to him earning certifications for five platinum tracks and one double platinum.
The pressure and scrutiny that comes with this is intense, especially for someone in adolescence.
The Turning Point
“I had bad anxiety and bad depression,” Choppa said. “That’s like the worst thing you could have. You think too much about the past, you get depression. You think too much about the future, you get anxiety.”
He spells this out in “Depression,” the last song on Top Shotta. “My eyes closed, I can’t see/My mind gone, I can’t sleep/I ain’t got no appetite, I can’t even eat/It’s kinda hard being me/D-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-O-N.”
“I was always looking for a type of peace, or a type of happiness, or a type of break… just a break from life to where I can just tune out and slow my thoughts down,” he said.
The turning point came as he finished making Top Shotta. It started with meditation and blossomed into much more: journaling, a vegan diet, better mental health and a deeper understanding of wellness.
“I’ve been putting so much good in my body. Only thing I’ve been doing is getting back good, just the way I’ve been living and been feeling, the type of message I put out now,” he said.
Bubbling up at the topic of food, Choppa said he has been enjoying food more since going vegan, especially at his hometown favorite, Chef Tam’s Underground Cafe, whose owner also gave him the seeds to start his garden.
“[Tam] made a vegan taco salad for me, like with plant-based meat, and she got jalapeno peppers, beans, guacamole. She make her own gaucs, like everything is all from her. She make her own tortilla chips. When I tell you that vegan taco salad is off the chain and I could damn near it eat everyday… bruh, that shit is so good!”
All these changes led him on what many may call a spiritual journey. Choppa also calls it a “soul purpose journey.”
“It’s been everything for me.”
Meditation, Love & Soul
Through meditation, NLE Choppa found that his purpose is “to help and heal.” he said. “We healers at the end of the day.”
“I know that I’m just a spirit. I’m just a soul living a human experience. You come here for a purpose. So, once you acknowledge that and acknowledge that God put you here for a reason, I feel like you gotta fulfill that as much as possible.”
In line with mainstream rap, a male-dominated industry, Choppa’s music thus far has had plenty of violent, misogynistic and colorist lyrics. Aware of his platform and its significance, though, he realized how his music can be a vehicle for his purpose. This is what led him to announce he’s not rapping about violence anymore.
“At the end of the day, [the youth] are gonna listen to you. They’re gonna listen to you. They’re gonna try the things you’re saying. And, it’s just all about not leading them astray ‘cause I used to realize a lot of the kids used to want to tote guns and Nerf guns, just off the strength of a lot of guns I had,” he said.
“It kind of made me feel a certain way for sure because I realized that ain’t nothin’ to just glorify. Even though I glorified it, it was just me glorifying it because it was the environment I was in. But once you just realize it’s so much more than that, man, you gotta do whatever you can to not lead them people astray.”
NLE Choppa is a new father to his baby girl, Clover. “My daughter really opened my eyes up a lot too,” he said. Less than two months away from his eighteenth birthday, Choppa knows he’s young in age but has power, influence and the responsibility that comes with that.
Although he will likely experience some pushback from listeners against his music changing, Choppa is filled with positive affirmations and ambitions to keep growing as an artist. “Doors are opening are bigger than I can imagine. I live in an abundant universe where anything is possible,” he said.
After a play on his name by Jack Harlow, NLE Choppa fans seems to be embracing the new nickname, NLE Chakra. In a recent tweet, he too is celebrating his new way of living with an anime-style visual.
As the young multi-platinum artist progresses in his career, he may face challenges and pressures similar to those that previously hurt his mental health. However, he is determined to keep following his “soul purpose journey,” to inspire others, and to love more.
“There’s more to life. It’s a bigger picture to it. At the end of the day, there’s still a lot of problems we face in the community, and that’s what they want us to be: separated and going at each other,” he said. “I just feel like it’s time for unity, love, peace, positivity.”
NLE Choppa’s upcoming album will revolve around his journey and evolution, he said, hinting at the title, from darkness to light.