‘New Age Orange’: Combating Mental Illness Through Rap In the depths of O'Neill and beneath the hood of his orange coat, Jack Yoakum crafted a rap album that grapples with mental illness.

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etween the numerous a cappella groups, bands, orchestra, University Chorale, and Music Guild, Boston College has no absence of visible musical talent on campus. Jack Yoakum, MCAS ’21, is of a different breed, manufacturing his original music while blending in in study areas and lecture hall seats rather than in plain view on a stage. Yoakum is not only a psychology major with his eye on medical school, but also a rapper who goes by the stage name Clyde. The Cleveland native released New Age Orange, his first rap album, on Nov. 3, and the lyrics of which open up a dialogue about the sensitive subject of mental illness.

Yoakum completed his first song when he was a freshman in high school, but has been writing music since he was only 10 years old. Like many kids, his introduction to music was through taking piano lessons when he was a child, but eventually he found a passion for hip-hop, drawing inspiration from Kid Cudi, one of his favorite musicians.

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erhaps the most important part of any rapper’s craft is the ability to piece together lyrics. Many artists will rack their brains trying to come up with things that rhyme, but Yoakum doesn’t reach for lyrics—instead he prefers to let them flow naturally.  

“Basically it is just a flow of consciousness more than anything,” Yoakum said. “I pretty much just sit down in front of a blank page, and whatever I’m feeling I write down.”

Creating a rap album is no small feat, but Yoakum hasn’t taken on the challenge alone. While he writes all the lyrics to his songs himself, a lot of the beats come from his producer Patrick McCafferty. Yoakum and McCafferty met in high school and have been collaborating musically ever since. With McCafferty’s help, Yoakum completed New Age Orange after three years of work and released it on his birthday.

The title New Age Orange has a dual meaning and is a significant indicator of the lyrics’ content: Orange is the color of self-harm awareness, a cause that Yoakum is passionate about. More personally, Yoakum is known for often wearing his favorite orange coat, a signature piece of his wardrobe—which he is wearing on the cover of New Age Orange.

“[The coat] tends to bring me down to reality when I really need it,” Yoakum said.

New Age Orange has six tracks on it, and while Yoakum tries not to play favorites among his songs, he admitted that the last track of his album, “Just Another Episode,” displayed his connection with the producer. “Just Another Episode” is a staggering eight minutes long and delves deep into Yoakum’s own history with depression. In “Bohemian Rhapsody” fashion, this song has multiple recurring musical tangents, some of which appear on earlier tracks in the album. This variety of beats and downpour of emotional lyrics makes “Just Another Episode” the most moving song in New Age Orange.

“Blown Out” showcases the range of emotion explored on the album. The track features upbeat music but also manages to address mental health conditions. In “Blown Out” Yoakum perfectly walks the line between positive chords and serious lyrics.

“More than anything my music has been a person to talk [to],” Yoakum said. “I got to a point where I didn’t really trust counselors or those who said they were there to talk, because often it ended up that they weren’t there for me, but I knew I could trust a notebook.”

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ith the emergence of Hamilton on Broadway a few years ago, the versatility of the rap genre has shown its teeth. Rap music is much more than a musical expedition into the lavish and superficial—the lyrics can tell stories, whether histories of founding fathers or documentation of a common modern struggle. For Yoakum, the process of rapping and creating New Age Orange was more than just a hobby—it was a way for him to cope with his own struggles with mental illness.

“More than anything my music has been a person to talk [to],” Yoakum said. “I got to a point where I didn’t really trust counselors or those who said they were there to talk, because often it ended up that they weren’t there for me, but I knew I could trust a notebook.”

Mental illness is a complex issue, and Yoakum does his best to cover not only his own experiences but also those of others he has encountered in his journey. He has included anecdotes from people who have battled mental illness in his lyrics as a way to bring their stories into the light.

Mental health has received a lot of attention from the media in recent years, as numerous popular artists such as Kanye West and Kurt Cobain have been known to suffer from mental illness. While this publicity may seem like a good thing when taken at face value, Yoakum clarifies that not all of it is for the best.

“What worries me the most is that [mental illness] is almost romanticized in a certain way, and that bothers me quite a bit, so I try not to do it myself,” Yoakum said. “While it has definitely gotten a lot of attention, it isn’t always talked about in the right ways.”

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plitting time between being a student and writing a rap album was quite demanding for Yoakum. While he wrote the music at BC, Yoakum would often have to fly back to Cleveland to record so that he could work together with his producer. While writing, Yoakum could often be found on the fifth floor of O’Neill Library, clad in his orange coat and headphones, creating music in the popular study area. Yoakum also wasn’t ashamed to admit that a lot of his writing happened in his classes, though he did offer a quick apology to his professors.

The final recording of New Age Orange was no easy process for Yoakum and his producer—the two slept on sound equipment every night of production, Yoakum’s version of falling asleep in his notebook while trying to pull an all nighter before a midterm.

Although a constant throughout the process, Yoakum’s notebook wasn’t his only supporter—he attributes a lot of credit to his older sister Mary Yoakum, CSOM ’19. The two have been incredibly close since a young age, and that bond only got stronger when Yoakum followed in Mary’s footsteps by coming to BC. She has been both an encouraging voice in his life and an inspiration for some of his lyrics.

“You’re not alone, and I’m not gonna say if it gets better because I don’t really know if it does,” Yoakum said. “But you’re never alone and each day that you can get through is a win.”

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he early reception of New Age Orange has been nothing short of encouraging for Yoakum—he has received messages from numerous listeners praising him for his work. He feels a responsibility to reciprocate the support of his listeners, many of whom share in his struggles with mental illness. His message to them is simple, yet transparent.

“You’re not alone, and I’m not gonna say if it gets better because I don’t really know if it does,” Yoakum said. “But you’re never alone and each day that you can get through is a win.”

Now that New Age Orange has been released on various streaming services, Yoakum has already begun his work on his next album, a nameless project in its early stages. For Yoakum, music continues to be a sanctuary, a constant source of meaning and purpose in his life.

Featured Image by Katie Genirs / Heights Editor

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