MC Dizraeli: Masculinity, Mental Health and Vulnerability
“I had men crying in my arms the first time I did it”, MC Dizraeli says about performing new material based on his battles with mental health, “I was pretty bowled over by that.”
MC Dizraeli, an award winning spoken word artist, poet, rapper and musician, last year went through what he describes himself as a mental breakdown.
However, even during the deepest and darkest days of his depression, Dizraeli continued to write obsessively. He wrote every morning using the medium of free association – a therapeutic technique of writing in a stream of consciousness, without censorship or hesitation. It was these thoughts, loosely compiled while in the midst of mental health issues, that Dizraeli structured into his art.
“A lot of my writing reflects a fairly candid first-person account from somebody who feels they are losing their mind. Writing wasn’t so much of a challenge, but performing it when I was in front of an audience was definitely a challenge the first time. Before I went on, I was like ‘what the fuck am I doing?’”
What followed were a lot of tears shed by men in the audience and approaching him after the show and, most importantly, the opening of a conversation.
“It turns out talking gives other people the permission to talk”, Dizraeli found. “It’s not that men don’t want to talk if you give them the opportunity to – all they want to do is talk. It’s just providing a context where that’s OK, where there’s a precedent for it. For men talking about mental health, there’s very little precedent for actually being able to express any vulnerability.
“Performing my new material is allowing me to set an immediate precedent for men in the audience to feel able to talk about mental health.”
Starting conversations is something that Dizraeli has tried to do in all other parts of life, including by being visible and vocal about identifying as bisexual.
“I hadn’t had any bisexual male role models, so I thought maybe I could be one.
“We’re quite a rare breed, there’s not many of us. And along with that is a misunderstanding, and so much stigma and taboo attached to being a bisexual man.
“Our sexual energy is something that is so key to our identity. The idea of being a penetrating man ties into our ideas of strength, control and kingship. Being the ‘ruler of’ rather than the ‘subject of’. It’s thought you’re either penetrating or being penetrated. The idea of being someone who can ‘change camps’ is really undermining to a lot of people’s ideas of sexuality and masculinity.”
What is clear through Dizraeli’s experiences is the passion he feels for using his writing to create a community and allow others to speak openly about traditionally hard-to-talk-about topics.
On his recent Eat My Camera EP, Dizraeli touches on an experience spending four days in 2016 with migrants and refugees in ‘The Jungle’ in Calais.
“Going to Calais, I was aware that there was this growing refugee camp on our doorstop. It was something I wanted to understand better rather than just glean my opinion from what the media was showing.”
Instead of the one narrative often shown in the media, Dizraeli came back with vastly diverse stories of some of the estimated 6,000 people in the camp.
“Each person is an ocean of feeling and emotion. It’s impossible to just portray one story as everyone’s story.” Through tackling tough issues that he has witnessed or experienced first-hand, Dizraeli is opening conversations for others to share their own stories and further the narrative. As he goes on to say, “we’re creatures of community and collaboration.”
“Anything I’m living is a personal reality, it’s going to be reflected in what I do. Whether that’s helping put tents up in Calais, walking down a street in Bristol, or having a mental breakdown.”
MC Dizraeli won the 2007 Radio 4 Poetry Slam, the Farrago UK Slam Championships, and won the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition with his band Dizraeli and the Small Gods. Dizraeli has since gone solo, infusing hip-hop with folk music.
He is currently raising funds for his new album, which tackles mental health issues.