PEI

P.E.I.'s Problematic gains popularity rapping about depression, suicide

Greg MacDonald of Montague, P.E.I., raps about his depression and suicidal thoughts after a traumatic childhood that included bullying and the death of his best friend in a tragic fire.

Greg MacDonald's songs racking up tens of thousands of views

P.E.I. musician Greg MacDonald goes by the stage name Problematic. (Problematic/Facebook)

Greg MacDonald of Montague, P.E.I., raps about his depression and suicidal thoughts after a traumatic childhood that included bullying and the death of his best friend in a tragic fire.

MacDonald, 23, stage name Problematic, is racking up Facebook views with his new songs Rap About Depression (76,000 views in four months) and Suicide (26,000 views since its release a week ago). 

"My goal from it all is really to touch lives with what I do, with what I write. And to help people the same way it helps me," said MacDonald, who's promoting his new 11-track album, Diamond in the Rough, mainly through Facebook. 

"I use music as an outlet, I don't know where I'd be without it," he said. 

MacDonald is heavily influenced by Eminem — he even somewhat resembles and sounds like the world-famous rapper, a comparison he's more than happy with even as he notes it's a bit of a cliché.

He's taken the same soul-baring approach to his music, too — rapping about his real feelings and experiences. 

Take for instance these lines from his song Suicide:

And if I leave this earth today would they really care?
You said you'd always be there for me but you're never here
My mental issues have been forcing me to see unclear
My anxiety, depression worsens every year.
I'm asking God why'd you take my best friend away?
Only 20 years old, I'm left in disarray.

"I didn't know how else to cope with my emotions — any time I was dealing with a problem, music is where I would turn," he said. "It always helped."  

'It was devastating'

MacDonald's best friend was one of three young men who died in a fire in March, 2014, in an abandoned building behind the Charlottetown Mall. They were all from Montague, MacDonald's hometown. 

'I've got big things planned for 2018,' MacDonald says. (Problematic/Facebook)

"It was devastating, for many of us, and it just goes to show you never know what you've got till it's gone," MacDonald said. 

The trauma after his friend's death, as well as bullying and the lack of a father and other factors led MacDonald to depression, anxiety and to contemplate suicide himself. They're all themes MacDonald revisits often in his songs, including a moving tribute to his friends recorded a year after their death, Tribulation: For the Boyz

"I've been suicidal, at one point in my life, and I know a lot of people have been as well," MacDonald shared. "It's just a situation that's not addressed enough, but I feel like it needs to be talked about."

At the end of the video for Suicide, MacDonald raps and shows the phone number for a national suicide prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, and urges "don't be afraid to reach out." 

'It's a bit overwhelming'

MacDonald said he's doing better now, thanks in part to the popularity of his songs. 

'I've always been causing a problem,' says MacDonald of his stage name, Problematic. (Problematic/Facebook)

"At first it's a bit overwhelming. Just one year ago I wasn't even heard of," he said. The last couple of years he said he's taken his music more seriously and feels the hard work is paying off. 

"All the support has been overwhelming, and it's only up from here — I've got big things planned for 2018." 

He's received fan messages from as far away as the UK and Australia, he shared. "It's crazy to be able to reach people all over the world," he enthused. 

"And to get messages from people saying, you saved their lives ... it's a great feeling," he said. 

'I definitely see a bright future ahead'

Without his teenage struggles, MacDonald said he wouldn't be where he is now — holding down a full-time day job in a Charlottetown fish processing plant, while working on making a career of music.

"Just because you work eight hours a day at a job doesn't mean you should stop working on your goals, your dreams, your passion," he said. "I definitely see a bright future ahead — just keep pushing forward." 

And that stage name? 

"Problematic is just something I feel like I've been since birth, really. I've always been causing a problem," he said. "My mother always said I was problematic."

The album and singles are available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon. 

MacDonald gives a lot of credit for his sound quality to his producer, Sonik. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a bachelor of journalism (honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca

now