Listening to hip-hop music, maligned in some circles for glorifying drug use and violence, can have positive impacts on your mental health, according to a new paper published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
The paper, authored by Cambridge University professors Akeem Sule and Becky Inkster, argues that for many people hip-hop can help “positively transform their lives and achieve a formidable sense of empowerment, street knowledge, resilience, and self-healing.”
The paper builds on a history of using music therapy, along with psychoeducation, to help people with mental health problems. Specifically, hip-hop music’s often frank discussion of mental health issues can help remove the stigma associated with mental illness. Sule and Inkster have launched a program called “HIP HOP PSYCH” and report a variety of positive outcomes in places like “prisons, lecture halls, schools, and nightclubs,” particularly among populations that are otherwise hard to reach.
The authors specifically recommend “Juicy,” by The Nortorius B.I.G., which is “characterised by positive visual imagery.” Sample lyric: “Birthdays was the worst days/Now we sip champagne when we thirsty/Uh, damn right I like the life I live/Cause I went from negative to positive.”
The study also praises hip-hop artists that explicitly take on mental health issues, like Kendrick Lamar. This is evident in his recent release, “i”. In an interview, Lamar said his new record “feels great and feels good, but it comes from a place of depression.” Lamar wrote it “for those locked up and those who feel they have nothing to live for.” Sample lyric: “I love myself/He said I gotta get up, life is more than suicide/I love myself/One day at a time, sun gon’ shine.”
They also recommend classic hip-hop, like Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message,” which takes on the frustrations of everyday life. Sample lyric: “I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise/Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice.”
The most classic example of theraputic hip-hop is Tupac, particuarly “Keep Ya Head Up.”