Submitted to the AFRO by Pascal Archimede
Rap, this musical genre created in the 1970s in New York ghettos, often receives negative press due to some of its messages which glorify drugs, violence and misogyny.
However, despite its dark side, psychiatrists at Cambridge University have chosen to use it to treat patients who suffer from mental illnesses, such as depression or schizophrenia.
The beneficial effects of music on the brain are acknowledged, but how do you explain that this musical genre is commonly used for therapeutic purposes?
In a recent report the Lancet Psychiatry medical journal, the team in charge of this Hip-Hop Therapy claims that lyrics which deal with overcoming hardships and struggles offer a refuge to the desperate while rapping problems acts as an emotional outlet.
According to these psychiatrists, not only do rappers use their skills and talent to describe their environment but also as a way to break free. There is often a message of hope amongst the lyrics, describing the lifestyle they want.
“The message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is then recommended as a therapeutic tool. This song, released in 1982 depicts life in the ghetto under the Reagan Administration.
“Juicy” by Notorious BIG is also part of the program. In this rags-to-riches chronicle he describes his childhood in poverty, his time dealing drugs and being involved in crime, his initial dreams of becoming a rapper and his eventual success in the music industry.
During this therapy, the patients are also asked to write down their own texts and to rap them.
Since its creation, rap has influenced various fields such as literature, cinema or education and is now proving its worth in medicine.
Rap culture is undeniably an additional global contribution from Black Americans but are they the first ones to benefit from it financially?
Despite the continuous decrease in sales of CDs and records, in 1999 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) estimated the music market in the United States at around $14 billion, with 10 percent of that generated by rap.
In 2001, the percentage grew to 13 percent placing Rap as the second musical style, economically speaking, before Country music.
On average, the rapper and their professional team (manager, lawyer…) would earn less than 10 percent on the sales of an album while 30 percent would flow back to the label.
For example, on a record that costs between $8 and $20 dollars, many artists end up making less than a dollar for each copy sold.
So, when will Black people own big rap labels such as Warner, Sony or Universal?
Some African-American rappers manage to do well anyway, setting up their own labels and investing in multiple projects. The latter are role models within the community, especially for the artists who wish to control the production, promotion and distribution of their music.
According to Forbes, in 2018, the richest rapper is Jay Z with a fortune of $900 million, closely followed by Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs with $825 million.
On Twitter, Diddy has recently reminded his followers how important it is for Black people to know their history. To cope with the racist acts they are still victims of today, he has invited them to have a closer look at the teachings of Marcus Garvey who advocated the economic independence of the Black community.
This reflection is in line with Jay Z’s one, whose last album “4:44” emphasizes the importance for the community to be financially independent.
Pascal Archimede is the author of “Black American History, From Plantations to Rap Culture.”
The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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