Although, hip-hop is often criticized for seemingly condoning misogyny, materialism, violence and crime, studies say it could be the key to beating mental illness.
Hip-hop is popular for objectifying women, and make violence and crime look cool, however, it may still be redeemable.
A study conducted by neuroscientist Dr. Becky Inkster and psychiatrist Dr. Akeem Sule from Cambridge University has found that hip-hop is extremely effective in fighting depression, bipolar disorder and addiction.
This is probably due to the fact that hip-hop often contains a message of hope, thus having the effect of “positive visual imagery.”
Dr. Sule explains the positive effects of hip-hop saying:
"Much of hip-hop comes from areas of great socioeconomic deprivation, so it’s inevitable that its lyrics will reflect the issues faced by people brought up in these areas, including poverty, marginalization, crime and drugs. We can see in the lyrics many of the key risk factors for mental illness, from which it can be difficult to escape. Hip-hop artists use their skills and talents not only to describe the world they see, but also as a means of breaking free. We believe that hip-hop, with its rich, visual narrative style, can be used to make therapies that are more effective for specific populations and can help patients with depression to create more positive images of themselves, their situations and their future."
For the study, lot of songs were used including a hip-hop classic, Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” where Biggie details his rise from deprivation on the harsh streets of Brooklyn to the covers of magazines and a life of affluence. It’s a song about making it against impossible odds.
An appropriate example in Nigeria is M.I's "Chairman", the entire album chronicling the rise of a young aspiring musician who makes it despite being told by society that he won’t become anything.
The album makes the listeners aspire for big things and help them hold on to their hopes and dreams.
Another example that proves the authenticity of this study is Kendrick Lamar track, “i, a track that has been widely celebrated.
Kendrick Lamar has even stated that he wrote the song as a form of encouragement and inspiration for prison inmates and suicidal teenagers saying:
"I wrote a record for the homies that’s in the penitentiary right now, and I also wrote a record for these kids that come up to my shows with these slashes on they wrists, saying they don’t want to live no more."
All of the above prove that hip-hop, despite it's bad record, has the ability to do good, and inspire hope, thereby making it very effective in fighting depression, bipolar disorder and addiction.