Hip-hop is a notoriously conceited genre, the musicians constantly boasting about their Lamborghinis, big-butted booty-calls, and magnificent estates. It’s strangely un-relatable content given that the genre’s primary listenership is impoverished youth. Yet from Rick Ross’s gold-chains to R.Kelly’s golden showers, rappers seem naturally inclined to talking themselves up. At face value it seems depressing, listening to someone brag about a lifestyle that most of us, in all probability, will never achieve. Yet according to Cambridge University’s psychiatry department, hip-hop may actually be the key to improved mental health.
Dr. Becky Inkster, Neuroscientist and Project Manager for the Neuroscience in Psychiatry Network, recently released a study in The Lancet Psychiatry outlining the positive psychotherapeutic effects of rap music’s “positive visual imagery.” Listening to these rags-to-riches story lines is a psychological stewardship technique similar to when professional athletes visualize success. You concentrate on where you want to be until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“It’s been about forty years since hip-hop first began in the ghettos of New York City and it has come a long way since then, influencing areas as diverse as politics and technology. Now we hope to add medicine to the list.” Says Inkster.
According to Inkster’s findings, listening to songs like “Juicy – Notorious B.I.G.” or “If I Ruled The World – NAS” can be a huge asset in decreasing depression. Naturally, taking a step out of your sad and distressed state of mind and into the life of an ultra successful superstar will make you feel better, even if only for the duration of a Biggie song.
This study is an important progression towards solving the increasingly prevalent issue of mental health. For example, major depressive disorder is now ranked eleventh for its impact on disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), a measurement of health compared to the population standard, which is used to calculate years lost due to physical and/or mental impairment.
Inkster explains that her findings “incorporate cutting-edge medical and neuroscientific research…” but more importantly provide a way to improve mental health in a way that is accessible and engaging.
1. Jay Z – Change Clothes
2. Notorious B.I.G – Juicy
3. Eminem – Lose Yourself
4. Kanye West – Can’t Tell Me Nothing
5. Kendrick Lamar – Backseat Freestyle
6. Drake/Lil Wayne – The Motto