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Cambridge is using Hip-Hop Therapy to treat mental illness

OLD SKOOL/NEW SKOOL: Ludacris, left, and Grandmaster Flash exchange greetings in New York, 2009

RAP, 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 the genre has maintained a strong ability to influence, as evidenced in popular culture. This influence now extends to medicine.

Despite its 'dark' side, psychiatrists at Cambridge University have chosen to use Hip-Hop Therapy to treat patients who suffer from mental illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia.

In a report published in The Lancet Psychiatry medical journal, the team in charge of this programme claim that lyrics which deal with overcoming hardships and struggles offer a refuge to the desperate, whilst using rap to verbalise 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.

The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is one of the songs recommended as a therapeutic tool. The song, released in 1982, depicts life in the ghetto under the Reagan Administration.

Juicy by Notorious B.I.G. is also part of the programme. In this rags-to-riches chronicle, B.I.G. describes a childhood spent in poverty, his experience of dealing drugs and being involved in crime as well as his initial dreams of becoming a rapper and his eventual success in the music industry.

During this therapy, patients are also asked to write down their own texts and to rap to them.

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