Abstract: Rap & Relax: A Qualitative Study Exploring Black Men's Reality of Anger, Depression, and Identity through Hip-Hop Based Discussions (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Rap & Relax: A Qualitative Study Exploring Black Men's Reality of Anger, Depression, and Identity through Hip-Hop Based Discussions

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Fadil Adeyola, MSW, Master of Social Work Student, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
J Lloyd Allen, PhD, Assistant Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Introduction: Hip-hop is a platform used by Black males to unapologetically express their emotions, feelings, and everyday lived experiences, specifically as they relate to issues regarding anger, depression, and identity. Previous attempts have been made to connect Hip-Hop and mental health to help minority adolescents constructively discuss their mental health. However, there has not been any identifiable studies attempting to intentionally address the realities of Black men’s emotions or outlook on mental health through Hip-Hop. Therefore, this study attempts to understand the impact of using Hip-Hip music as a mechanism that can be used to address mental health topics among Black males.

Method: Five first generation college Black male students were recruited to participate in three face-to-face focus groups. Before each focus group, participants were provided with a Hip-Hop playlist that had songs tailored to address anger, depression, and identity. The study employed an ethnographic qualitative method for data collection and analysis.

Findings: Hip-Hop as a therapeutic medium provides Black males with unique ways to engage and express their emotions as these songs provide relatable content and context to their lived experiences. When dealing with anger, participants highlighted how Hip-Hop helped them to recognize and understand their anger as being: 1) masked sadness, 2) compartmentalized, and 3) responsive to external stimuli. Regarding depression, Hip-Hop helped them to recognize: 1) their suppressed feelings, 2) that pride prevents help-seeking, 3) community. Finally, when examining identity, Hip-Hop has: 1) reinforced and redefined their Blackness, 2) provided personal insights regarding how to introduce new identities to young Black boys, and 3) underscored progressive Black and male identities.

Conclusion: As a genre, Hip-Hop can be useful in helping Black men construct and explain their feelings, attitudes, and emotions toward their everyday lived experiences. As a music genre, it provides relatable content that can help to normalize their feelings surrounding the emotions associated with anger, depression, and identity in Black males. Finally, as a genre, it can help Black males develop the language to communicate with mental health counselors regarding their everyday lived experiences.