Home » Mental health metaphors being increasingly mixed up in rap music, study reveals

Mental health metaphors being increasingly mixed up in rap music, study reveals

by ANI

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North Carolina [US]: A study has recently revealed that the increase in mental health messages from rap artists could shape the conversations for their younger listeners who are at a higher risk of experiencing issues related to mental health.
The study published in JAMA Pediatrics and conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has revealed that the most popular rap songs in the USA increasingly refer to suicide and depression, with mixed up references about the struggles of mental health.
The study’s lead author Alex Kresovich, a doctoral student studying health communication at UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media said, “These artists are considered the ‘coolest’ people on earth right now.”
“The fact that they are talking about mental health could have huge implications for how young people perceive mental health or how they look at themselves if they struggle with mental health, which we know millions and millions of young people do,” he added further.
The proportion of rap songs referencing mental health more than doubled from the years 1998-2018, the year that rap became the best selling music genre, outselling country music. The researchers at Carolina said that psychological stress among those from 18 to 25 years old has reached new highs and suicide rates have climbed among black teenagers who are a significant portion of rap music’s large and growing audience.
Kresovich said that an artist’s power to influence is increased owing to the fact that the rap audience is a mix of listeners from all genders, races, and varying socioeconomic groups. The average age of the artists behind the 125 rap songs analyzed for the study was 28 years old.
For the study, researchers analyzed lyric sheets from the 25 most popular rap songs in the US in 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013, and 2018. Among these, most of the lead artists were black men and nearly one-third of their songs referenced anxiety, 22 per cent referenced depression, and 6 per cent referenced suicide.Francesca R. Dillman Carpentier, a professor at Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and Krescovich developed the study, along with UNC-Chapel Hill co-authors Daniel Riffe and Meredith K. Reffner Collins.
The authors say that true to its autobiographical nature, the rap music artists may be reflecting the distress felt by themselves and the people around them. Krescovich, a former music producer, says that although rap has always been a personal and narrative music form, he could hear things changing.
The stressed-out and vulnerable Geto Boys rapping, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” in 1991, was no longer a one-off as emotions were increasingly laid bare between the beats of so many chart-topping rap songs by artists such as Eminem, Post Malone, Juice Wrld, Drake, Lil’ Wayne, Jay-Z, and Kanye West. The most common mental health stressors were love and environmental issues in the songs Krescovich and Collins analyzed and coded for the study.
The analysis could not determine if listeners considered the messages as positive or negative because the study authors faced the challenge of interpreting artists’ intended meaning behind their lyrics.
Most surprising in the analysis was the rise of mental health metaphors in rap songs. Those metaphors could help to understand the language used to describe mental health. Most surprising in the analysis was the rise of mental health metaphors in rap songs. Those metaphors could help to understand the language used to describe mental health.
“For men, especially men of colour, mental health is still stigmatized,” Kresovich said. “Using metaphors may be a safe way to avoid being judged.”
Artists are treading lightly and aren’t going to say, ‘I’m depressed.’ But what they will do is describe feelings in a way that others with depression can understand and relate to,” he says, adding. “It also just may be really hard to rhyme the word ‘depression’ in a song.”

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