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Local Hip-Hop Legends Weigh in on New Therapy Using Rap Lyrics

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Researchers at the University of Cambridge are using hip-hop to help improve mental health. NY1’s Cheryl Wills has details on the new study and reaction from some local hip hop legends.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge specifically point to the rap lyrics of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's 1982 classic "The Message" as proof that hip-hop can help with mental illness.

In research published in the November issue of The Lancet Psychiatry: Dr. Akeem Sule says
“... 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. There’s often a message of hope in amongst the lyrics, describing the place where they want to be...."

This study comes as little surprise to hip-hop legends Freedom Williams of C + C Music Factory and Kangol Kid of UTFO.

"Our hip-hop was therapeutic,” said Kangol Kid.

Kangol Kid has been rapper for more than 30 years, he says the music form that started on the streets of New York was designed to uplift and inspire people.

"We created our own style, our own dance, our own look, our own everything and it just shows we don't need any outside stuff, we can do it within,” he said.

Freedom Williams became famous for his catchy lyrics in popular songs like "Everybody Dance Now.” He says he can relate to the study because hip-hop saved his life.

"If I didn't have hip-hop, I wouldn't be standing here right now because there's no way. I was arrested at 14 for burglary and armed robbery,” he said. “Bash hip-hop all you want but there's a lot of brothers that would still be in jail if it wasn't for hip-hop."

The authors of the study also focus on the lyrics of Nas, Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. They started a new initiative called "Hip Hop Psyche," which they hope to "promote positive self-esteem through engagement with hip-hop."

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