TU124 – Hip Hop as Therapy: Beat Making, Lyrics & Community Empowerment

by | Jun 30, 2020 | Current Events, In The News, & Pop Culture, Emotional Intelligence, Episodes, Guest Interviews, Race, racism, Therapy, Trauma | 0 comments

Show Notes

Hip hop heals

Our guests Dr. Eliot Gann and Dr. Raphael Travis shed light on how hip hop can help resolve the deep need for self-expression and trauma processing, especially in black and brown communities. Music-makers in hip hop culture are some of the greatest writers of our generation. These lyricsts use in depth metaphor, satire, and word play to express widely shared feelings. This process literally gives a voice to experiences that are otherwise unexplainable.

Hip hop, rap and R&B are more than just music for the club.  Connecting through music creation can be used to bridge disempowered groups. Our guests bring to light the importance of learning about and respecting this genre.  It can engage people of culture (POC) to heal trauma, empower self-expression, and grow communities.

In this second half of our interview, co-host Ann Kelley dives into the healing power of hip hop with Dr. Elliot Gannhael and Dr. Raphael Travis. We explore what makes hip hop unique, how it can be used in schools, detention centers and clinical work, as well as how we can each grow through hip hop culture.

If you missed it – here is the first half of the conversation, Episode 123 The Healing Power of Fear, Protest, George Floyd and Community Empowerment with Dr. Raphael Travis. However don't worry, this episode stands on it's own and it is OK to just start here, you won't be lost.

Dr. Elliot Gann – Therapeutic Beat Making

  • Executive Director at Today’s Future Sound (TFS)
  • Creator of the Therapeutic Beat Making (TBM) model for healing and development
  • D. of Clinical Psychology from the Wright Institute, specializing in Children and Adolescents

Who is our expert guest, Dr. Raphael Travis? lyrics hip hop and rap

  • Associate Professor and BSW Program Director at Texas State University’s School of Social Work
  • Specializes in youth empowerment and community development through creative arts, specifically Hip-Hop culture
  • Author of “The Healing Power of Hip Hop
  • Leads the Collaborative Research for Education, Art, and Therapeutic Engagement (CREATE) Lab which works with educators and artists to understand the therapeutic and educational benefits of music

Show Notes for this Episode:

Five Dimensions of Empowerment

Hip Hop culture serves to foster five major dimensions of empowerment
  1. Esteem – it is a safe place to build ones confidence and experience, people can leave with an actualizable accomplishment that is fully their own. It helps develop a strong sense of agency in their own creation
  2. Resilience – it gives people an outlet to express trauma or struggle. It helps put words to the experiences they’ve had and is a constructive coping mechanism
  3. Growth – it requires an introspective atmosphere. Unpacking what the lyrics and beat mean to you opens up new possibilities within the body
  4. Community – it is a co-regulating process. Groups can come together to either create or celebrate hip hop, and through the collective experience of the beat there is a bond built.
  5. Change – it builds on lived experiences, and asks us to all better ourselves and the community around us through a collective growth and development

What can hip hop and music therapy do?

Hip hop can be used as a powerful therapeutic tool.  It’s a relational, fun, and joyful way of letting your guard down. It is also an expressive, cathartic release. In addition, it also is a self-actualizing experience, the body gets to create something unique and special all on their own.

Lyrics for self expression

Hip hop serves as a vehicle to resolve the deep need for self-expression and trauma in black and brown communities. Lyricists and writers in hip hop culture are some of the greatest writers of our generation, they can use in depth metaphor, satire, and word play to express widely shared feelings. This process literally gives a voice to experiences that are otherwise unexplainable.

Beats for self expression and regulation

Often students and patients struggle to engage with insight-oriented work at the start. Beat making can help warm up the body, and lower the body’s defenses. Through beat making, the body relaxes and enters more readily into a flow state, an open and relaxed place, from which a deeper connection and growth can occur.

Our Biases

For people unfamiliar with hip hop and rap, or truthfully for white people in general, there is often an aversion to the genre.  It can be experienced as violent, misogynistic, and overly sexualized. You aren’t wrong for hearing some of those themes in hip hop and rap, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind

  • We’re only seeing a very small sample. Hip hop has a decades old history, and there are millions of songs in thousands of different sub-genera’s, not all hip hop has the same elements or themes
  • Our experiences listening to each song are subjective. Each person filters each song through their own lived experiences and biases
  • Specifically, white people’s bodies are primed from a young age by our society to hear energetic black voices, especially black male voices, as violent or scary. Also, we’re programmed to hear specific narratives of aggression or misogyny and to react negatively to sounds of black empowerment
  • Hip hop arises out of struggle and is a way to voice trauma, or an outlet to express healing from that inter-generational experience. On some level it has to address graphic material
  • The most violent or explicit songs get pushed in the national market. Studio executives, who are primarily white, have a financial incentive to sell and promote the most sensationalized and explicit songs because the listeners experiences catharsis while they consume those fantasies and desires


Contact Information – Elliot Gann E-mail: egann@todaysfuturesound.org

Website: https://todaysfuturesound.org/about/

or at youtube.com/todaysfuturesound

Twitter: @TFS_beats Music Mixes: https://audiomack.com/artist/dj-hoodwin TRIO Conference Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iL1_OpyIa-Q&feature=youtu.be

Contact Information & Resources – Dr. Raphael Travis E-mail: rtravis@txstate.edu or raptjr@gmail.com ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Raphael_Travis Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FlowstoryATX/ IG/Twitter: @raptjr @FlowStoryATX Music Mixes: https://audiomack.com/artist/dj-hoodwin TRIO Conference Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iL1_OpyIa-Q&feature=youtu.be #HealingPowerofHipHop #MUZUZE #EMPYD #CREATELABTXST _____________

BOOK WE ARE LOVING RIGHT NOW – get it on audible for free right here.My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies” by Resmaa Menakem _____________

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