The logo for ‘Hip Hop Psych’ and a Akeem Sule, MD dropping mental health hip-hop knowledge on the program’s YouTube channel; Photo: Hip Hop Psych/YouTube 

Akeem Sule, MD and Becky Inkster, DPhil, two researchers associated with the University of Cambridge have started an interesting program to help raise awareness around mental health issues.

The program is called “Hip Hop Psych,” and uses popular rap songs and lyrics to explain scientific concepts such as Eminem‘s “Lose Yourself” for epigenetics or Frank Ocean‘s “Crack Rock” to raise awareness about social issues such as crack. The researchers believe that hip hop lyrics can be used to bridge the gap between psychiatry and pop culture and make topics which might seem difficult easier to digest.

“It helps in engaging with marginalized communities, the youth, in America, say, the African Americans and Latino communities, but I think it can touch everyone. I also want to challenge the myth from the scientific community that you can’t learn anything from these uneducated rappers…. Hip-hop is extremely rich, and we think there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be put on a par with poetry,” Dr. Sule told Medscpae Medical News.

Originally founded in 2014, the group launched a YouTube channel recently where they upload short videos which analyze a hip hop song in reference to a specific mental health issue or topic in psychiatry.

On the first video, an introduction to the program and a disclaimer about the content being discussed, Dr. Sule and Dr. Inkster go into some of the origin of the program. The two met at a talk that Dr. Sule gave at Cambridge and hit it off right away with their impressive knowledge of hip hop and interest in neuroscience. They decided to follow their passion and begin an organization which focuses on elucidating psych and science topics through lyrics.

One of the best examples of the video analysis is the one on the Tupac song “Shed So Many Tears” to talk about topics on depression. Dr. Sule uses the lyric, “Back in elementary, I thrived on misery,” to go in to the details of trauma and abuse and to talk about how emotional trauma early in life can create cortisol pathways that may lead to later-life depression.

The channel includes many other videos as well and overall appears to be an engaging way to merge the diverse fields of science and hip hop. Hats off to Hip Hop Psych for taking a clever and ingenious new direction toward science education.

Watch the video on Tupac’s “Shed So Many Tears” below and click around the channels and see if they have analyzed your favorite song yet.