Psychodrama: The Honesty and Vulnerability in British Rap Music
The clock struck twelve on the 8th of March 2019. Dave posted on his socials ‘Blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights went into this for years.’ I felt that. Dave’s debut album Psychodrama is intrusive, incredibly creative and essential within the black community.
In the early hours on the 8th of March, I sat down and played an album that has evoked so many genuine emotions within me. Indeed I am still confused as to how 51 minutes could have such an effect. Psychodrama wasn’t an album I can say I enjoyed listening to. This is because of the nature of the album. It’s extremely raw. I felt an overwhelming feeling of compassion listening to ‘Lesley.’ I could just envisage people I knew in that exact story. The album feels like a release and a testament to growth on Dave’s behalf. If it was a movie, I would call it a coming of age movie. Perhaps, as listeners, the only thing we can do is appreciate his journey and how heartfelt this album is.
Above all, I refer to this album as a ‘much-needed table shaker’ because it hacks away at the foundations of toxic masculinity and the rap stereotype. Toxic masculinity enforces the exaggerated characteristics of a male by promoting sexism, chauvinism and misogyny – something that the UK rap scene frequently fortifies. However, Psychodrama – a debut rap album by a young black male, completely averts this.
MENTAL HEALTH AND THE YOUTH
Instead of a lack of emotion, there is an abundance of it. Furthermore, violence is substituted for vulnerability and sexual aggression, that is a common feature within UK Rap culture, is inverted. Instead, sexual relations are explored from both a male and female perspective. In a period where sex and violence sell, Dave mentions his need for meaningful sex and hones in on the abuse females can encounter. At a time where suicide is the most common cause of death for men age 20-49 in the UK, Dave places a therapist’s voice throughout his album. Dave’s Psychodrama is not swimming against the tide. Conversely, it’s placing the focus on things that matter and effect so many of us.
Dave has managed to delve deeply into topics that are often silenced, forgotten or stigmatised. Mental health, abuse, change, grief, race, love, and dealing with success at a young age. All of these are covered so eloquently. You forget that he has only been on this earth for 20 years. The album manages to cover all these aspects without being constantly sombre. A drill vibe can be felt on ‘Streatham.’ Then ‘Location’ provides a light-hearted summer bop and ‘Voices’ is the first time we hear Dave do pop! The consistently fluctuating moods within the album and even within some songs, give an insight into what Dave’s own emotions were like through his journey of producing and releasing this album. It’s scary, emotional, sweet and needed.
There’s a sense of vulnerability in the album that reminds me of Stormzy’s 2017 album ‘Gang Signs and Prayer’. It’s something we need within the black community and especially within young black males and females in the UK and US. Black men are 17% more likely to be diagnosed with a serious mental health issue. This is according to Lambeth’s Black Health & Wellbeing Committee. Black women in the US are 3 times more likely to die from domestic violence, in comparison to their white counterparts (IDVAAC 2011).
The issue affects the whole community. As a collective, black people are disproportionately exposed to factors like poverty and abuse. These increase their likelihood of developing a mental illness (Lambeth Black and Wellbeing committee 2014). In ‘Lesley’ Dave spends 11 minutes discussing the struggles and sufferings of a young woman. In ‘Psycho’ where he expresses his own mental state with the help of a therapist. Similarly, these messages are much-needed in the current social climate. It is a rap album after all.
Artists such as Dave and Stormzy are so important. Their releasing of albums honing in on such stigmatised topics within the black community is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. We need more healthy release mechanisms and preventative measures. Also, we need this awareness of mental health and acceptance of therapy within the black community. Therefore we must speak, accept and release in order to heal. This is why ‘Psychodrama’ is a necessary step in the right direction.
Hats off to Dave.
Written by Sekina Odumosu
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