HHD: For those who don’t know what hip hop therapy is can you go ahead and define it for us?
HHT: First, I’ll start off by saying I’m a clinical social worker by trade. So when you talk about hip hop therapy it’s an actual therapeutic approach. It’s about meeting people where they’re at to get them to open up and talk about their life struggles. As a health professional it’s very important that we can get to the heart of the issue. I do an assessment, find out where poeple are in terms of what they’re going through, whaqt they like , what they don’t like. Based on that assessment is how I incorporate hip hop music. I look for themes in the music to kind of get the conversation going. I’ve been in this field over 15 years. I started really young, when I was 18. It’s easier for people to talk about other people’s issues. Hip hop regardless, good or bad, it’s always talking about something. The hip hop therapy approach really, strategically, is an engagement tool.
HHD: What led you to come up with the idea or to begin to use hip hop as that tool to connect into your client’s issues?
HHT: First and foremost I’m a lover of hip hop. I love hip hop music and culture. I live it, breathe it everyday. I’m a former foster youth. I had a child at the age of 16. I had experienced my own life issues and struggles. I was kind of forced to participate in therapy in order for me to receive my welfare check. Although I found it very helpful, when I graduated high school and came back to be a mentor in the program that I was in, not everybody was receptive to being told what they had to do. A lot of people felt it intimidating, felt it embarrassing. The system doesn’t come right to certain populations. I’ve learned very early on you have to be culturally sensitive. One of the program administrators really enjoyed my work and thought I did a good job and asked me to become a consultant. I took it so serious that I began to study it. I went to school and changed my major to study how to work with people. I kind of built my own approach. I was always doing hip hop therapy. I was always using music to engage my clients. But when I came up with the term hip hop therapy I was in a human behavior class. I did some research on it and I found out that Dr. Edgar Tyson had already coined the phrase. So I reached out to him to see if we were on the same wavelength in our approach. When people hear hip hop therapy the first thing they think is I’m a heal you from hip hop. The second thing they think is it’s all about me being negative towards hip hop. That’s where Dr. Tyson is kind of going. My way of doing it is I’m a clinical social worker and one of our core values is to meet people where they’re at. I’m going to meet you where you’re at and let you tell me about you. I like the raw, uncut, raunchy music aspects of the culture. You can’t scare me with that stuff. I made it my research project in graduate school and I went hard with it. In 2004 I established the hip hop therapy project.
HHD: Why is therapy important to individuals within the hip hop community?
HHT: Therapy is important to everybody. Traditionally, blacks and Latino cultures, we don’t believe in therapy. We have our own ways of healing. Hip hop therapy is about getting your mind right with your heart and your spirit so that you can progress.
HHD: Today’s youth relates to hip hop. why do you think this is the case?
HHT: Hip hop comes from the streets. It comes from oppression, freedom of expression. I really admire a lot of hip hop artists. You take the limelight away from it and many hip hop artists are public speakers getting the word out about what’s in the hearts and minds of the people they connect with and relate to. It’s a different voice.
HHD: What kind of impact have you seen hip hop have on society?
HHT: Hip hop was a blueprint for us to really have freedom of speech.
HHD: Who are your favorite artists?
HHT: Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne, T.I. I have to say Jeezy is my favorite. Nas is one of my favorites. I like old Lil Kim.
HHD: What would you like to see hip hop therapy do for the hip hop community?
HHT: I’ve gotten to a point where I realized I can’t be the only one. That’s what my seminar is all about. My seminar is for people who have youth and work with youth. It’s open to any and every boody under that general theme. I would just really like to see more people doing legitimate hip hop programs. The more and more that we get legitimate programs that use hip hop music and culture to engage their youth and young adult clients, now I want to start giving money to these programs.
HHD: Do you have any plans to take the hip hop therapy seminar to other cities? If so, when can we expect that?
HHT: You can expect it this fall. This year we’re going on our first hip hop therapy tour. It’s coming to a city near you. First, we’re going to start at college campuses.
HHD: What is your definition of a hip hop diva?
HHT: I think a hip hop diva is someone who just really defines what hip hop is for them and not really care about what people are saying. A lady who stands out, sticks up for herself, has her own lane, and not conform to what other people want her to conform to.
Check out the Hip Hop Therapist at her website thehiphoptherapist.com
Check out THEHIPHOPDIVA.COM’s feature article on Nakeshaey M. Allen on the Spotlight on Hip Hop Diva Nakeshaey M. Allen page.