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Texas State researcher explores hip-hop's correlation with health and well-being

Research and Innovation

Staff Contributor | July 03, 2019

"I love myself. One day at a time, Sun gon' shine."

Listening to Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics in the song, “I,” it’s clear how music can have a profound impact on a person’s outlook. Texas State associate professor Dr. Raphael Travis has found evidence of the effects of hip-hop on youths and adults, and he continues to explore its influence on personal and community growth. 

It started when Dr. Travis was working as a social worker, where he says he “experienced seeing the value of music in people’s lives.” When he pursued his Ph.D. in public health, the door opened for Dr. Travis to study the impact of hip-hop. His book, “The Healing Power of Hip Hop (Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture),” examines his findings and explores some additional social elements that impact Americans today. 

Over his years of studying, Dr. Travis noticed several trends, which are summed up in what he calls the Individual and Community Empowerment Framework. The premise of the framework is that music encourages people to grow in five core areas: 

  • Esteem – a focus on how or where a person wants to be in the future
  • Resilience – the idea of being able to withstand difficulties
  • Growth – a continual process of becoming one’s best self
  • Community – a sense of belonging among a group
  •  Change – creating better conditions for a person’s community
The Healing Power of Hip Hop book cover

Esteem, resilience, and growth were a large part of one of the examples Dr. Travis shared. This study looked at a group of homeless shelter residents. The goal was to see if music encouraged them to attend mental health groups. 

“The use of music here was very successful,” said Dr. Travis, explaining that they were more willing to take steps to improve their health by attending these groups. “We also observed the men looked at themselves more positively, recognizing what they were good at and thinking about their future goals,” noted Dr. Travis. 

The tenets of community and change illustrate how the culture of hip-hop can help youths and adults focus on their paths forward.

“Some folks teach beat-making to young people for the skill and expressivity but also because of the community surrounding the craft,” explained Dr. Travis. The art of making music provides a safe space for people where they can learn new skills but also explore how to change their society.

Dr. Travis is working with Upward Bound to utilize the music studio on the San Marcos Campus to promote community and the STEM-related aspects of music-making with local high school students. Not only do the students get to connect with a group of like-minded peers and mentors, but they learn valuable skills and explore the field of music technology. Looking ahead, Dr. Travis is planning more studies, as well as programming for the next year of Upward Bound.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922