Rapper Bhishma Asare has set up Rap Therapy, a social venture which teaches young people to be creative and positively express themselves through rap. In this blog, he explains how Rap Therapy started, how it helps youth in South London and the challenges he faces in increasing the initiative’s impact.
With a significant rise of over 20% in knife crime this past year, it is clear that young people in London are extremely vulnerable and can easily become mixed up with the wrong people. The substantial number of youth clubs that have closed down due to local council cuts on spending has not put young people at ease, as these were also places of refuge and acted as safe havens for young people trying to stay away from street life. Rap Therapy aims to avoid tragedy and strengthen young people’s mental health through rap.
Rap Therapy aims to tackle mental health
My name is Bhishma Asare, also known by the rapper name of “Proph”. In November I released an album called Invisible Guidelines which highlighted the problems faced in my local community such as drugs, alcohol abuse and violent crimes which are all ultimately tied in with the mental health and thought processes of people in my local community to think that crime is “normal”. Below you find a video of one of the songs on the album. The song talks about the struggles of growing up in South London and explains the things I have been through as a youngster, explaining how a bad path can lead to a bad place.
After getting media support from the Metro, The Croydon Advertiser and Your local Guardian, I decided it was time to put my music into action and help these young people in my local community. I created a community interest company called Rap Therapy.
Rap Therapy offers a series of workshops, which uses rap as a tool to teach students how to positively express themselves and become more creative. The core focus of the workshop is to improve communication between young people and influence positive ways of expression, in turn improving their mental health. The workshops equip students with transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, and listening skills, which they can use in and out of their classrooms. Students also get the chance to see how videos are shot and how engineers operate in a studio. They meet and hear from relatable and inspiring guest speakers who have come from similar environments and experienced similar issues, yet still excelled in their careers.
Fifty per cent of mental health problems are established by the age of 14. Rap Therapy aims to act as an intervention for those students and teach them to express how they feel through rap, which effectively will create a drop in this percentage. Rap Therapy also incorporates a mentoring programme, where students can talk with us about situations they may not feel comfortable telling teachers or parents. All our mentors have grown up in similar environments so we can relate to what we hear and come up with solutions to help the problem, offering an opportunity to the young people to talk about problems they experience and receive viable solutions.
During our pilot stage, we were able to make an impact in a Croydon based school, The Archbishop Lanfranc Academy. The students that attended Rap Therapy were able to turn their behaviour around and regain focus in the classrooms through principles they learned in Rap Therapy classes and mentoring sessions. During the pilot stage, we also ran a community Rap Therapy workshop in conjunction with Croydon Library, where we had a massive turnout. One hundred percent of those who attended stated the need for Rap Therapy to be in schools across the UK, including six teachers who aim to bring it to their schools.
Creating a community
Rap Therapy aims to create a community based on people who have attended workshops. We recently shot a mini online advert, which can be found on our website www.raptherapy.co.uk. (The students in the advert are from The Lanfranc Academy pilot.)
The Rap Therapy community allows us to plant good seeds in students’ and young peoples’ lives and inspire them into different fields, not just rap. We are not only raising rappers, instead we are contributing to raising good members of civil society, through a relatable tool that my team and I have all personally used to develop good character and principles.
The key challenge in growing impact
One of the key challenges we are facing is the budget cuts that schools have been affected by. Through all of the groundwork, it is clear to say that plenty of schools have shown strong interest as they understand the students we aim to impact. However, ninety per cent of headteachers say they have no financial certainty for “meaningful financial planning”. This effectively makes Rap Therapy’s growth harder as schools find it difficult to plan for projects like this.
The near future
Having over seven years in the music industry as rappers and songwriters, we aim to target schools with students that are most at risk of being excluded and put them back on the right path, which will effectively avoid a young person from becoming a statistic in prison or a victim of knife crime. Young people could find themselves back on the right path by having an outlet and learning how to express themselves, just like those students previously mentioned at The Archbishop Lanfranc Academy. Although our local community in South London was the initial target area, we plan to branch out to similar areas across the UK over these next five years, reaching more young people and challenging them to be creative and positively express themselves.
Bhishma Asare, [email protected]
Proph (Bhishma Asare) is the founder of Rap Therapy and an emerging young rapper who was raised in Thornton Heath, South London. With his phenomenal wordplay and unique musical flow, he explains through his music what he experiences and has seen on a day to day basis, making him one of the most relatable artists to come out of such an area. As an independent, unsigned artist who funds his own music creation with a close team of people, he has performed at Croydon Box Park, Notting Hill Carnival, BBC Radio a.o. and can be followed on YouTube (Proph Music) and Instagram (Proph_100).