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Virtual Event Review: Hip-hop for Better Mental Health, 29/10/20

Words by Alex Payne
Image courtesy of Green Ribbon Arts Festival

If there’s two things that are certain in these very uncertain times, it’s that both music and mental health have suffered this year. One leading charity, Mind, estimates that almost half of young people have experienced loneliness this year, but that’s almost belabouring a point that’s painfully obvious to most of us.

Mind and Avant Cymru, a progressive Valleys-based theatre company with a strong hip-hop bent, combined forces last Thursday to combat both of these issues, delivering almost two hours of dance, music and art from the Welsh hip-hop scene, in aid of Mental Health awareness. Created as a part of the ongoing Green Ribbon Arts Festival, over a dozen artists from across Wales came together, united by a desire to raise awareness for mental health. No one discipline dominated the evening, with a healthy smattering of breakdancing, beat boxing, spoken word and rap throughout, broken up with insightful and candid interviews between, where artists touched on tough subjects, weaving tales of addiction and depression with hip-hop culture. A highlight of the evening was an interview with rising Welsh rapper Deyah, who gave insight into her creation process as well as her struggles. Graffiti Artist Tee2Sugars also came through with an uplifting piece that was “designed to put a smile on people’s faces”, and generally represented the medium in an unusually positive light. Mental Health is often a rather harrowing conversation, but this event was consistently light but respectful, and succeeded in showcasing the best of the Welsh hip-hop community. 

While UK hip-hop has thrived in London, it’s often suffered beyond the capital, particularly in Wales. Not helped by Goldie Lookin Chain, a spoof rap collective who saw a spate of commercial success in the early 2000’s following their hit single “Guns Don’t Kill People Rappers Do”, Wales has rarely been considered seriously.  Despite that, the South has maintained a healthy scene beneath the radar, with the likes of Junior Disprol, Beatbox Fozzy, Roxe and The Headcase Ladz being mainstays in the culture. In early 2017, Astroid Boys broke into the mainstream by combining punk and rap, and Cardiff local Starvz found success last year with his track “Diff Boy”. With Avant Cymru stating that this is likely the first of many such events, it seems that the future of Welsh hip-hop is in safe hands.

The event can be viewed here.

Urgent mental health support can be accessed here and here.