Rap Is Therapy: Songs For Your Mental


In an age that champions self-care above all, it’s no surprise that we have a fixation with therapy. We view it as a panacea, a treatment for any and all emotions. Rage, heartbreak, fear, obsession— therapy is a means to exorcise that energy. Music, both creating and consuming it— is a longstanding medium of therapy. When you think of therapeutic music, the first thing that might come to mind is an Enya-esque sound. But that’s only the spa-hot-stone-eucalyptus-towel version of therapy.

Imagine all of the other ways you channel negativity and consider that they have a musical equivalent. This list is broken down into four categories of therapy, each aligned with a different vein of recuperation. First off, there’s the musical version of going for a long drive— music to clear your head. The next category is for matching your adrenaline and eventually exhausting you— sort of like going for a long run. Next is a breed of music that leans into explosive aggression and fury. Breaking something, throwing something, screaming-friendly music. Finally, everyone has a self-destructive impulse to make things worse when they’re already bad. These are the songs for wallowing and texting your ex.

Keep reading for a mini playlist of each variety and stream your way to peace of mind. 

A: Clear your head and calm down

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LISTEN: “Night Job” Bas, J. Cole

Bas’ voice always centers me. This song is the musical incarnation of being alone at 4 AM, fully awake. It has a lucid dream quality that makes it perfect for dissociating.

LISTEN: “Lost” Frank Ocean 

He’s an obvious choice for this list and a necessary one. The entirety of channel ORANGE is ideal for therapeutic communion with oneself.

LISTEN:  “Devastated” Joey Bada$$

Synthy and mellow. This is for perfect that phase when you’re *almost* over the person/issue you’re hung up on. It has just a touch of angst riding under a carefree façade.

LISTEN:  “Family Business” Kanye West

Kanye reminds us that everyone has family issues: swallow your pride, cope, and blindly pledge your allegiance. Sometimes a reality check is just what you need to remember that your problems are far from singular.

LISTEN: “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” Kendrick Lamar

This has to be the therapy theme song. The flow changes, the moodiness– it feels like it was designed to vibe out to. Kendrick is the perfect combination of thoughtful and devil-may-care, which made it very difficult to narrow down his most therapeutic songs. 

B: Accelerate your heart rate and wear yourself out

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LISTEN: “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” Beastie Boys

This song is pure overstimulation in the best way. It works therapeutically by distracting you with a heap of different styles and outlandish lyrics.  

LISTEN: “Zanies and Fools” Chance the Rapper

I became a fan of this after seeing the SNL performance. The percussive vocals and “once upon a time” storytelling pull you in to Chance’s technicolor world. Sometimes it’s good to get out of your head— get lost in this song instead.  

LISTEN: “Forgot About Dre” Dr. Dre, Eminem

Dr. Dre’s voice is recognizable for the controlled anger that is always right beneath the surface. It’s just enough to keep your emotions full throttle, but in check.

LISTEN: “Uproar” Lil Wayne, Swizz Beatz

Lil Wayne treads the line between nonsense and punchlines recklessly, in this song especially. The abandon with which he approaches the English language makes for excellent therapeutic listening because sometimes you need to just accept chaos as a fact of life. 

LISTEN: “Push It” Kevin Gates

This is 100% the revenge training song of a movie. It’s perfect for fantasizing about exacting retribution from your enemies John Wick style. 

LISTEN: “DNA” Kendrick Lamar

This song will immediately up your heart rate. Kendrick’s staccato delivery makes him a ringer in this category. Be careful or you’ll find yourself reckless night-driving on an empty road to this entire album. 

C: Lean into the rage

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LISTEN: “Here We Go” Run-DMC

This song is not angry (none of Run-DMC’s songs really are)—but the way they rap is so aggressive it contributed DMC losing his voice. Heavily influenced by hard rock, Run-DMC’s body of work shares a ‘loud for the sake of being loud’ quality with rock ’n roll that makes it great for angry listening.

LISTEN: “Only” Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne

This is the best song to listen to in preparation for a knock-down, drag-out fight. If you’re not already in a belligerent mindset, “Only” can get you there.

LISTEN: “Renegade” Jay-Z, Eminem

Call out the hypocrisy of “society,” declare yourself a rebel, be cured. This is song is tailormade for unfocused anger and general disillusionment with the world. It’s a grown-up “Hakuna Matata,” When the world the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world.

LISTEN: “IV. Sweatpants” Childish Gambino

Great song for a rage run. Best played at full volume. Hopefully you’ll be calm by the Fisker vroom, vroom line. 

LISTEN: “Locked Up” Tee Grizzley

Grief and anger are inextricable in this song that will tear at your heart strings. With his mom and brother locked up, and his father murdered, Grizzley is swept up in violence and resentment that seem inescapable. 

LISTEN: “ADHD” Joyner Lucas

Joyner has never been one to shy away from heavy subject matter. His voice conveys a raw emotion that makes it perfect for expressing the darkest parts of the human psyche. 

D: Be sad on purpose

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LISTEN: “Wrong Man” Sam Lachow

This works therapeutically for both the male and female perspective. Everyone knows what it feels like to be your own worst enemy. This song glamourizes it.

LISTEN: “The Story of O.J.” Jay-Z

The sound and the message are intertwined so tightly that it’s impossible not to be consumed by the mood. There’s exhaustion, hopelessness, and wry humor in this song working together to illuminate a frightening truth about the progress we haven’t made. Jay-Z can take you somewhere raw with only a few words. Caveat emptor. 

LISTEN: “There’s Alot Going On” Vic Mensa

A masterclass on how to parlay the darkness of your life into something meaningful. Being able to reflect on your mistakes and flaws honestly is something most people can’t stomach.

LISTEN: “Life’s a Bitch” Nas

Nas’ raw honesty and unflinching self-reflection ensures it will continue to be anthemic no matter how many decades pass. If you haven’t checked out his orchestra accompanied performance at the Kennedy Center, make it a priority. 

LISTEN: “XanaX Damage” Future

This song oozes self-pity in the best way. Self-medicating is never the answer but listening to the universal story of an unhealthy relationship can at least make you feel less alone in your misery.

Comment below what you listen to when the going gets tough. 

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