“Music was my refuge,” the writer Maya Angelou once said. “I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”

I have seen my fare share of drugs and guns, and i have watched my friends die in street violence. Not me, for me I found a refuge from the streets in hip hop. I would spend every minute dreaming, writing lyrics, making beats and recording

them. Music was the vehicle to voice our problems and come up with solutions. It gave me an outlet where I could develop my artistic talent and do something positive for my community.

When life hurts or try’s to disqualify you, seek refuge, and hope, in Music.

Music has a powerful impact on our well-being. It has the unique ability to soothe our minds. Greek physicians used instruments such as lyres and zithers to help heal their patients, while Aristotle believed that flute music could arouse strong emotions and “purify the soul”.

Our journey towards well-being is personal to each of us. Many musicians are born hustlers. They work hard to maintain there position in the industry. Many do this without industry support. I never worried about Thatcher when I was younger. I had my own politics I had to worry about. I should have been aware, it would have made my music more directed. No matter who was Prime Minister we always struggled for recognition and money. If you don’t have no money you don’t have no money, it makes no difference what party is in power.

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced. Søren Kierkegaard

Hip hop culture has always connected with society’s overlooked and unseen communities. As a platform it has always addressed societies imbalances.


In the 70s, hip hop pioneers like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five documented the social and economical disparities that affected their communities. In the 1980s and 1990s, told more stores relating to well-being. The Ghetto Boys dropped ‘My mind playing tricks on me’ touching the sensitive subjects of paranoid delusions. Tupac’s track ‘So many tears’ touches depression and trauma.

We hear the narrative that strong men don’t cry or your emotions got the better of you. Add the burden for young black men dealing with the trauma of growing up black. Being told your too angry and you need to deal with the chip on your shoulder. We also hear the negative views, which portray men who express their emotions as “weak,” add to that the stigma around mental health for you g brothers. Men under the age of 50 are at an increased risk of taking their own lives and are less likely to seek help when experiencing a mental health crisis, which tells me that this stigma needs to be overcome. It was for this reason I dedicated my coaching sessions around personal development that encourages well-being.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
Søren Kierkegaard

We need to raise awareness as many young artists are coping with trauma of being raised in urban environments, for some they never break free from the resulting PTSD. The more we show our sensitivity acknowledging our struggles with depression and anxiety, the more young men will overcome this and thrive in there careers.

At the heights of social unrest in the eighties an emerging culture sparked an internal revolution in my life. It made visible the invisible parts of society giving them a voice and a platform. It awakened my inner being, my true self. It was the first time I heard my music inside so clearly. I was the founding member of the pioneering UK hip hop trio the London Rhyme Syndicate. I was always philosophical, contemplating the meaning of life. Looking inward was something I had to self learn and I struggled with it. I was going gifted and black and I didn’t feel well supported within the industry. When I sat in the studio, bumping hip-hop, feelings of depression trying to grab a hold of me. I believed at the time my life was ordinary. As an Emcee I would write my feelings down and these would be the foundations of my rhymes. It gave me access to passion and vision that would give me purpose and focus.


Hip-hop gave me a voice!

I’ve witnessed so many young artists struggle with mental health issues, substance abuse and violence. Stability can be a dream that many only experience via a screen. Hip-hop gave me a voice, gave me knowledge and allowed me to transform my pain into creativity. Music helped me heal, find purpose and eventually offered a pathway. As a personal development specialist I help emerging artists find there music inside.

Music speaks to all of us.

We often we forget about the power of music in our society, yet it is found in everything we do. From faith to movies to family gatherings, music is a central participant in our lives. Music can heal. Music speaks to all of us. Music teaches all of us. Music reminds us of the potential that is within all of us. Poverty and trauma are common experiences for inner city residents. For this reason we cannot ignore or dismiss the voices who express emotions, vent feelings. We must deepen their understanding of themselves as it evolves through music. Over the years, as I wrote lyrics and my book, I began to realize I was developing my modus operandi. Expression is critical for well-being, and creativity gives us access to deeper parts of our experience.

‘I Am Hip-Hop’

Today, it is so important that we share our stories. We are consistently silenced, so use your music to recapture your voices. Write your story in a way that shows growth, power and honor. Music brings out the most personal feelings and thoughts directly to you. It provides a space to speak, to vent, process and grow. We articulate stories about our home lives, problems, relationships and aspirations. Music is a universal language and hip-hop provided the culture I could relate to. When i identify with hip-hop i say: “I am Hip-hop,” which is no different than saying “I am English” or “I am a African.” It is an identity. Giving me the platform to access the culture and identity gives me ownership.

Music helped me reframe my reality, talked directly to me and showed me that knowledge was available to me.

When I say music provides access to healing, I mean that it can be used as a tool to boost self-expression, reflection, processing and coping skills for emotional regulation. It can help you create a personal narrative, challenge thoughts and become a true catalyst for change. Music gives us access to expression when other communication skills are absent.

A Light in the Darkness

In many communities, receiving mental health services is met with stigma and judgement. We need to create positive connections so the stigma can be broken.

My journey in hip-hop has given me a purpose and access to people, such as musician. I was a teenage father with little support in an environment that would statistically yield little to no fruit. Music helped me reframe my reality, talked directly to me and showed me that knowledge was available to me. The very nature of hip-hop is rooted in traditions, ancient knowledge and purpose. Hearing your voice, with your words, gives you a new perspective of yourself. Music can validate us, giving us a voice and gives light to the darkness. Through this I realised that when everything I valued in my life was aligned, I could play my music inside.

Do not die with your music still in you! It’s time!

I am conscious that our inner voice wants to be heard, wants to reverberate through every part of our being and wants to make the most Beautiful Music. It is liberating to turn up the volume of your inner music, to reach for a life of pure happiness and fulfilled potential.

Basil Reynolds

Coaching Consultant

Finding the Music Inside