Why VICELAND’s ‘The Therapist’ Could Be Amazing — or Horrendous — for Hip-Hop

When it comes to accurately presenting hip-hop on a mainstream level, VICE magazine, their music site Noisey and their newly-developed VICELAND channel have, for the most part, done an excellent job.

A few slips aside (looking at you Noisey: Chicago), VICE’s properties have managed to avoid the type of exploitative, one-dimensional portrayal of hip-hop that has run rampant in sensationalized media coverage of the culture.

In a stellar example of their unusually multi-dimensional coverage of hip-hop, last June, VICELAND released a segment titled “NOISEY Presents: YG and the Therapist.” The video was pretty straightforward: YG sat down with LA-based therapist Dr. Siri Sat Nam Singh to discuss his mental distress following being shot three times by an unidentified gunman.

The premise seemed somewhat gimmicky, but seeing YG candidly describe the fears and paranoia surrounding the incident and the effects it had on his psyche was captivating and felt genuine. Mental health has always been a touchy subject in hip-hop, and while its portrayal in lyrics has become more prevalent, outright discussions within the culture are unfortunately still few and far between.

On Tuesday (April 11), VICELAND released a trailer for The Therapist, an expansion of their original segment with YG in series form, with guests including D.R.A.M., Freddie Gibbs, Young M.A and more.

Based on the strength of the original segment with YG, I’ll admit I’m incredibly excited to see how this series plays out. Considering the rampant substance abuse that is joined at the hip with celebrity status and the extremely limited attention the subject of mental health has received in hip-hop culture at large, this series could help to normalize the discussion about mental illnesses within hip-hop.

There is, however, some cause for concern when it comes to televising the treatment of mental distress and broadcasting it for the sake of ratings. And make no mistake, regardless of the well-intentioned nature of the show’s premise, the resulting decision to air it as a series is absolutely rooted in a quest for ratings. That’s not a jab at VICELAND — all TV programming lusts after ratings — it’s just the reality of the medium.

Just as I’m suspicious of popular indie artists claiming their independence from the major label system, I have reservations about VICELAND’s ability to keep the integrity of the initial segment intact while attempting to ensure that a ton of people tune in. Dr. Phil probably thought he was really going to help people at one point, and we all know how that turned out.

From the looks of the show’s trailer, however, it’s possible we could be privy to some legitimate breakthroughs on behalf of some of our favorite artists. The idea of watching Freddie Gibbs re-hash the details of his 2015 sexual assault accusation — a topic he’s barely touched outside of his recent music — is grounds enough for me to flip over to VICELAND when the show premieres on May 8.

Barring the incitement of a hip-hop version of “cash me outside,” I’m certainly willing to give The Therapist the benefit of the doubt in hopes that the dialogue it opens up outweighs any production missteps that might trivialize a subject that’s already been treated by the hip-hop community with too much flippancy.

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Originally published at djbooth.net on April 13, 2017.

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