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Introducing: Watzreal

posted October 21, 2015, 10:45 am by madelainej | Filed Under Introducing | comment Leave a Comment

The emergence of the hip-hop genre revolutionized the music industry, but for Watzreal, hip-hop is much more than a genre and a career choice. Watzreal is an independent artist and recent college graduate residing in San Francisco. He not only makes music, but uses it as therapy for himself and for others as well. Also known as Ben White, Watzreal currently works for Beats Rhymes And Life (BRL), Hip Hop For Change and Lyft. Programs like BRL implements alternative mental health therapy strategies with popular youth culture, such as hip-hop music, which promote engagement, healthy relationships, positive coping strategies and avenues for creative expression.

While radio waves are awash with hip-hop songs which discuss the mistreatment of women, chauvinism, drug use and violence, Watzreal is attempting to reshape the mold. WatzrealHis album retains the gritty realism and sharp lyrics associated with hip-hop but with a different message. Watzreal has a simplistic but deep request for his listeners to take away from his latest release.

“I want [listeners] to know that they can be true to themselves, be who they are, express themselves freely and still make good music. You don’t have to talk about misogyny, violence, excessive drug use and materialism to make a career out of music.”

While emotional trauma can often separate people, causing bitterness and resentment, Watzreal maintains music helps individuals reconcile these feelings and develop a sense of community.

“If I’m having a hard time processing whatever it is I’m going through I write about it. When life doesn’t make sense to me, rap music helps me to make sense out of my life. Using rhythm, and poetry allows me to explain an experience that it is hard for me to do in a normal conversation.” He goes on to elaborate, “If I’m sad I can turn to rap music as an outlet to release my frustrations with my situation and become proud of what I wrote.” Watzreal’s attitudes about music as therapy are proven, not only by the production of his album, but also through programs like Hip-Hop For Change which seek to reconstruct attitudes towards hip-hop music, marginalized peoples and views held within contemporary culture.

Watzreal’s debut album, Wisdom Wit Attitude, discusses the challenges of dealing with depression, being a mentor and the portrayal of love in the media amidst his unique musical stylings. When asked to describe his sound, Watzreal had this to say. “Very raw, my flow is very smooth, my cadence is very old school and my content is derived from emotional experiences whether it’s the pride in work or coming to terms with a bad break up.”

Music as therapy is “a form of self-expression that allows you to describe yourself in a way that others relate to. When you’re able to take a personal experience (good or bad) and share it with someone that understands where you are coming from, you begin to build a community which is therapeutic in itself. It also allows you [to] take an experience that gave you nothing but sadness into a song that gives you nothing but pride. That type of transformative experience is rare” explains Watzreal. His album is truly unique and worth listening to through his ability to find empowerment in emotions such as sadness or anger. Positive messages, such as this, need to become more prevalent in society in order to stop the perpetuation of detrimental views towards sickness, mental health and marginalized societal groups. Watzreal draws on his own experiences with music to describe how it creates community. “I’ve seen it create the community of individuals that I work with at Beats Rhymes And Life. I’ve seen it create community with local emcees that I freestyle with every Sunday night at the Boom Boom Room for an event called Return of The Cypher. I’ve seen it build community through the kids that we work with in Hip Hop For Change where we [teach] kids about break dancing and rap as [a] form of self-expression and art therapy in the classrooms. Music brings people together whether it’s to discuss an important issue or just to have a good time on the dance floor.”

Music can be used for a variety of ends, such as marketing, propaganda and a vehicle for hate speech.wisodom_wit_attitude_cover_explicit (1) But music can also be used to create community, as artistic expression, as a way to change attitudes and relay important information. The world saw the music community come to the aid of the medical community during the Ebola crisis. Musicians created songs to educate people on preventative measures and warn people of the dangers of Ebola. Watzreal currently uses his music to change attitudes within society and within ourselves by creating a sense of community and an image of positive mental health.

However, his endeavours for change are not an easy fight. The music industry is littered with mega studios which seem to have a monopoly on the music market and the types of music which become a fabric of popular culture. Watzreal comments: “The music industry is selling a negative stereotype of people of colour to dehumanize them and classify them as violent criminals in our society. The target demographic for rap music is white males 18-24 [years old] who consume 75-percent of that music.” He goes on to describe: “If you also consider that 3/4 whites in America do not have a person of colour as a friend, it’s easy to see how whites in America have been fed a false representation of an entire culture that gives them the notion that people of colour are dangerous since they don’t know anyone personally to show them otherwise.” Hip-Hop music could be seen as having been culturally appropriated by capitalist studios controlled by the wealthy one percent, similar to how the Blues genre was appropriate for wealthy whites and induced the use of Black-Face in the 1920s. In order to reclaim Hip-Hop or at least return to its cultural roots Watzreal continued…

“Artists should be aware of the impact music can have on the listener. Hip Hop is rooted in peace, love, unity and having fun. When gang wars broke out in New York, they created a peace treaty to end the wars against themselves. Once the war was ended, they could start to love one another. Once they were able to love one another, they were able to have unity and once that happened they were able to have fun in the form of block parties which most people know, was the very beginning of hip hopUnfortunately, rap music is now controlled by wealthy white men who own Universal, Warner Bros., and Sony and all have investments in private prison systems, which is the sole reason that rap music is no longer positive.”

Watzreal’s album is part of a larger cultural movement towards positive and realistic representations of struggles, marginalized and alienated groups, and mental health. His well crafted debut album tackles many issues facing contemporary society which have largely been ignored. But through music and the hip-hop genre, hopefully that is about to change. The use of this genre is important because it is accessible. Watzreal holds that “the creation of [the] hip-hop genre [offers more for today’s youth] based on the fact that it is open to anyone. You don’t have to be able to sing or know [how] to write or read music to be involved in creating rap music. All you need is a pen and pencil and a story to tell.”

In this way, hip-hop rails against established norms and the exclusivity associated with capitalist society such as the necessity for access to higher education in order to read and write music. Watzreal’s album tackles the core issues of contemporary Western society. I look forward to the topics which will be wrestled with on his next album.


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