Last year, Freddie Gibbs, a thirty-four-year-old rapper from Gary, Indiana, was accused of dribbling a few beads of liquid tranquilizer into a young woman’s cocktail and sexually assaulting her while she was incapacitated. The event allegedly occurred in June of 2015, when Gibbs was on tour in Vienna; he was arrested a few days later, in France. Gibbs adamantly trumpeted his innocence—he refused a plea deal that would have required him to admit guilt—though, of course, these sorts of accusations alone often have instantaneous ramifications for public figures. In September of 2016, Gibbs was exonerated on all charges. “It is now self-evident he was wrongly accused,” his attorney, Theodore Simon, announced after the verdict was read. “The trial has confirmed our belief that after a searching and complete investigation and trial, the true and actual facts would be revealed—that there always was an absence of any scientific, physical, or credible evidence.”
Gibbs is now the most compelling patient on a new Viceland series, “The Therapist,” centered around Dr. Siri Sat Nam Singh, who, according to the show’s Web site, “sits down to speak with musicians from the world of rap, rock, pop, dancehall and EDM to discover what lies beneath their public personas.” No surprise, Dr. Singh’s probing usually reveals fonts of despair and anxiety. Previously, he worked with a litany of social-services agencies in South Central Los Angeles, helping to organize mental-health care for populations that are typically (and sometimes catastrophically) underserved by clinical psychologists; his doctoral dissertation is titled “A Phenomenological Study of African American Men Raised Without Their Biological Fathers.” Not all of the patients on the show’s first season are rappers, or African-American—besides Gibbs, Dr. Singh meets with Waka Flocka Flame, Young M.A, DeJ Loaf, D.R.A.M., O.T. Genasis, Joey Bada$$, Corey Taylor (of the metal band Slipknot), Nathan Williams (of the indie-rock band Wavves), and Damian Abraham (of the hardcore band Fucked Up)—but most seem unlikely to have sought treatment on their own.
A kind of performative therapy has been present on television since the advent of reality shows, in which contestants are often cajoled into disclosing intimate information to the camera or peppering present-tense narrations with personal details. Erstwhile franchises like “The Real World” even incorporate footage from a so-called “confessional”: cast members are beckoned into a small room filled with throw pillows, and asked probing questions by an offscreen producer. The appeal of all this is fairly straightforward. It creates an odd kind of intimacy with the viewer, who believes that she is being made privy to sensitive information; it allows the viewer to feel as if she, alone—and not the characters chattering at each other onscreen—knows the whole story.
In recent years, therapy has been televised in more explicit ways, on shows like “Celebrity Rehab,” “Family Therapy,” and “Couples Therapy,” all of which air or have aired on VH1—a channel previously known for its classic-rock documentaries and now understood as a kind of bizarre, round-the-clock looking glass. It isn’t difficult to argue that the presence of a camera crew instantaneously delegitimizes any therapeutic practice—in part because most states require clinical social workers to adhere to a code of ethics that includes at least some language about confidentiality, but mostly because therapy can be a delicate or harrowing process, even when it’s not intended for international broadcast.
On “The Therapist,” Singh, dressed in loose-fitting clothes, sits across from his subjects in a room that resembles a high-end spa: tasteful candles, palms, a stone Buddha, a pitcher of water. “The fact that you’re black—that kind of comforted me,” Gibbs says to Singh, toward the beginning of the first episode. “If you had been a white dude, I’d be looking at you, like . . .” He squinted, grimaced. “I’m just keeping it real.”
“Please do,” Singh replies.
Gibbs is soft-spoken and kind-eyed, with a doleful, vaguely defeated quality, as if he has recently given up on something. When he performs, he is swift and authoritative, recounting the perils and entanglements of life in a town like Gary, where the per-capita income is around fifteen thousand dollars a year. (“He does one thing—hard, unpretentious gangsta rap—and he does it very, very well,” the critic Tom Breihan wrote, in a 2009 review for Pitchfork, of Gibbs’s début mixtape, “The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs.”) In March, Gibbs released his fourth proper album, “You Only Live 2Wice,” and on the single “Crushed Glass” he raps about turning inward (“If I gotta be by myself, I’ma be all right,” the hook repeats). He explained to Singh that his arrest in France made him reconsider his entire career as a musician. Watching footage of Gibbs walking into an Austrian courthouse, dressed in a suit and accompanied by his fiancée, comporting himself professionally but nonetheless terrified, is heartbreaking. He was facing ten years in prison. Gibbs described the ordeal as “traumatizing.”
Source: The New Yorker | Amanda Petrusich