Hip Hop and Rap: A Scapegoat for Aggression Among Listeners?

Subject: Art
Pages: 31
Words: 7997
Reading time:
30 min
Study level: Undergraduate


Much has been said and written about hip hop or rap causing mood alteration, specifically aggression or violence. While mass murderers or terrorists are rarely linked to forms of musical conditioning before historical crime acts, rap and hip hop on the other has attracted much criticism and blame to be the cause of city street violence and aggression, although city street violence and aggression have long ago existed before rock, hip hop and rap popularization. Using a targeted all-male rap and hip hop listeners aged 16 to 30, this study established that although there is sometimes an aggressive effect of listening to violent rap music, in general, the respondents did not commit any violent act and that rap or hip hop music per se have never induced aggressive behavior or action as a consequence.


In October 2005, an outbreak of violence occurred in a three-week period in France, the cause of the riots was triggered by accidental deaths of two teenagers in the poor suburbs. French MP Francois Grosdidier pointed the blame towards the direction of seven French Hip Hop artists claiming their aggressive lyrics has helped fuelled the nationwide riots. MP Grosiddier managed to receive support from 200 politicians to back his petition for legal action against the musicians. For many years a majority of French rappers have expressed their lyrics predicting riots in the run down suburbs, this has unfortunately become reality. Recently Tory leader David Cameron attacked BBC radio 1’s Tim Westwood, stating that hip hop encourages people to carry guns and knives. The question is Hip Hop and any form of rap that powerful to influence individuals to commit acts of violence? Or is hip hop / rap an scapegoat for society discourses? The concentration of this study will be focusing on the relationship between hip hop and any form of rap and any link to cause individuals to commit acts of violence.

Rap or hip-hop, and generally rock music, have always been considered dangerous since Elvis Presley, the supposedly king of rock’n roll popularized modern rock. Music, however, has been closely connected with moods of individuals during or after listening. Some are actually believed to have an altering effect on individuals or group of individuals after exposure to music.

There had been no clear distinction, however, if it was the background music, or the instruments and vocal delivery, or the lyrical content that actually alters the mood of a listener after exposure. This paper shall try to find relevant information and study that supports this claim and explore much further other possibilities that link aggression to music or listening to it.

There is much to be learned about the power of music, of whatever genre. And there is still a much needed work and research as to the actual and proven effects of every genre: whether or not each genre produces or alters the mood of listeners.

Other factors, aside from music, may be alcohol intake, use of narcotics, environment, and group influence so that it is not easily distinguished how one certain music genre could be singled out to alter mood and cause aggression among individuals.

This study shall deal with the question on whether or not Hip Hop or Rap has direct connection to aggression among listeners. The study shall conduct a random survey to determine whether a group of 50 youths between the ages 16-24, attending school and out-school, have done aggressive or violent reaction after listening to what may be considered as lyrically aggressive hip-hop or rap music.

This study is a semiotic ethnography and ethno musicological comparison of the rhetoric of violence found in two increasingly popular musical forms, rap and country. Based on the production-of-culture perspective, musical genres are considered socially constructed organizing principles and lyrics, the primary data, are viewed as ensembles of texts. The strategy is to address rap and country songs as they present claims concerning the focal concerns of trouble and toughness.

Research Questions

This study shall try to answer the questions:

  1. How does various music genre alter moods?
  2. What are the specific effects of each music genre to listeners?
  3. Does hip-hop or rap music promote aggression?
  4. How can hip-hop and rap music promote aggression?

Research Objective

This study aims to provide a link between aggression and listening to music, specifically the hip-hop and rap genre, if ever such a link exists. It also aims to present possible causes why “outsiders” or people who do not appreciate certain music genre would attack or blame music as the cause of negative actions among groups or individuals associated with certain pop culture trend or movement.

Review of Related Literature

Rap and Hip Hop

Hip hop music is a style of popular music composed of a rhythmic, rhyming vocal style called rapping or emceeing with back up beats and scratching performed on a turntable by a DJ. Combined with breakdancing and graffiti art, these are the four components of hip hop, a cultural movement which began in New York City in the 1970s, predominantly among African Americans and Latinos. The term rap music is sometimes used synonymously with hip hop music, though it is also used to refer specifically to the practice of rapping (Marriot, Michel, 1995).

Typically, hip hop music consists of one or more rappers who chant semi-autobiographic tales, often relating to a fictionalized counterpart, in an intensely rhythmic lyrical form, making abundant use of techniques like assonance, alliteration, and rhyme. Rap may be performed a cappella but it is also common for the rapper(s) to be accompanied by a DJ or a live band providing the desired mix and beat from the percussion or entire melody of a different song, usually rock, funk, or soul, and is sometimes sampled. Other sounds are often sampled, synthesized, or performed. Rap is basically an integral component of hip hop music, but instrumental and non-rap electro acts such as Planet Patrol are also considered as hip hop groups (Mitchell, Tony, 2001).

Hip hop arose in New York City when DJs began isolating the percussion break from funk or disco songs. The role of the emcee (MC) introduced the DJ and the music to keep the audience excited. The MCs speak between songs, greeting the audience members, give jokes and anecdotes until it became more stylized, and was known as rapping. By 1979, hip hop already became a commercial recorded music genre and has broken into the American mainstream and spread across the world. In the 1990s, a form called gangsta rap became a major part of American music, causing significant controversy over lyrics which were perceived as promoting violence, promiscuity, drug use and misogyny. Nevertheless, by early 2000s, hip hop was a staple of popular music charts and was being performed in many styles across the world (Marriott, 1995).

Often the terms “rap music,” “hip-hop,” and “gangsta rap” are used synonymously but although closely related, each has a distinct meaning. Hip-hop is a broad term referring to a cultural movement among African American youth that has influenced styles of clothing, music and other forms of entertainment while rap is rooted in the African tradition of speaking rhythmically to a beat supplied by background music. Considered the forefathers of rap are Grandmaster Flash and Kool Herc who developed rap as a distinct music genre in the 1970s. Grandmaster Flash used rap to call attention to the deplorable conditions in inner cities by the ‘80s. Grandmaster Flash’s recording, “The Message,” became the focal point of political controversy because of its explicit, violent lyrics in the late 1980s and early 1990s that further popularized gangsta rap (Center for Black Music Research, 2002).


According to Rose (1991), rap is a social movement popular primarily among Black and Latino races and during the 1980s, and by the 1990s, catapulted musicians such as Run DMC, LL Cool J, Salt n’ Pepa, Beastie Boys, among others not only among Latinos and African Americans but among White adolescents and even global music listeners (Rose, 1994).

However, Lipsitz (1998) presents a popularly accepted narrative that rap and hip hop originated from the ghetto neighbourhood of the Bronx in New York city in 1970s. The ghetto is a marginalised group of Black and Latinos and the youths in this section created an informal way of expressing themselves as inspired from the Caribbean-style toasting. It is their way of having fun, share experiences, as well as criticize social inequality and poverty. It provided a creative outlet for DJs, MCs, graffiti artists and Bboys and Bgirls to a frustrating and difficult life while encouraging competition and achieve something positive replacing street corner conflicts into competition dancing, and shooting to paint spraying.

It soon became widespread and every locality in the globe has adopted each own, including European immigrants from Turkey, Morocco and North Africa (Bennett, 1999).

The reasons for the rise of hip hop according to some sociologists and historians, are found is the changing urban culture within the United States during the 1970s. Perhaps most important was the low cost involved in getting started: the equipment was relatively inexpensive, and virtually anyone could MC along with the popular beats of the day. MCs could be creative, pairing nonsense rhymes and teasing friends and enemies alike in the style of Jamaican toasting at blues parties or playing the dozens in an exchange of wit. MCs would play at block parties, with no expectation of recording, in the way of folk music. The skills necessary to create hip hop music were passed informally from musician to musician, rather than being taught in expensive music lessons (Samuel, 2000).

Another reason for hip hop’s rise was the decline of disco, funk and rock in the mid- to late 70s. Disco arose among black and gay male clubs in America, and quickly spread to Europe (Perry, 2005). Disco provided much danceable beats which hip hop took advantage of while providing a musical outlet for the masses that hated disco (Saunders, 1996).

Issue on violent Rap performers

There is a very negative stereotype surrounding rappers in American society today. Hip-hop artists have bad reputations mostly due to the violence that seems to follow them around. Some of the reason for this is the media’s constant focus on rap stars and their subsequent violent behaviors. The biggest story to date in the hip-hop world was the feud that went on between the east coast rappers and west coast rappers. However, while the beginnings of the rivalry between coastlines can be traced back to N.W.A., it took a personal beef between two of gangsta rap’s greatest prodigies to fully capture the nation’s attention. While 2Pac was working on his third album “Me Against the World” in 1994, he was shot by muggers in the lobby of a New York City recording studio that friend The Notorious B.I.G. was recording at. While serving prison time for sexual assault, 2Pac accused The Notorious B.I.G. and Puff Daddy, among others, of having prior knowledge of the shooting. This series of events sparked inter-coastal war between Bad Boy Entertainment owned by Puff Daddy and Death Row Records owned by Suge Knight (Richardson, 2002). The majority of fans and artists however, saw this so-called beef as silly and wanted no part of it (Hess, 2005).

Violent rap music

Rap music is considered to be one of the most influential types of music in the U.S. Since the late 1980’s rap music has been called the Anti Christ in our culture, because of its so-called influence in people’s life. People believe that the music is why people, especially the youth, resort to violent crimes. The first rap song was made in the late 70’s, when songs were seven to eight minutes long and mostly used in small clubs to dance to (Samuels, 1996). Rap Lyrics are a very controversial subject because they often include the issues of Sex, Violence, and drugs. Supporters of rap culture believe that the issues discussed in this type of music are a result of the life that young black men are exposed to. Rap lyrics are a way for them to express their feelings and expose others to their life of hell in the dangerous world that they live. As Berry says culture rap is a vehicle for self expression. Rap opponents argue that the violent and sexually explicit lyrics of rap music cause the young black culture to act out in criminal ways and exploit their women. This group of people believe that the monkey see monkey do idea comes into play and that the African American youth watch the violence in music videos and repeatedly hear they violet lyrics in rap songs and this causes them to become violent. If young people think that it is ok for rappers to act out in criminal ways they will believe that it is also ok for them to exhibit these kinds of crime-manifesting behaviours (Sullivan, 2003).

Although there have always been popular songs of questionable taste or dubious merit, over the past several years, there has been a marked increase in the number of exceptionally violent, hateful, crude, racist, brutal, anti-woman songs that are not only out in the market, but in many cases, are topping the charts.

Recent best-selling albums have included graphic descriptions of murder, torture, and rape. Women are objectified, often in the most obscene ways. Songs such as “Don’t Trust a Bitch” by the group Mo Thugs or “Slap a Ho” by Dove Shack actively encourage animosity and even violence towards women. Given that the average teen listens to music around 4 hours a day, it appears young fans of such music will spend a good chunk of their formative years tuning into messages of violence and hate.

Various effects of different music genres to the listeners

The effects of violent music content on the listeners especially to the teenagers throughout history of the human populous have been attributed to music. Whether it be a part of a ritual, an emotional release, religious reasons, or just for pleasure, music has been at the centre of our society. We have used music to express ourselves, tell stories, and let others into our thoughts.

However, we often wonder whether what we are saying has an effect on the listening audience. Recently, in the 1990’s references have often been made to link violent and deviant behaviour to music and certain music genres. Some such genres include but are not limited to; heavy metal, rock, death metal, rap, and gangsta rap, industrial, hardcore, and alternative music.

During the last decade we have seen music lyrics become more and more violent and sexually explicit. Experts argue that this can cause problems in children and adolescents. Studies show that the average teenager listens to approximately 40 hours of music in a given week. One is to assume that somewhere in the mix a child is going to hear something derogatory or objectionable, as it has become the norm in today’s society.

In most music today especially rap and heavy metal most of the lyrics contain references to violence, sex, and/or drugs. While many argue that this is dangerous for children to hear we know that a modern day teenager often faces violence, drugs, suicide, pregnancy, and other aspects of this music. While we find that lyrics may be dangerous to a child we must ask ourselves whether the child fully understands and comprehends what the artist is saying. Teenagers often do not understand what is being said, in fact in one study only 30 percent of those questioned knew the lyrics to their favourite songs and they all had varied comprehension as to what the message was. It could be argued that if the lyrics were not included in the artist’s booklet then the audience would never know what was being said.

Music videos add reinforcement to what is being heard with the use of visuals as videos often exhibit sexual innuendo, acts of aggression, and gender stereotypes. Studies showed that men have a tolerable attitude as to what is violent and what is too far in sexual advances while women have less of a tolerance. Studies have also found that heavy metal music and gangsta rap influence men’s attitudes towards women and that increased exposure to videos containing interpersonal violence against women tended to increase men’s acceptance of rape myths such as she was dressing like she wanted it or she brought it on herself. In contrast, women’s beliefs decreased and they felt that men were coming on too strong and being to aggressive.

Another study conducted on college campuses in the North Western United States involved men and women watching various music videos and then answering a set of questions afterwards. One video was The Way You Make Me Feel by Michael Jackson which depicts a man stalking a woman who then becomes infatuated in his game of pursuit. The other was The Stand by REM which only showed the band on-stage playing instruments. In questions answered after the videos men said it was necessary to pursue the woman to such an extent while women thought it was annoying and/or disturbing. Men scored higher on attitudes for sexual overtones, while women scored slightly higher on the acceptance of interpersonal violence. The studies did conclude that women who were often subjected to violent music videos were more accepting of violence than those who have not had constant viewing or listening to such lyrics and images. It also showed that men had a greater acceptance of sexual stereotyping and rape myths after being subjected to the videos. Many methods of behaviour modification have been suggested in order to keep this music from causing harm or hurting anyone or individuals.

The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends different types of behaviour modification however, to combat the harmful effects of this music. One such idea is as simple as having parents be aware as to what their children are listening to, and to discuss anything they deem objectionable. This would be a positive way to relate emotions to the songs. Another idea proposed is labelling of content in compact discs. It would be labelled outside as to what the lyrics contained (i.e. language, sex, drugs). It has also been suggested that groups as well as individuals approach record companies, music studies, and artists and ask them to consider the ramifications of their music on their audience and market it accordingly and in a favourable manner. Ideas have been proposed to set up research studies to further investigate the effects of explicit music on the behaviour of teenagers. One of the most effective ideas proposed is as simple as people accept that this music is an art form and a means of self- expression and emotional release and treat it as such.

Research on violent music reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts. The effects appear larger for milder than for more severe forms of aggression, but the effects on severe forms of violence are also substantial when compared with effects of other violence risk factors or medical effects deemed important by the medical community (e.g., effect of aspirin on heart attacks). The research base is large; diverse in methods, samples, and media genres; and consistent in overall findings. The evidence is clearest within the most extensively researched domain, television and film violence. The growing body of video-game research yields essentially the same conclusions.

Short-term exposure increases the likelihood of physically and verbally aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, and aggressive emotions. Recent large-scale longitudinal studies provide converging evidence linking frequent exposure to violent music in childhood with aggression later in life, including physical assaults and spouse abuse. Because extremely violent criminal behaviors (e.g., forcible rape, aggravated assault, homicide) are rare, new longitudinal studies with larger samples are needed to estimate accurately how much habitual childhood exposure to media violence increases the risk for extreme violence.

Well-supported theory delineates why and when exposure to music-media violence increases aggression and violence. Music violence produces short-term increases by priming existing aggressive scripts and cognitions, increasing physiological arousal, and triggering an automatic tendency to imitate observed behaviors. Music violence produces long-term effects via several types of learning processes leading to the acquisition of lasting (and automatically accessible) aggressive scripts, interpretational schemas, and aggression-supporting beliefs about social behavior, and by reducing individuals’ normal negative emotional responses to violence (i.e., desensitization).

Certain characteristics of viewers (e.g., identification with aggressive characters), social environments (e.g., parental influences), and music content (e.g., attractiveness of the perpetrator) can influence the degree to which music violence affects aggression, but there are some inconsistencies in research results. This research also suggests some avenues for preventive intervention (e.g., parental supervision, interpretation, and control of children’s media use). However, extant research on moderators suggests that no one is wholly immune to the effects of music violence. Thus; others still believe that though it is dependent on the listener, psychologically speaking, it is undeniable that music violence really has an effect on the listeners’ tendency toward aggression.

Effects of rap on listeners

Rap music is not in and of itself, a genre created solely for profit. Deprivation and unequal opportunity nurtured the hopelessness, distrust, and early death depicted in Tupac Shakur’s lyrics. America’s urban centers in general and low-income minority communities in particular, are replete with poverty, police brutality, drug abuse, educational inequality, high dropout rates, and violence. The very governmental and social systems theoretically established to protect the poor, have engendered distrust. A sense of powerlessness to change conditions grounded in complex social, political, and economic issues has led artists to seek ways to express their discontent. Rap music became a cathartic outlet. As noted by Smitherman (1997), rap music has become a way for youth to voice their dissatisfaction with society employing the heritage of the Black oral tradition. Lyrics similar to those in the opening quote by Tupac, are just one way America’s children, and urban Black children in particular, have chosen to articulate their anger and frustration with mainstream society. Unfortunately in the case of Tupac, a young Black urban male who was murdered, lyrics were more than a social commentary, they were prophetic. Tupac became a victim of the very violence he depicted in his music and in the process became a rap icon.

This kind of music is being sold to young children without any thought of concern. When many children listen to this kind of music they think that was being said in the songs is not wrong or against the law. The lyrics in many songs contain violent and explicit lyrics that usually talk about killing someone along with sounds of gunshots in the background. It is also music that refers to women as bitches, whores and sex-dispensing hos (Saunders B29). Gangsta rap has been criticized and debated over for its graphic sexual content, violent imagery and misogyny. When rappers were asked why they refer to women as bitches and hos, their replies were similar. Snoop says, that it is just for the women who are like that and if you’re real women, you’re classy and elegant. Those lyrics wouldn’t necessarily affect you. You’d just groove to the music (Farley 78). Richard Shaw, Bushwick Bill, says: I call women bitches and hos because all the women I’ve met since I’ve been out here are bitches and hos. When asked, at the [National Association of Black Journalists] convention, what he calls his mother he says, I call her a ‘woman’, but I’m not f—ing my mother. If I was f—ing you, you’d be a bitch. He then apologized for what he said to the reporter. (Raspberry A21) If you don’t give a f— about a bitch/ Then you’re rolling with the row, are lyrics from Doggystyle. An experiment done by James D. Johnson shows that violent rap tends to perpetuate the acceptance of the use of violence and an anti-education mind-set.

He thinks that this kind of music should have some regulation. He refers to rap music being like nicotine- it is addictive; it is mood Hawkins 7 altering and it is available with some strains (Raspberry, Does A27). A person has to be 18 years old to buy cigarettes, rent X-rated movies, or get into a strip bar/nightclub and has to be 21 years old to drink or buy alcohol. There are age limits on these things that can endanger young people and there should also be a age limit on buying albums with explicit lyrics on them. Even though there is a warning label on the albums young children can still buy them because there is no law to prohibit sale. There are a lot of people who agree something should be done about the explicit lyrics on albums. Stanley Crouch, a music critic and writer, says that rappers are a bunch of opportunists who are appealing to an appetite that America has for vulgarity, violence and anarchy inside Afro America (Sims 3). Kevin Powell, a writer for Vibe magazine, believes that rap music is a legitimate art form, but thinks that the genre has gone too far and the music industry is to blame for not exercising some degree of control (Sims 3).

He also thinks that it has made black children think that being hard is the definition for being black in the 1990’s. There are many people who feel this way, but many rappers and defenders of rap disagree. Most rappers do not think that their music causes violence and that they have no influence on their listeners. Before Easy-E died his lawyer read a letter from the rapper that said, anyone could get AIDS, that it does not discriminate (Marriot 74). After the letter was read the Minority AIDS Project in South-Central Los Angeles reported 80 percent increase in requests for AIDS testing. This was more of an increase than when Magic Johnson made his announcement (Marriot 74). His influence was seen in warning people about the AIDS virus just as Magic did when he found out he had HIV. Snoop says that he hopes that listeners will see that any black man out Hawkins 8 of the ghetto can do something positive with his life if he is dedicated (Farley 78). He also says that if parents were as strict as his that there would not be as much violence nowadays, yet he was in a gang, a drug dealer and user and he arrested for murder-conspiracy charges. men, why should anyone else? (Raspberry A21).

He says that many of these songs are like horror films and cannot be taken literally (Proffitt M2). He also points out the good views of rap–that it is so diverse and there is a lot of positive messages in the songs. Simmons thinks that rap is just expressing the outrage of there community. His most important point would be that when kids in Beverly Hills Hawkins 9 listen to rap they will know a little bit better how the kids in the ghettos think (Profitt M3). Other rap experts point out the genre turning points. In the 1990’s the messages about black empowerment that started national slogans and the wearing of African pride medallions were replaced by messages of drug selling and survival in inner-city neighborhoods. The marketing strategy of the record companies began to promote label with images of black swaggering men carrying guns and drinking beer. This resulted on the new gangsta look. This made young rappers that were hungry for fame and fortune take on the look of being thugs themselves. The move of raps’ homeland, New York, to the West Coast caused a dramatic change to the sound. People tend to miss the true skill rather that all the violence and how many people that get killed. Rap’s image is being tainted by all the scandals of the top rappers shackled in the courtrooms.

A local rapper that was interviewed named ‘Precise’ stated that: “Rap is only a way to express the way someone feels, not to cause violence”. From this we see that only while the dance music is playing are people affected by it. Once the music is over, say goodbye to the energy. From the example of the dance club, we see that only when the music is playing do people dance. The child may live in the ghetto where people get shot every day, and it may be commonplace. Video games are actually interactive, forcing the kid to do the killing, punching, kicking, or whatever violence the game brings about.

It is also worth noting that while teens spend progressively more time tuned in to music, they are spending less time with their parents. In fact, a recent Carnegie Foundation study found that the average teen spends only 20 minutes a day alone in conversation with his or her mom and less than 5 minutes a day alone with dad. The average American teens spend far more time listening to music than listening to mom or dad. For the single parents who struggle valiantly to juggle the demands of earning a living and raising a family, it can be especially difficult to find the time to monitor the music their children listen to. The result is that more children are spending more time alone with music, with less parental oversight and involvement. And this, would eventually lead to a much worse scenario of violence because teenagers are not given enough attention to be guided accordingly on their lifestyles. Lacking in guidance, they would be susceptible to doing some deviant actions against the society.

It stands to reason that prolonged exposure to such hate-filled lyrics during the formative teen years could have an impact on one’s attitudes and assumptions, and thus decisions and behavior. Understanding the nature and extent of the influence of music violence may well be the first step towards better addressing the problems and pathologies besetting the youth, and our best hope for ensuring a more civil society and helping the young people.

Violence associated with rap

There is no denying that some sects of the adult culture find the language in some rap lyrics offensive. However, just as other music forms are not homogeneous, neither is rap music. It is far too simplistic to portray rap artists as perpetuators of behavior deemed socially deviant without placing the artists and their life experiences in context. Instead, this article considers rap music as just one expression of a well-established culture of violence. To this end, the pervasiveness of violence and some of the social, economic, and political responses to rap and the notoriety of gangsta rap are examined to contextualize this music genre. Depictions of rap music in literature are not intended to be an exhaustive review, but rather an attempt to highlight the hypocritical scrutiny experienced by artists and their music when compared to other music forms. Notoriety is less likely be a self-devised action.

One study revealed that of the 700 most popular songs of “heavy metal,” 50% speak of killings, 35% of satanism and 7% about suicide. Sheila Davis, professor of lyric writing at New York University, is convinced that “better give serious attention to the content of pop songs and to evaluate not only what lyrics are saying to society but, more important, what they may be doing to it” (USA Today, October 11, 1985, p. 10).

The National Council of Churches published their findings that the growing aggressive behavior of youths appears as the direct result of the violent content of

Educational psychologist, Dr. Hannelore Wass, considered an expert on death and dying, indicated that while only 17% of teenagers listen to music containing manifestly destructive contents, among the youthful criminals this figure reaches 40%. Apart from this, nearly 50% of those interviewed acknowledged the possibility that these types of songs could really incline an unbalanced or grief-stricken young person toward suicide. Dr. Wass concluded that these detailed interviews with young people show the need for parents to watch what their children are listening to, and to pay attention to any emerging symptoms of abnormality. (Wass, et. al, “Adolescents’ Interest” p. 186, sampled 700 adolescents. The themes were: homicide, suicide and satanism. Cf. Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun”).

Similar research prompted the National Education Association to conclude that nearly 6000 teenage suicides a year are brought about by the influence of nihilistic and fatalistic music (Information for Parents’ Music Resource Center, Nashville, TN. 1990).

Dr. Morton Kurlan a Palm Springs psychiatrist whose patient, John McCollum, committed suicide after listening to an Ozzy Osbourne record, stated: “Sadomasochism, blood, and violence make big bucks for the producers of rock videos, but such things can push an emotionally suffering kid over the edge” (Arthur Lyons, Satan Wants You, New York, Mysterious Press, 1988, p.171). And it is well known that millions of contemporary young people are suffering from inner tumult. At this point it is worth considering that the estranged nihilistic and destructive contents of rock-style music actually reflects the disposition and lives of the rock stars. For example, the biography of Pink Floyd Saucerful of Secrets written by band’s two former leaders gives vivid examples of the personal tragedy that can stalk the lives of those who glorify excess (Cf. The 1991 Elton John interview with David Frost). Authors Schwarz and Empey observe: “In talking with some of the musicians involved in satanism, as well as individuals they have consulted – researches, psychologists, and psychics – a pattern becomes clear. Like so many others who save chosen satanism over Christianity, they have a desire for immediate gratification and self-fulfillment. ‘Money Control. Power. They want the fantasy of being able to live a special life with a lot of wealth,’ said a psychologist whose practice includes some of the major names in the rock business. ‘And they’re willing to die young to pay it off. They see that by giving life early they can have everything…’

The reality of this statement is obvious when you read the obituaries of rock stars. Many have died from alcoholism, drug abuse, or accidents resulting from their being under the influence of such products (Schwarz and Empey, Satanism: Is Your Family Safe? p. 154).

Brown and Hendee noted that “several murders have been correlated with fascination for heavy metal music and that “another behavioral study found that violent music videos desensitized viewers to violence immediately after viewing.”

A Tennessee psychiatrist informed a Senate committee that heavy metal music is “poison” for disturbed adolescents, not to mention substance abusers. It is “like throwing gasoline on the fire of hatred and resentment that’s already burning,” said Dr. Paul King, Clinical Assistant Professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Tennessee. According to King, more than 8o percent of his adolescent patients have listened to heavy metal for long stretches of time as a daily routine. They were familiar with all the words and wrote them in notebooks and on desks while class was going on (Wass, et. al., Adolescents’ Interest, King, “Heavy Metal Music”).

The Chronic, for example, is an album by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg, which has many explicit lyrics and unnecessary foul mouthing. In one song they say, that if f— with Dre you f— with death row…”, more or less saying that if anyone messes with them they will have to worry about everyone that is with Death Row Records. In the same song they tell a woman, referring to her as a bitch, to yell-187 (police code for someone that has been killed). In another song they ask another black man why he has been talking crap about them; he says it was not he. Then they put a gun in his mouth asking him, what’s wrong can’t talk with a gun in your mouth? Do you know Lucifer?, he replies ,no, and they tell him, well you’re about to meet him (Rap). All of the songs on this album contain foul mouth languages, violent and sexually explicit lyrics, drugs and misogyny.

William Drayton, Flavor Flav of the group Public Enemy, was arrested for attempted murder. The police were led to his home after a source told them that shots were fired at a neighbor during an argument. The police found a loaded 38-caliber semiautomatic handgun with one round missing. His music also glorifies violence.

Hawkins 4 Eric Wright, known as Easy-E, has also generated bad vibes against police officials. This album He died at 31 years of age after revealing that he had the virus AIDS. From his deathbed he urged young people to learn about the disease. His music also talked about having the lifestyle of being promiscuous and very kind of lifestyle killed him.

All of these rappers according to Marriott, have criminal records depict their lifestyles. They say that their music depicts the harsh reality of life in the hood. To these rappers, people dying young and going to jail is an everyday thing. Tupak had once said that violence is all that humans know and they’re telling it like it is a way of getting the people to listen to what is really going on.

Indeed, Rap has changed for the worse taking the art form and transforming it into trash with some positive messages that are hard to grasp from the music. Surely this demonstrates that music causes violence, because in any other circumstance, people don’t mash. If all of a sudden the dance club turned silent, everybody would stop dancing. ”says Precise. Critics of violent music have strong examples of how music causes violence. That is why when dance music is played; it gets the people fired up and gives them energy to go out on the dance floor and dance for hours on end” Precise continued.


It has been suggested by many musicians that music serves as their outlet for pent-up emotions as well as angst, aggression and other negative emotions, making as well as suggesting that music itself is catharsic or therapeutic.

Society has grown coarser, meaner, and more alienated. Violence seems not only more widespread but less shocking. People have become more accustomed to tragedy, violence, and hate. At the same time, there has been a marked increase in explicit violence and misogyny in popular music which perspicuously leads to social deviance of the listeners especially the youth. However, history will tell us that violence was in existence prior to the popularity or even emergence of negatively perceived and always targeted cause of violence: rock, and now, hip hop or rap.


This study shall undertake a purposive sampling which is one of the non-probabilistic sampling methods used in research. As there are a varieties as well as global quantity of rap listeners, it is practical at this time to use gender and age group specific but randomly selected rap listeners as a representation of the whole population. Purposive sampling was used as a target group of people, male rap listeners aged 16-30 is the typical or average group for the unique purpose of identifying aggression, more typical among males (Gorldstein, 2001). While this paper may not specifically claim that the purposive sampling s representative of the population, it will offer an insight to the purpose of this research: to identify the existence of aggressive or violent behaviour after listening to rap, or even violent rap music.

The Population

There would be a targeted 100 respondents, all males. It has been generalized that males have the tendency to be more aggressive, so, this study has focused on male respondents who are rap music listeners aged 16 to 30. The sample population has been selected from a group of listeners who frequent one online site identified as a rap /hip hop music hub.


Due to time and resources constraint, this study shall be limited to scouting respondents that are generally rap and hip hop listeners who at some point may or may not have been exposed to violent hip hop or rap music. As such, the research questions given the respondents shall focus on rap and hip hop music listening although others shall point out to the altering effect of violent hip hop or rap music on their mood as well as consequent actions.

Presentation and Interpretation of Data

Using the following LEGEND:




This study has established the following data with regards to the answers of 100 rap music listener-respondents in the questionnaire given them:

Table and Percentages

Table 1.

Always Sometimes Never
1. How often do you listen to rap/hip hop music? 72 28
2. Do you feel energized when listening to rap/hip hop? 32 68
3. Do you feel aggressive after listening to rap/hip hop? 32 68
4. If you feel energized after listening to rap/hip hop, do you express it by being violent to people? 100
5. Have you seen friends who like listening to rap/hip hop getting violent? 100
6. Have you experienced yourself or friends getting violent after listening to rap/hip hop? 100
7. Have you personally witnessed people getting violent after listening to rap/hip hop? 100
8. Have you listened to violent hip hop/rap music? 40 28 32
9. Does violent hip hop/rap music alter your mood after listening to it? 32 68
10. Do you believe violent hip hop/rap music alters your mood to become violent? 100

From the table above, it reveals that majority of the respondents (72) answered always with a percentage of 72%. There are 28 also who were listening rap/hip hop music sometimes. This implies that all of the respondents love to hear hip hop/ rap music. This means that they were enjoying listening rap/hip hop music and they can derived satisfaction from it.

Since the respondents want listening rap/hip hop music, from the satisfaction being derived, they feel energized while they are listening the said music. Unfortunately, even though they feel energized while they are listening music, they do not express it by being violent to others. While they are deriving such satisfaction, they were happy and that is because of their hobby in listening music.

When they were asked if they already experienced observing friends getting violent after listening rap/hip hop music, they answered never and that can be gleaned from the table above having a total percentage of 100%. They didn’t even witnessed people getting violent after listening rap/hip hop music through their belief that rap/hip hop music would not alter or change their mood or behavior.

There are music that are considered to be violent and nonviolent rap/hip hop music. In other words, there are some rap /hip hop music which are highly violent and this can cause to people being violent to others. From the table above, considering violent hip hop/rap music, it can be noticed that 40 out of 100 respondents answered always, 28 answered sometimes, and 32 answered never. This means that majority of them were listening rap/hip hop music but it doesn’t cause any violent reaction among them and to others. There are 32 respondents also that although they were listening hip hop/rap music, they were actually not considering the violent ones.

There are many cases wherein people have their own belief. Mine is not yours and yours are not mine. Meaning to say, there is always individual differences. However, since the respondents do not alter their mood after listening violent rap/hip hop music, they believe that it would not change or alter their mood to become violent. That can be proved from the table above.

Average Weighted Mean and Interpretation

Table 2.

Always Sometimes Never AWM Interpretation
1. How often do you listen to rap/hip hop music? 72 28 1.28 HIGH
2. Do you feel energized when listening to rap/hip hop? 32 68 1.68 MODERATE
3. Do you feel aggressive after listening to rap/hip hop? 32 68 2.68 LOW
4. If you feel energized after listening to rap/hip hop, do you express it by being violent to people? 100 3 LOW
5. Have you seen friends who like listening to rap/hip hop getting violent? 100 3 LOW
6. Have you experienced yourself or friends getting violent after listening to rap/hip hop? 100 3 LOW
7. Have you personally witnessed people getting violent after listening to rap/hip hop? 100 3 LOW
8. Have you listened to violent hip hop/rap music? 40 28 32 1.92 MODERATE
9. Does violent hip hop/rap music alter your mood after listening to it? 32 68 2.68 LOW
10. Do you believe violent hip hop/rap music alters your mood to become violent? 100 3 LOW


HIGH → 1.0 – 1.67

MODERATE → 1.68 – 2.33

LOW → 2.34 – 3.0

The above data can be interpreted through the computation of the average weighted mean of each question. The interpretation, in general, of the given data is through the computed total average weighted mean.

From the above table, it can be observed that the average weighted mean for the first question is 1.28. This can be interpreted as high. This implies that 100% of the total respondents were listening rap/hip hop music. In addition to that, they also love listening rap/hip hop music. While they were listening rap/hip hop music, they feel moderately energized as gleaned from the table with an average weighted mean of 1.68. The third question has an average weighted mean of 2. 68 and it can be interpreted as low. This means that majority of them didn’t feel aggressive after listening to rap/hip hop music.

The fourth until the seventh question together with the tenth question were interpreted as low obtaining an average weighted mean of 3. This simply means the respondents were really a hip hop/rap music lover without causing them to be violent to others. As a replacement for, they derived satisfaction from listening to the said music. They did not even experience nor witnessed others any violent reaction after listening to rap/hip hop music. Respondents were aware that rap/hip hop music does not alter or change their mood to become violent after listening even though it is violent rap/hip hop music.

The above cited questions, in general, obtained an average weighted mean of 2.524 and can be interpreted as low. This implies that the respondents really believe that it will not cause them to be violent from listening violent or non-violent rap/hip hop music. While they feel energized, they did not become violent nor aggressive.

Analysis and Conclusion

Rap Music is but one part of the popular culture. Whatever impact music has on youth behavior is bound to be complex and variant. But the best way to determine what that impact is, what influence violent lyrics exert, and how such lyrics fit into the cumulative impact of popular entertainment on our modern sensibility is to encourage research, debate, and discussion. Such an important public issue merits public inquiry.

Given the above findings, it is established that rap or hip hop music do not necessarily induce violence or cause aggressive behavior among respondents who are definitely rap music listeners. All listeners did not express any form of aggression or violence at all after listening to rap music although 32% admitted to “sometimes” feel aggression after listening to violent rap or hip hop music. But in the question “Do you believe violent hip hop/rap music alters your mood to become violent?”, all respondents replied the negative, making them aware there is no perceived aggression effect of listening to rap music.

Although a further study need to be more specific at choosing clearly identified “violent” rap or hip hop music listeners in order to establish the violent or aggressive effect of “violent rap or hip hop” music, it is safe to suggest as this study found, that hip-hop in general do not induce or alter a mood or individuals to become aggressive of violent.


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Always Sometimes Never
  1. How often do you listen to rap/hiphop music?
  1. Do you feel energized when listening to rap/hiphop?
  1. Do you feel aggressive after listening to rap/hiphop?
  1. If you feel energized after listening to rap/hiphop, do you express it by being violent to people?
  1. Have you seen friends who like listening to rap/hiphop getting violent?
  1. Have you experienced yourself or friends getting violent after listening to rap/hiphop?
  1. Have you personally witnessed people getting violetn after listening to rap/hiphop?
  1. Have you listened to violent hiphop/rap music?
  1. Does violent hiphop/rap music alter your mood after listening to it?
  1. Do you believe violent hiphop/rap music al