Popular Music in the Modern Culture


Popular music is a part of modern culture which attracts millions of fans around the world. The philosophy of music states that the best music is music that resists heavy consumption, challenging fan’s expectations and habitual modes of musical perception, thereby helping to resist community’s deeply troubling drift toward unthinking conformity, comatose passivity, and capitulation to the dehumanizing force of monopoly. Popular music that caters to easy consumption or to a common sense of togetherness is ideological: it heats fan’s awareness of the individual, of difference, and of individuality, creating an all-is-well state of mind which facilitates a kind of mass brainwashing, an uncritical consciousness totally determined by external forces (Brackett 76). Rap music is often considered as antisocial trend based on extreme violence and aggression. Rap has a great influence on society: culturally, politically and socially. Its social influence on society has some differences and similarities which had been caused by different cultural context they emerged

Rap music during 1980s

Rap music emerged during 1980s as a response to Rock & Roll and other musical trends of the period. In clubs and on the concert stage, Rap has kept the American message of liberation and freedom alive. The similarity of both trends is that they were treated as bad music which encourage bad behavior. The difference is that rap involved primarily teenage group (13-16 years old) and then youth, while Rock & Roll had a great impact on wider audience: young adults from 18 to 30. Rap culture involved not only low class adolescents, but a lot of teenagers from middle-class families Both trends had been popular among young people, but constantly rejected by their parents as “bad” taste music. Rap is associated with urban youth, while Rock & Roll represented urban and country life. Rap genres are considered as a cultural phenomenon and social change agents brining novelty and new vision of cultural norms. Rap music created social movements changing the attitudes of all involved: fans, musicians, managers, record companies executives, critics and magazine editors included (Dodd 87). Rap affected all aspects of culture in a positive and negative way. How people dress, what music they listen to, and what they choose for entertainment. The policy of aggressiveness was important because rap was one of many other styles and had to compete with hip-hop, rock, etc. It encouraged lust, sex, suicide, aggression, rebellion against authority, etc (Brackett 43).

Rap music as a social force

Rap represented social movement against poverty, mass unemployment and negative experience of black youth. It concerns with culture of “blacks ” while rock & roll represented both groups: “whites” and “blacks”. The main focus of rap was on wealth and crime, while rock & roll influenced people’s morals appealing for trendy life style. Another difference is that rock & roll did not negatively represent women and other groups, child abuse or domestic violence which became a remarkable feature of rap. In this case, rap encouraged an extremely aggressive behavior. The negative influence of both trends is popularizing drugs and alcohol as attributes of stylish life. For teenage rappers drugs and alcohol represented “adulthood”: young people treated drugs and alcohol as a stylish and trendy way of life. In any case, these cultural norms penetrated society and stimulate aggressive behavior (Brackett 76).

Critics underline that music resists comfortable consumption and popularity: it attacks the law of the modern marketplace. Popular and light music actually serves to maim consciousness. Thus, good popular music plays a crucial redemptive social function by refusing to surrender to commercialism and conformity, keeping alive some small remnant of mental and social sovereignty. And bad music serves the social end of reinforcing obedience and consistency, making the dehumanizing influences and depravities of capitalism seem not only natural and inevitable, but pleasant (Dodd 87).

Opposition to rap music

In modern society, rap exemplifies the anxiety present in the commercialization of minority voices, in the disagreement between the money to be made in a free market and the lack of control over cultural values and principles. Associated with youth, rap has always been viewed by the critics as an oppositional voice. Unlike pop music, rap does not conform into a safe, neat, commercial product. The threatening nature of rap message has always made it commercially winning (Pickering 87). Today, mass culture is the site of many battles that has less to do with social enlightenment than with the renewal of the market. Rap music is a practical commercial force, becoming increasingly popular. One explanation for the social resistance to rap is that it is a subculture transmitted to a mainstream culture still learning to read it; this accounts for the argument, the misreadings, the uncertainty of cultural codes. Positively, the message of rap, as of any subculture, is the social need of minority groups not only to be heard but to be listened to. Beyond social controls, censoring rap music can be indirect thus it is an important part of modern social relations (Brackett 54).

Rap fans are urged to boycott concerts and to refuse to purchase the music that parents and other adults have publicized as unfavorable. Businesses and discount chain mega-stores respond to communal pressures and refuse to carry the offending music, especially the music labeled obscene or aggressive. The industry can censor itself and freeze expression, no matter how financially successful. The modern rap fans, as the prime buyers of rap musical forms, have long purchased tapes, records and CDs, listened to radio, watched MTV and attended rap concerts. Besides being influenced to some degree by the youths’ musical preferences, rap music companies do react to strong parental groups who protest that meticulous lyrics are too violent or too sexually reminiscent and obscene. Some people have sued rap musicians and music businesses because of suspected effects to them and their families (McDonnell 32). The government and the state authorities react to the controversial music with moral outrage and propose laws as a means of protecting the nation’s children and the rest of community. Organized groups movements appointed and elected officials to do something under the guise of protecting youth and the society in general (Pickering 66).

Rap music and its values

Rap music works in the same way as other musical forms transmitting messages and feelings from the musician to listeners. Attempts to apply long-term obscenity or indecency statutes to rap music have failed. Those musical laws have historically been based on value judgments. Lyrics that offend one fan may appeal to another; many times the expressions are generation-bound. In creative and artistic endeavors, music is evaluated individually as to rap song, album, and performer. Traditionally, when rap music has flouted community’s norms on behavior and sounds, various internal or external powers have been instituted or the music is changed in some way to make it more acceptable. Traditional rap singers, facing record and broadcast censorship to prevent public anger, formulated new imagery to avoid the record company censors. With prevailing social racism, rap songs by African Americans, no matter how innovative, are suspect and an affront to the openly segregationist views (McDonnell 67).

Rap music, to be financially successful, black music became marginalized in the modern culture with white “covers.” Many African-American rap singers received little or no compensation when their songs were recorded by whites. The terror and fear was that African-American youth would indeed “join” and empathize with the black adolescents’ urban problems and troubles. Despite the fact that there are some white rappers, African-American artists dominated gangsta rap with black principles and street lingo explicit enough to be understood. Even though almost three-quarters of all rap albums are bought by white youth, rap music remained an African-American phenomenon. The rap lyrics confronted audiences with issues of racism, sexism, and black understandings toward white authority. Unlike some concerns about heavy metal music’s effects upon the delicate minds of a few troubled people, rap music is thought to cause a volatile reaction from total audiences. Modern society, including primarily white adults, had a horror that African-American youth are dry kindling, ready to burst into flame with any stray spark. Inflammatory lyrics such as “Cop Killer” could incite an entire race to murder the nation’s police (McDonnell 85).

The modern environment and understanding of rap shows that music cannot exist in isolation form culture and social norms, but functions as part of cultural medium. Still, the argument is that censorship is warranted; rap lyrics are of graphic nature with sadistic and masochistic images (Dodd 87). Rap music influences a wide range of listeners and becomes a weekly staple on MTV. Political at many levels, boastful and angry, rap lyrics and sounds resonated with primitive beats that emphasized conflict. Rap upset the prevailing view that the lyrics do not matter. These critics’ comments have been among the many attempts to control the rock and rap images by arguing the defense of children. The rap music may represent aesthetic and artistic liberty, but to such social leaders and many adults, the rap music also represents more than the musical sounds or the lyrics. People care much about music because it embraces attitudes about urban life and how to respond to individual relationships and what to do, to social values and what to embrace. Such popular music aimed at society has been, and will continue to be, political, with images expressing attitudes about social mores, civil rights, discrimination, war participation, sexism, the surroundings, the urban blight, police brutality, and authority (McDonnell 34).


In sum, rap music influences people’s ways of thinking and feelings. Even though this conception of rap value no longer has much controversy among theorists who interpret music socially, By wrenching rap from the number of autonomous, aesthetic insularity, critics paved the way for explanations of rap’s nature and value that challenge some of rap philosophy’s most cherished and time honored principles. As something that is fundamentally and invariably social, rap is never blameless, never pure. In fact, rap as the sociopolitical end of masking music’s social complicity, sustains the social status quo while going difficult, unexamined, and unconcealed. Rap music is powerful as it shapes human consciousness, identity, and social order. Today, rap music becomes the locus of radical and wide-ranging opposition and contestation against inequality and social differences. As a sociopolitical force, rap music supports the issues of minor human interests to resume a place of pivotal power and profound significance in the modern world of capitalism and consumerism.

Works Cited

Brackett, D. The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader: Histories and Debates. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Dodd, Ph. The Book of Rock: From the 1950s to Today. Da Capo Press; 2nd edition, 2005.

McDonnell, E. Rock She Wrote: Women Write about Rock, Pop, and Rap. Cooper Square Press, 1999.

Pickering, J. Rock and Rap (Sound Trackers). Heinemann Library, 2003.