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The Impact of Rap and Hip-Hop Music On American Youth

“I’m from where the guns love to introduce theyself. Reduce your health little bulletproofs get felt. The street’s a trip; either you deep or you sleep with the fish” (Thandi 19). It is from Big Pun’s “Brave In the Heart” lyrics that affect the minds of young Americans by telling them that they must use violence in order to win or survive. Imagine American youth all over the country being exposed to this explicit kind of language. There is no need to imagine however, because it is already happening. Ever since the rise of rap and hip-hop music, teens have been turning to them to help solve their problems. However, these kinds of music can be very destructive to teens. It is not the youth’s fault, it is the content that the music contains. Although rap and hip-hop music can be a force for good, they can also have an extremely negative impact on the attitudes and behaviors of American youth.
In a recent experiment, 700 fifteen- year- olds were exposed to rap music. One third listened to sexually explicit lyrics, and two thirds listened to degrading lyrics about sex. After the experiment, each fifteen year old was asked about their sexual thoughts. Almost all of their responses had something to do with sex (Degrading). The results of this experiment are very alarming because they show how much rap and hip-hop music is affecting American youth. In another experiment, twenty teenagers who all disliked spicy foods were exposed to rap music. Ten out of the twenty listened to lyrics containing violent content. After listening to the music, each was asked how much hot sauce they would give to the other teenagers around them. The ten who listened to the violent lyrics said that they would give four times more hot sauce than the ones who listened to lyrics not containing violence. The results of this experiment shows that violent lyrics in rap and hip-hop music make youth four times more aggressive (What). Also, studies show that ever since these genres of music became popular, youth who listened to them were more likely to get involved with drugs (Thandi 21). The reason why is because in some rap and hip-hop songs, the musicians refer to drugs that youth have not heard of. This sparks their curiosity to learn and try the new drugs. Also, many major rappers have some sort of a relationship with an alcohol advertiser. Out of this relationship, they become familiar with alcohol, making it easier to write about it. A study shows that twelve to twenty year old African-American youth are exposed to sixty-six percent more beer advertising than any other youth (Thandi 22). If you add that with all the rap songs about alcohol and drug references, you can see that they are being affected tremendously. Why are youth being affected by these genres of music, and why is it only them?
American youth are a target towards the marketers of rap and hip-hop. They are always influenced by the media and still trying to find their identity. The marketers find it easy to market towards them because they are not so sure of who they are yet, which makes it easier to influence them. Rap and hip-hop music also provide teens with a sense of belonging. For example, teenagers see the Mercedes, models, and jewelry in rap and hip-hop music videos. They feel that if they spend their money to buy that stuff, they can be famous and get all the girls just like the people in the videos. In some low-income areas, some youth, particularly African-American males, are growing up with limited opportunities. Some of them have no important male role model in their lives, so they look up to a rap or hip-hop artist. Some may call this fantasizing, some may not. When a person looks up to or is influenced by a role model, they tend to do the things that person does. The teenagers who look up to rap and hip-hop artists are likely to do what they do. This includes their actions, ideas, the way they live, dress and act towards others. It is like a maze. The marketers are the maze, plastering an identity onto teenagers as they go through the maze. By the time they exit, they are nothing but a street thug influenced by music. In some ways, this could have a negative impact of youth.
Equally important, the effects of rap and hip-hop music on American youth can be positive, yet can be very destructive. On the positive side, they can make a person feel good about who they are. They may not live a good life, but they can relate to the lyrics in the song. “Got my worried, stressin’, my vision’s blurried. The question is will I live. No one in the world loves me. I’m headed for danger, don’t trust strangers. Put one in the chamber, whenever I’m feeling this anger. Don’t wanna make excuses cause this is how it is. What’s the use unless we’re shootin? No one notices the youth. It’s just me against the world baby” (Shakur 16). In this rap song, rapper Tupac Shakur expresses his anger and frustration to the world. Rap and hip-hop lyrics also make youth feel free and powerful. They are free to express what they want to express. In a Wall Street Journal article, it describes rap and hip-hop music as “a religion for troubled youth” (The). It provides them with something to believe in. They may use this power to help others, or they may use it to destroy others. One big example of the negative effect of rap and hip-hop music is violence. Violent lyrics in songs can be a trigger for some teenagers to start fights, even kill others for what they have. Some possessions could be cars, clothes, jewelry, and money. Gangs and street thugs are also examples of negative effects. They rob, steal, vandalize, kill, and destroy others. The quote, “Either you deep, or you sleep with the fish” (Thandi 19), tells youth that they must use violence as a protection, or they die. Rap and hip-hop music can also have a negative impact on language and speech. In many rap and hip-hop songs, the “N” word is used several times. Slang and ungrammatical sentences are also used. For example, “Imma be, we go party it up, in da hood, wattup, swaggin, ain’t, etc.” The more youth listen to these slang words and ungrammatical sentences, the more they will use it in their daily speech.
Furthermore, fashion among youth also comes from rap and hip-hop music. Some males who listen to rap and hip-hop music will tend to wear baggy jeans, called sagging, oversized t-shirts, and a cap. Some will even go as far as getting grills. Grills are like jewelry for your teeth. They come in gold and silver, so when a person smiles, their teeth are all shiny. Tattoos are not a bad thing, but males will also get tattoos on their body.
Youth are being affected by rap and hip-hop, but what about the masterminds creating the music? Are they having an impact too? One obvious example of a musician who has influenced millions of American youth is Lady Gaga. Some people see Lady Gaga as two people, one good side, and one bad side. She has inspired youth to be who they are, from her unique and outrageous outfits, to her style of music. At the 2010 VMA Awards, Lady Gaga surprised America when she wore a dress made out of raw meat. She once also dressed up in gauze and fake blood. The answer to why she dresses up in these outrageous “costumes”, no one knows. Perhaps she wants to let others know that it is okay to be who you are. Although she is inspirational and unique, she sends negative messages in her songs and videos. In her song, “Poker Face”, her lyrics say, “When it’s love, if it’s not rough, it isn’t fun.” No wonder she has been popular among youth. In her music video for “Bad Romance”, Lady Gaga hides a rape-like message. In the video, two women are holding her down while pouring a white fluid into her mouth. This is kind of like a metaphor for rape. The notoriety she receives is probably the reason why she is so rich. After only producing music for two years, some are already calling Lady Gaga the “Queen of Pop Music.” Others call her a goddess. In 2009, Lady Gaga came out and admitted to being bisexual. Soon after her coming out, many teenagers who were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered came out as well.
Another musician who is similar to Lady Gaga in influencing others but different in music is Katy Perry. With chart-topping hits, Katy Perry’s songs are about boys, feeling good, and nonsense. More youth can relate to Katy Perry’s songs than Lady Gaga’s because they are about everyday topics. Her songs vary from being a lesbian, to girls in California. When youth, particularly females, listen to her songs, they feel almost high because her creative lyrics are mainly about having fun. Like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry has some wild music videos. In the “California Gurls” music video, she uses bright colors, candy, and cheesy dance moves to attract people to watch her video. Katy Perry’s videos are very proactive, from her blue hair to the amount of clothes she has on. One twenty-one year old said that she once skipped a very important college lecture to go see Katy Perry’s concert. She got her hair cut just like Katy Perry’s and dressed just like her. At the concert, the twenty-one year old did not even get near to meeting Katy Perry, but just being in her presence made it worth it to skip school (I). These musicians are very creative and unique writers, but there is a line that should not get crossed. The target audience is the youth. Musicians need to be careful when writing their lyrics because it can brainwash the inevitable minds of American youth. And that is what society is witnessing.
In addition, not all musicians are notorious, they can be highly virtuous. Snoop Dogg has a saying, “Keep it real.” What does it mean? The answer is right in the text. Although Snoop Dogg has millions of fans, he wants each and every one of them to know that everything he raps about is real. And that he himself is real, just like any ordinary person. He may own a mansion, amazing cars, and live a luxurious life, but he wants youth to know that he can relate to them. It may seem like the musicians are the enemies in our society, but they are not always. For national public service announcements, celebrities are usually used to influence others watching the commercial. This ties back to teenagers looking up to rap and hip-hop musicians and doing everything they do. When a musician is talking about stopping bullying or drugs, the youth who are watching it will most likely do what they hear since they want to be like that musician they are seeing on their television screen. Another example of a positive impact is Tupac Shakur. He was a famous rapper and poet in the nineties. Tupac Shakur was a troubled teenager. He got into fights, stole from people, and even killed. After his murder, his mother set up a non-profit foundation to help youth pursue their dreams and to stay off the streets. The foundation was a success. This shows that good can come from another’s mistakes.
It is clear that rap and hip-hop music can tremendously influence American youth in positive and negative ways. But the negative effects far outrun the positive effects. From the way they act, behave towards them self and others, dress, and live. These effects are destroying them very quickly. Will rap and hop-hop’s impact on American youth eventually die out? If not, what does this mean for our future? “I’m from where the guns love to introduce theyself. Reduce your health little bulletproofs get felt. The street’s a trip; either you deep or you sleep with the fish” (Thandi 19).

Join the Discussion

This article has 45 comments. Post your own now!

Alexyoung said...
today at 7:41 am
Really nice story and it is so funny and definatley the us youth having hip hop music impact.because many of the people in us following hip hop style's and in this post the author taken example is too
Mrs. Coronado said...
Jun. 17 at 5:26 pm
This story is so much fun! The writing is so discreptive and lighthearteded.
asg816 said...
May 6 at 5:40 pm
since I now know that this article is old and being a freshman at a HBCU college also. its not the musicians fault. its the record label because they control the content behind artists songs. so artists actually come up with legit songs that aren't about MPW. and MPW stands for: Money, P*ussy, Weed(drugs altogether. but the people who pass it says no because that isn't what grabs attention and sell. MPW will always sell and rappers have too (sometimes)against their will have to rap about life st... (more »)
abkoobthoj said...
Mar. 16 at 8:59 pm
Hey, everyone! I'm the author of this essay and just wanted to clarify a few things. First off, I wrote this back in 9th grade for a research paper assignment, I am now currently a college freshman. Second, reading over this essay I do agree with many of you that my voice may come off as "hateful" and "ignorant", and I appreciate those of you who have pointed that out. However, I wrote this several years ago and can tell you that since then I've developed my writing skills and have learned t... (more ») replied...
Mar. 25 at 12:27 am
what year was this published?? (for my works cited research paper)
PhilThao replied...
Mar. 30 at 5:56 pm
Hey there! This article was published in November of 2010.
Dylann4 said...
Mar. 12 at 2:28 pm
This article is ridiculous. In it the author said "Tattoos are not a bad thing, but some males will also get tattoos on their body." What is this even supposed to mean? If tattoos aren't a bad thing, then where are you supposed to put them, on your couch? This article attacks people's style and interests. It says that rap music causes problems in youth, but is it really the music? Rap music isn't the one raising this generation. This article is complete nonsense.
Asg816 replied...
May 6 at 5:25 pm
@dylann4 explain why so many young people now want to live trap lives and be a plug and also be "Trap Queens"? he didn't say hip-hop/rap was the ONLY cause of the issues of this generation and the next but it is apart of the problem. majority of the youth of all ethnicity listens to rap music so when we change that we change attitudes.
Mcr186 said...
Mar. 6 at 12:59 am
Hey. This person is making a great point. Children nowadays are stupid and not only because of rap but what they influence kids to do through all sorts of media. So don't act like you all know so much and think of this logically. Don't say the first thing that goes to your head. Try thinking for once.
Charle57 said...
Jan. 29 at 12:05 pm
The Hip-Hop culture wasn't meant to be a destructive genre of music or a "racy" influence on us teens. To me, Hip-hop is supposed to be fun, free, and especially wild. I do agree, as someone who listens and breathes rap and Hip-Hop every waking day, that some of the stuff I would hear or see through any media can be taken as corruptive towards today's youth. But that isn't what this young, amazing culture isn't about. It's about spreading today's stresses and the status of today's "modern" socie... (more »)
80CEnt said...
Jan. 28 at 1:56 pm
i listen to rap and hip hop only and ima girl but i aint no violent lmfao u just frontin and dont know much.. go away hater
80CEnt said...
Jan. 28 at 1:46 pm
wow so racist
kirby22 said...
Dec. 15, 2014 at 2:17 pm
Umm im 16 and i listen too rap 24/7 And im pretty sure I don't dress 'Racy'.
Panama said...
Dec. 11, 2014 at 8:21 pm
hey Charlie 666. u know that is the sign of the Devil, but then u r r quite ignorant for givin urself that name.... but if u want we can talk about it. i'm not perfect... Panama
Charlie666 said...
Dec. 3, 2014 at 9:26 pm
zacsddgrt said...
Nov. 19, 2014 at 3:35 pm
only your opinion so ye
KT12345 said...
Oct. 6, 2014 at 3:19 am
I would just like to know the sources of some of your statements specifically the studies you mention.....And I dont think 2Pac ever killed anyone..just an FYI replied...
Jan. 4 at 9:27 pm
KT12345 he did kill someone just fyi
chands said...
Sept. 4, 2014 at 11:44 am
who's thandi?
Sarah L said...
Jun. 23, 2014 at 5:25 am
Oh, this is a flood of white tears.
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