Bad Rap: Examining the Role of African American Males in Popular Music
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The purpose of this study is to investigate the claims made by popular media and public figures regarding rap music and its potential to adversely socialize Americans—particularly young adults and children—and show that other genres of music also contain potentially harmful lyrics. It is believed that rap is unfairly singled out by the media and public figures because it is a minority art form. One highly criticized area of rap music, the denigration of women in lyrics, was used as a measuring stick to judge rap against other forms of music to see if the criticisms of rap are justified. It was expected that the study would find no difference between rap and other forms of music and that other genres would also contain negative images of women within the lyrics. The study used the Billboard Hot 100 charts as a guide for selecting songs for the study. The top 50 songs from 1980-2005, taken in 5 year increments, were used for the study. 300 songs were selected in all. The lyrics were then obtained from a peer-reviewed lyrics website and analyzed by the study to see if the song contained one or more negative images of women within the lyrics. A bivariate analysis, using Chi-square, was conducted to see if any significant relationships existed between the independent variables, gender of the performer(s), race and genre of music, and the dependent variable, negative images of women existed. Mixed results were obtained with regards to the hypothesis. Other genres of music did contain a significant number of derogatory lyrics; however, the genres with the highest number of negative images were also the three genres that contained the highest concentrations of African American males. Therefore, it was determined that race does play a role in terms of portraying women negatively in popular music. It is further postulated that due to adverse economic conditions within the African American community, the deterioration of the African American family, and on-going tensions between African American males and females contribute to this defamation of women in popular music. Since music can be an agent of socialization, it is further postulated that these derogatory songs can influence the minds of not just African Americans, but all Americans, thus exacerbating racial and sexual tensions in the United States, thus creating a never-ending, vicious cycle for African Americans that keeps them subjugated and dominated by the majority culture of America.