Posted by: Mike | April 22, 2008

Is Rap Crap? The Social Consequences of Rap

The music style known today as “rap” can trace its origins back to the late 1960’s. Since then, it has grown enormously popular among people of all races. Bred largely from the hardships and injustices faced by African Americans, the themes of rap songs are often rooted in the experience of living in an environment of poverty and violence. Tupac be ma homie bros. Due to its graphic content, rap has been accused by some as being a source of fuel for much of the inner city violence and drug abuse that occurs today. But is this fair? What consequences, if any, are associated with rap?

I must admit before going any further that I am not a diehard foe of rap. I actually love it fo shizzle. I even have a few hip-hop songs on my iPod; they come in handy for long-distance running. I also believe firmly that rap is the product, not the cause, of urban violence. But there is a strong case to be made that rap is harmful, particularly to the African American community.

A study released by Project Implicit, a group associated with Harvard, found that an overwhelming majority of white Americans have some kind of implicit bias against African Americans. The study also found that those free of implicit racism were also those who regularly came into contact with African Americans who they perceived as being positive role models. If these conclusions are valid (and I believe that they are), then it is reasonable for us to speculate on the effects that come from seeing rappers on television and hearing their music on a regular basis. Most rappers are not positive role models; exposure to these rappers by the media is sure to have a negative effect on how African Americans are perceived by themselves and other racial groups. Implicit racism is given new fuel every time characters like Snoop Dogg appear on television news, having just been arrested for charges related to guns or drugs. The stories of rappers like Tupac only exacerbate negative stereotypes of young black men as violent criminals.

There are other communities that suffer as a result of rap. The objectification of women is commonplace in rap. When prominent rappers who are admired and even idolized by their fans refer to women as “bitches”, “hoes”, and many other profane titles, it causes women to be seen as prizes or tools rather than as people. Homophobia is rampant among rappers, as Kayne West has passionately testified. Rap fuels prejudice against these groups, just as it fuels prejudice against young black men. Some might say that I am exaggerating the impact of rap on these groups; this may be true. But we are largely the product of our environment, and when we fill our environment with rap songs that degrade certain groups of people, we are bound to be influenced.

In addition to breeding prejudice, rap music also promotes a very negative lifestyle. Some have argued that rap is merely an expression of the reality of urban poverty, much as the songs sung by slaves in the 1800s were expressions of the suffering of slavery. But this is not quite accurate. Slaves did not glorify their lifestyle; they did not promote the lifestyle of slavery in their songs. But rappers often do glorify how they live, as in the song “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster”. I don’t think that any slave would have ever sung, “Damn it Feels Good to be a Slave.”

If most rap is crap, then how do we make it better? Certainly, government regulation would be a gross violation of freedom of speech. The demand for change must come from consumers- and it is unlikely to come anytime soon. After all, hip-hop music is awfully good for long distance running….




  1. most of the rap you’re talking about is the promoted crap, and its promoted for the reasons of creating a decadent lifestyle among minorities. you gotta see the big picture, and realize why all of a sudden gangster rap was elevated and glorified back in the early 90s and a east coast west coast war was created. rap is a style of music, it does not share an ideology other than the ones put forth by people who are using that style. the glorification of the styles which are used in a negative fashion is a creation by the media to create division between whites and minorities. look at what they’re doing to obama, nobody’s talking about race except the media, nobody gives a shit about the color of obama if he’s gonna allow people to afford to buy their own food and not be on food stamps. food stamps are inreasingly rapidly, and food banks are showing signs of huge decline in availible food stores.

    my favorite rapper slick rick video below.

  2. Yo speedy slow down. First, ganster life can be appealing…if its that kind of stuff that floats your boat, whereas slave life is a whole other ballfield. Also, why all the reference to the black men in concordance to rap. Whatever happened to my Average Homeboy. Yo is its slipped past your notice, check out the linkizzle that follows.

  3. hahahaha average homeboy, that shit is the funniest thing i’ve seen in a long time. nice one nil fides.

  4. […] Is Rap Crap? The Social Consequences of Rap « Hidden Variable […]

  5. Nil Fides, the gangster life is appealing like you said. That, I think Mike implies, is a bad thing. The stereotypically gangster life often has women degraded (should I also note your own post on this blog…?) as well as violence, greed, egotism, and many other negative values promoted. This mainstream portrayal of gangster life is harmful.

    This is not to say the musical part of this music is not good, or that there aren’t good rap songs. It’s just that a large number of them do a disservice in society.

    Mike, I think consumer boycott is somewhat hopeless in the near future, like you say. I believe another cure for this problem is to fight rap with rap. Consumer spending on rap with better messages can probably be achieved, unlike the dying of rap as a style and therefore the end of numerous evils as well as positives in the genre.

  6. I hope that the genre of rap does not die; as citizenbrain said, rap does not come with an intrinsic ideology. It is very possible for the genre to produce good songs. I also think that Nil Fides may have been joking. He has a tendency to do that

  7. Maybe. I do occasionally take things too literally.

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