How influential is rap music on teens in the English speaking world?
By Eran Cornelius
In this dissertation I will be discussing the question ‘how influential is rap music on teens in the English speaking world?’ There are multiple answers to this question and I will be exploring them in detail. In modern day society rap music is considered to be extremely influential especially to an audience of younger age although its impact is considered to be very controversial, some say rap is very harmful to an audience which is easily influenced however, others would disagree with that statement and say the opposite about rap.
Despite all the controversy saying rap music has a very negative influence on its audience there are multiple positive influences caused by rap and there are multiple examples to support this claim such as people claiming that rap music has greatly affected their life and some also go as far as to say that rap music has saved their life.
A lot of rap artists have begun to rap about the controversial topic of mental health, an example of this is American rapper born in Florida ‘Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy’ whose rap name is ‘XXXTentacion’ he is also referred to by his fans as just ‘X’ some of X’s fans have claimed that his music has saved their lives. They say this due to X’s debut studio album released on august 25th 2017. The album is titled “17” and on this album X raps about his depression and suicidal thoughts on the first track of the album titled ‘The Explanation’ X explains what the album is about from the start, ‘The Explanation’ is not a song it is just X talking so this reaches out to his fans on a personal level the words he says are – “17. A collection of nightmares, thoughts, and real-life situations I’ve lived. 17 is the number tattooed on the right side of my head, my own personal number, soon to be explained in future interviews or instances. By listening to this album, you are literally, and I cannot stress this enough, literally entering my mind. And if you are not willing to accept my emotion and hear my words fully, do not listen. I do not value your money; I value your acceptance and loyalty. Here is my pain and thoughts put into words. I put my all into this in the hopes that it will help cure, or at least numb, your depression. I love you. Thank you for listening. Enjoy.” (Genius, 2018) Through ‘The Explanation’ X made it clear what the purpose of his album is which is for him to be able to share his thoughts and emotions whilst also trying to reach out and help others that may suffer from mental health issues mainly targeting listeners that have depression. Numerous fans that listened to this album have said that they were able to relate to this album on a personal level and this heavily ‘numbed’ their depression. Unfortunately, on June 18th 2018 XXXTentacion was unexpectedly shot when he was in his car which led to him later that day dying from the gunshot wound. Before his death X deeply impacted his fans positively by giving them a subject on which they could relate on, and even after death X continues to influence his fans through his posthumous songs and album releases.
Another example of a rapper who rapped about the topic of mental health and suicide is American rapper born in Maryland ‘Sir Robert Bryson Hall II’ known professionally by his rap name ‘Logic’. On Logic’s 3rd studio album titled ‘Everybody’ he rapped about a number of issues arising in America such as politics and crime however, his most popular song on the album he rapped about suicide. The song is titled ‘1-800-273-8255’ Logic titled his song this because it is actually the number for the national suicide prevention lifeline, he wanted his listeners to know that suicide should not be the solution to any problem so he made the name of his song the number for the national suicide prevention lifeline. In the song he raps from two perspectives, one being somebody who is suicidal calling the lifeline and the second being the operator preventing suicide. Logic made this song because when he was on tour fans have come up to him and told him that his music has actually saved their lives, as Logic quotes in an interview with Genius “just fans that I met randomly, they’ve said things like, “Your music has saved my life. You’ve saved my life.” – Logic (Genius, 2018). Logic later on said that he was not trying to save anyone one’s life he was just making music so he thought to himself what will happen if he does try to save someone’s life. “Man I wasn’t even trying to save nobody’s life.” And then it hit me, the power that I have as an artist with a voice. I wasn’t even trying to save your life. Now what could happen if I actually did?” – Logic (Genius, 2018). This thought led to Logic creating this song. In the first verse Logic is rapping from the perspective of someone who wants to commit suicide calling the lifeline and in the verse he talks about multiple reasons why he doesn’t want to be alive. In the following chorus Logic switches his perspective from someone calling the lifeline to the perspective of the operator on the other end of the line. In this chorus he repeats the lyrics “I want you to be alive” trying to show the listeners that there are people who want them to be alive so they should not commit suicide. This song impacted listeners very deeply and evidence of this is that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, since the release of Logic’s song ‘1-800-273-8255’ there has been a drastic increase in both call volume and traffic to their website. Evidence of this is that there has been a 27% increase in calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the three weeks following the songs release and the number of visits to the website increased by 100″,000 the number of average monthly visits went from around 300″,000 to around 400″,000. (Zisook, 2018)
Another example of a rapper who had a positive influence is American rapper ‘Gary Maurice Lucas Jr’ who was born on august 17th 1988 known professionally by his rap name as ‘Joyner Lucas’. Joyner released an extremely controversial song on November 28, 2017 titled ‘I’m Not Racist’ in which he rapped from the perspective of a black male and a white male arguing with each other about the problems linked with the opposite race. In the first verse he raps from the perspective of the white male and addresses many of the ‘issues’ with black people. In the verse he says multiple times ‘I’m Not Racist’ but however despite him saying that he comes off as racist against black people. This was the intention of Joyner, for people to think that he was being racist. He finishes the verse by saying “It’s like we livin’ in the same buildin’ but split into two floors
I’m not racist
But there’s two sides to every story, I wish that I knew yours
I wish that I knew yours
I’m not racist, I swear” (Genius, 2018) He then raps from the perspective of the black male and he tries to show all the problems that black people have to deal with and how they are judged wrongly based on their stereotypes and appearance. He ends this verse by saying” It’s like we livin’ in the same buildin’ but splittin’ the both sides
I’m not racist
[image: Image result for i’m not racist joyner lucas]But there’s two sides to every story and now you know mine” (Genius, 2018) By using both perspectives Joyner attempted to portray what a white racist may think of black people and in the song, Joyner says that there are always two sides to a story and how someone may appear is not how they actually are. The video ends with the two men who were previously against each other, hugging as a result of the misconceptions one may have of the other being cleared up. This song targeted the issue of racism and so at the end when everything is said the meaning of the song is clear that it is an attempt to try to reduce racism.
Previously I have given multiple examples of rap influencing people positively, now I will talk about the negative impacts rap has. People say that there are multiple negative impacts of rap but the main ones being that rap glorifies violence, drug taking, sex and gang activity.
An example of a rapper who is considered to have a negative influence is American artist ‘Keith Farrelle Cozart’ known by his rap name as ‘Chief Keef’. Chief Keef was born in Chicago, Illinois on august 25th. His song which could be considered controversial and a bad influence is from his mix tape ‘Back From The Dead 2’ the song itself is called ‘Faneto’ in the song Chief Keep talks about shooting and blowing up New Jersey “Finna go and shoot New Jersey up (bang, bang, bang, bang)
Tryna take my chain, I ain’t goin’
We gon’ come and blow New Jersey up (bang, bang, bang)” (Genius, 2018) . Chief Keef said this on his song due to him getting assaulted or in modern day terms known as ‘jumped’, along with Chief Keef getting jumped the attacker also tried to rob him and so Chief Keef said this in his song as retaliation. This led to Chief Keef getting ‘banned’ from major New Jersey states. Another reason Chief Keef is considered a bad influence is due to his gang affiliations which he refrences in a lot of his songs, so therefore Chief Keef’s song ‘Faneto’ glorifies violence and you could go as far as to say that he is also possibly glorifying gang violence.
Another example of a rapper who is considered to have a negative influence is American rapper born in Miami, Florida named ‘Gazzy Garcia’ who was born on august 17th known professionally by his rap name as ‘Lil Pump’. Lil Pump is known most well for his song ‘Gucci Gang’. In Gucci Gang Lil Pump references drugs multiple times in this song “My b***h love do cocaine” (Genius, 2018) in this lyric Lil Pump is glorifying cocaine which is an extremely harmful and illegal drug, Lil Pump says this lyric a total of 4 times throughout the song. Another instance in the song when Lil Pump glorifies drugs is when he say’s “My lean cost more than your rent” in this lyric Lil Pump is glorifying the drug known as lean. Lean is a drink which has the opiate drug named codeine, and when codeine is consumed when not prescribed it can result in extremely harmful effects. With that lyric not only is Lil Pump glorifying drugs but he is also doing what is known as ‘flexing’ which is where he is showing off his wealth by saying that his drugs cost more than the listeners rent. Another example of Lil Pump glorifying drugs is when he says “Still slangin’ dope in the ‘jects, huh?” in this lyric he talks about ‘dope’ which is slang term for cannabis, and the term ‘slanging’ is slang for selling so therefore Lil Pump is trying to say that he is selling cannabis hence, he is promoting the drug.
[image: ][image: ](YouTube, 2018)
In the image on the left Lil Pump can be seen holding a Styrofoam cup in his left hand which we could assume is filled with ‘lean’ due to the lyrics. In the picture on the right Lil Pump can be seen holding numerous bags filled with a very large amount of cannabis therefore this shows that he is promoting and glorifying the use of drugs.
Another example of rap having a negative influence is that it leads to feuds which could end up in people losing their lives – this could be linked with gang violence but this particular example goes beyond just gangs. The biggest example of a feud would be between the two late rappers ‘Tupac Amaru Shakur’ more commonly referred to as his rap name ‘2Pac’ and ‘Christopher George Latore Wallace’ better known as ‘The Notorious B.I.G.’ or as just ‘Biggie’. The feud between these two was known as ‘West coast Vs East coast’ and this feud although it may not be as much about them anymore still exists with the west and east side constantly competing with each other. But back when this feud was about Biggie and 2pac it caused mayhem due it leading to shootings and murders. On the 13th of September 1996 the world mourned the death of the legendary rapper ‘2Pac’ who was assassinated in a drive by shooting. 6 months later Biggie also lost his life to a drive by shooting where he was also assassinated. People have speculated that 2Pac was killed by an east coast for Biggie and then Biggie was killed in retaliation to Pac’s death. Before his death 2Pac released a diss track targeted at Biggie titled ‘Hit ‘Em Up’ In the song Pac claimed that he had sex with Biggie’s wife and this only fuelled the hate Biggie had for Pac despite knowing if the claim was true or not. Whatever the truth may be, one thing we can know for sure is that the feud between these legendary MC’s was not a good thing in the slightest as it resulted in the feud of the West side Vs the East side continuing to this day.
The different behaviours that arise from rap influence
There are multiple behaviours that arise from the influence of rap, this is most likely due to listeners idolising their favourite rap artists and trying to imitate their life style and such.
An example of fans trying to imitate artists is the act of ‘flexing’. Flexing in Hip – Hop terms is when someone is attempting to show off their wealth or status by publicly presenting it. This is done by rappers possibly to gain what they call ‘clout’. The meaning of clout as the urban dictionary defines it is having the following: power, fame, money, influence and style – (Urban Dictionary, 2018). Fans try to impersonate their favourite artists and go out of their way to buy very expensive items such as clothing and jewellery just to flex. An example of rappers flexing in songs is – Navraj Singh Goraya who is a rapper born in Toronto, Canada on the 3rd of November known by his rap name as just ‘NAV’. In Nav’s song ‘You Know’ there are multiple occasions when he ‘flexes’ for instance in the very first line of his song Nav says “I used to hate going back to class in the same clothes, now, I don’t wear sh*t twice ’cause popping tags is all I know” (Genius, 2018) – in this line Nav is saying how when he was younger he used to hate returning to school wearing the same clothing twice contrasting to his rich celebrity life now where every time he wears clothes they are brand new which can be inferred by the term ‘popping tags’ which is the removal of a tag that comes with new pieces of clothing. This an example of flexing because Nav is showing off to his audience that all his clothes are brand new and he does not wear anything twice. Another example of Nav flexing in his song ‘You Know’ is when he says “I blew a check, you know. I bought a whip you know” (Genius, 2018) – in this line Nav is talking about the heavy amount of money he spends and so showing off his wealth. The line ‘I blew a check’ is Nav just saying that he spent a large sum of money and in the line following Nav says ‘I bought a whip’, the word ‘whip’ is a hip – hop term for car, so hence, Nav is boasting that he bought a car, once again ‘flexing’ his wealth. Evidence of flexing being a behaviour risen from rap is the increase in what the hip – hop community call ‘Hype Beasts’. Hype beast is the slang for someone who is obsessed with expensive clothing, accessories and items just to show them off, hype beasts will buy expensive clothing just for the sake of the logo and the reputation of the brand. The issue with hype beasts is that they will try to obtain ‘clout’ through ‘flexing’ and they will buy expensive items despite not being financially suited for and this puts them at financial risk.
Another type of behaviour that that rises from rap is misogyny. It is no secret that a large number of rappers will talk about some form of violence, criminal activity or sex in their songs, so it should come as no surprise then that people are influenced by this. As stated previously listeners will often try to imitate or relate to the lifestyle of their favourite rappers and so listeners often try to imitate the personality of rappers. A study done in 2009 by two researchers Weitzer and Kubrin looked at the topic of misogyny, more specifically they looked for misogynistic themes in ‘Gangster’ rap albums between 1992 to 2000. From the 403 songs they examined they found out that misogyny was present in around 22% of them, they then looked at these songs with misogyny deeper and analysed the lyrics to find any specific themes. The most popular theme they found was the idea that women are only good for sex. (prezi.com, 2018) (Journals.sagepub.com, 2018) These findings show clearly that a number of rap songs have misogyny in them and so promote misogyny. This is a big issue as the easily influenced audience will be adapting this unacceptable behaviour and so misogyny will spread making the inequality gap greater.
American Rap vs UK Rap
A long ongoing debate in the rap world is what’s better American rap or UK rap? The answer to this question varies from person to person as everyone has their own personal tastes in music however, you could judge the two sub genres based of stats and so coming to a conclusion based on a statistical judgement. UK is better known as ‘grime’ whereas American rap is just referred simply ‘rap’. The most viewed grime music video is by STORMZY with his song ‘Shut Up’ which consists of 82 million views and counting the song came out 3 years ago in 2015 (YouTube, 2018) in the contrast the most viewed rap music video is ‘Rap God’(YouTube, 2018) by American rapper Marshall Bruce Mathers III better known as ‘Eminem’. ‘Rap God’ completely crushes STORMZY’s ‘Shut Up’ which has 82 million views with its enormous view count of 806 million views. In comparison the most viewed American rap video is viewed almost 10 times the amount of the most viewed UK rap video. This shows that American rap has a larger influence globally compared to UK rap and this assumption can be made due to the gigantic difference in the amount of people that have viewed the most popular grime video compared to the most viewed rap video. However, this assumption does not prove or even tell us anything about which has a deeper and more impactful influence since grime could have a deeper impact but be less popular and rap have a shallow impact but be more popular. So therefore, the answer to ‘which is more popular American rap or UK rap?’ has a clear answer with American rap winning but, the answer to the question ‘which is better American rap or UK rap’ has no definitive answer as the answer to this question is completely subjective and also the question is not empirical as the answer to it cannot be measured in any form such as statistical data.
Sport references in rap
A lot of rappers are fans of sports be it basketball, football, NFL etc. So, in many rap songs rappers tend to reference or ‘shout out’ their favourite athletes as a sense of acknowledgement. The most popular sport mentioned in rap music tends to basketball due to majority of the rappers being African American males and basketball is considered to be a sport primarily played by black people also, a lot of rappers grow up playing or watching a lot of basketball. It is possible that rap actually influences teens by encouraging them to play sports since teens may consider it to be cool to play a sport mentioned in a popular rap song also, some teens perhaps may have the dream of being referenced in a rap song themselves and this would encourage them to play. An example of a sport reference in a song is by Canadian rapper born in Toronto ‘Drake Aubrey Graham’ known by his rap name as just ‘Drake’. Drake has a sport reference in his song ‘Fake Love’ from his album ‘More Life’. In Fake Love he says, “Just when sh*t look out of reach, I reach back like one, three, like one, three, yeah” (Genius, 2018) with these lyrics Drake is referencing a professional American football player who plays in the NFL for the New York Giants ‘Odell Beckham Jr’ when Drake references Odell he is talking about the legendary catch that Odell made where he extended [image: ]far back and caught the ball one handed mid-air, that catch is considered by some to be the greatest catch ever made in the NFL. It is clear that Drake is referencing Odell because of the line ‘reach back like one, three’ This line proves that the reference is about Odell because during the catch Odell reached out far back to catch the ball, and Drake also mentions the numbers one and three and Odell Beckham Jr’s jersey number is 13.
(all-time and Jr, 2018)
Another example of a sports reference in a rap song is by American rapper ‘Jarad Higgins’ know by his rap name as ‘Juice WRLD’. Juice WRLD made a sport reference in a song he featured on called ‘Nuketown’ This song is on rapper ‘Ski Mask The Slump God’s’ new album ‘Stokeley’ in the song Juice WRLD says “D-Rose when I drive through the paint
[image: ]With the foul, I’ma still get a swish” (Genius, 2018) with this lyric Juice WRLD is referencing an extremely popular NBA player ‘Derrick Rose’ who played for the Chicago Bulls when he was considered to be at his best. D-Rose is Derrick Rose’s nickname and in basketball the terminology ‘driving to the paint’ means dribbling the ball towards the basket and the line ‘with the foul, I’ma still get a swish’ means that the player will score even after getting fouled and this results in the player shooting a free throw for an extra point, this play is also known as an ‘and one’ in the NBA. Derrick Rose was known very well for his athleticism as he boasted a 40-inch vertical jump and his athleticism allowed him to make ‘and one’ plays very frequently. Derrick Rose was practically a hero in his hometown of Chicago due to his skills and considering that Juice WRLD is also from Chicago we could assume that he made this reference to Derrick Rose because he grew up watching him play for his hometown team.
Sport references in rap are a positive influence for teens because it encourages teens to play sports and if teenagers play sports, they are less likely to get involved in trouble as they will be distracted from the troubles such as gangs and drugs by their chosen sports. Sports will also keep teenagers physically fit which could affect their studies positively as it is good to get regular exercise along with school work since it can be used as a relief of stress.
Trends caused by rap
)[image: Image result for in my feelings challenge]Since rap is highly influential it comes as no surprise that the genre is a trend setter. Over the years rap has created many trends such as clothing and dance moves. An example of a recent trend set by Canadian rapper ‘Drake’ was through his song ‘In My Feelings’ which was released with his latest album ‘Scorpion’. The trend ‘In My Feelings set was named after the song as the ‘In My Feelings Challenge’. The challenge consisted of people walking beside their unmanned moving car which is known as ‘Ghost Riding’ along with them ‘Ghost Riding’ the car they dance along to the song whilst moving. Due to the ‘In my Feelings Challenge’ the national transportation safety board had to warn people about the dangers of the challenge(Gilmour and Stanley, 2018) however, this did not stop millions of people from still attempting this challenge which could go horribly wrong.
)[image: Image result for blocboy jb dance]Another example of rap setting a trend is when American rapper ‘James Baker’ known by his rap name as ‘Bloc Boy JB’ released the video for his song ‘Shoot’. The video consisted of him doing a dance where he is seen moving his arm and leg in sync and the dance went viral and started to get known as the ‘Shoot Dance’ The dance was named this because when Bloc Boy is performing the dance in the video he is constantly repeating the word ‘Shoot’. The dance was incredibly popular and there was a lot videos on the internet surfacing of people trying to recreate the dance themselves. The dance was so popular that it was eventually added to what is the most played game now known as ‘Fortnite’. Fortnite added the dance into the game as an emote where players would be able to do the dance in game. With the addition of the dance in the game the dance got even more popular since Fortnite has a young player base so the dance was now known amongst older rap listeners and even the younger age group through the game. The example of the ‘Shoot Dance shows just how wide of an influence rap has around the world. Evidence of this is that ‘Fortnite’ the game that added the dance in has a player base of over 200 million players and since the dance was very popular in and outside of the game we can assume that the shoot dance is probably seen by at least around 150 million people if not more.
In conclusion I have discussed the many influences that are caused by Hip – Hop culture, I have also looked at how the negative side of rap influences people for the worst but is cancelled out by the positive side of rap influencing great things such as reducing racism and I also looked at which is more influential American rap or UK rap? And found out that the question cannot be accurately answered. My research has also given me a grasp of just how widely rap influences people.