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impacts of rap music on youths


Rap music, in-spite of the negativity and controversy that often surrounds it, can have a positive influence on listeners and expand their consciousness and musical horizons. Hip hop culture has long been the poster child for negativity in society for a number of decades.



Rap music has long had a reputation of being a form of music that represents violence, sexual exploitation as well as celebrating street warfare and gangs, consumption of drugs and alcohol, sex and negative attitudes towards women. Another notion prevalent in society associated with rap music is the frequent, strong profanity used in the lyrics. Despite all this, hip hop has generated a huge fan base around the world with a wide demographic of listeners, mostly among youths. This raises the question, whether the negativity commonly linked with rap music is not just one side of the coin. Some aspects of the mentioned themes are true and contribute to the negative stereotype but there is another, hidden side to rap music that needs to be exposed. Although it has been seen as largely negative, hip hop has had a myriad of positive influences on society.

The genre has been criticized in the media, associated with some of the nation’s social ills and seen by a good number of people as a bad influence on citizens in general. Although there are some aspects of rap music that can be construed as negative, blanketing the entire art form is unfair to the artists as well as the people who enjoy the music.

The reality is that rap music is greatly misunderstood. The media often portrays rap music as negative and focuses on rap music more when it is related to something undesirable. Many media stories identify rap music as a catalyst in problems such as teen pregnancy, crime or some other negative social issue that existed long before rap music became prevalent. The truth of the matter is that there is rap music that is positive and can serve the purpose of improving social consciousness by increasing awareness of some of the issues that many residents of our nation’s inner cities face. Just because a rap artist speaks of less than desirable subjects in his or her music does not mean that they intend to corrupt the minds of the audience. Rap music is entertainment and should not be treated any differently than any other form of entertainment out there. The bottom line is that all rap music is not degenerate and consideration should be taken when analyzing the message that the music is presenting.


One of these positive effects is that it has been used as a great unifier of diverse populations around the world. It started as a subculture among African American communities in America but it is now a phenomenon of global culture. As a matter of fact, it isn't only restricted to African American communities, as non black communities comprise seventy five percent of the global hip hop audience. The fact that hip hop has crossed the cultural divide demonstrates its ability to unify millions of youth worldwide. This is reminiscent of a time when rock music was on everyone’s lips globally. The growth of the hip hop culture is prominent in the urban street style of dressing copied from hip hop artistes. The characteristic features of this style are baggy pants, caps worn backwards as well as expensive sneakers, which gives teenagers a sense of identity.

Hip hop has been vital in promoting social and political awareness among the youth of today. Rap music educates people from several different perspectives and raises many social issues. Rap is channel for people to speak freely about their view on political or social issues and by doing so, it engages teenagers to become concerned and aware of these issues. This is important in making the youth aware of the world around them and the conditions they face in society, enabling individuals to discuss ways in which they can make a positive change within society. A few of the issues that hip hop has created awareness in are racial discrimination, individuality and the importance of education and believing in your dreams. Hip hop also is a reflection of the soul and mind, and is a solace for both the artists and listeners who may be struggling with the same issues. Music in general brings people together, but the youth of today can relate to the struggle and difficulties that most rappers talk about. Since the release of Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" in 1982, rap music has adopted a more political tone. Rap music, more than any other genre, has alerted both private and public citizens of the plight of the lower classes in urban areas among other issues. Some rappers are known for their controversial lyrics can often bring attention to greater issues.

Many rappers rap about poverty and their struggles in inner-city America while growing up. Once they achieve success, they talk about overcoming obstacles and rising to the top. This message can give hope to many youths across America who live in similar circumstances. For example, when a rapper raps about his challenged childhood or about succeeding despite living with a drug-addicted parent, a teenager in a similar situation may believe that he, too, can get through his struggles.

Through education and understanding, rap music has spurred social awareness in communities around the country. Rap music has served as a tool to speak out against negative aspects of life such as violence and guns. Many artists use their musical talents to promote peace and anti-violent acts. By communicating messages about violence and discrimination, and relating to youth people, it provides an opportunity for them to make positive changes in their own life. Rappers such as the late Tupac Shakur were often criticized for their lyrics, which painted a bleak picture of urban America. While such lyrics were perhaps partially intended to shock consumers, they also brought awareness to the country's social problems, particularly those in the inner city. Issues such as violence, drug addiction and poverty are all common themes in rap music. When someone listens to the genre, he may be doing so for entertainment, but he won't be able to avoid hearing about these issues and giving thought to them.

There is some rap music that is created with the intention of sending a positive message to its audience. There are songs that denounce violence and call for more peace and togetherness in the inner city in an attempt to improve the quality of life. One great example of a rap song that sends this message is entitled “Self Destruction” and performed by the East Coast All Stars. Now for you Hip-Hop historians, I know that this goes back quite some time, but it is one of the best examples of the positive influence of rap music. A group of independent rap artists got together to make this song because they were aware of the great power and influence that they have with their music and were attempting to use that influence to make a positive change. This project served two very important purposes because it did not only create awareness of the inner city’s problems with violence, but it also showed that rappers could be socially conscious and make music that was positive.


When dealing with social problems, one of the most important ways of finding a solution to the problem is to make others within our society aware of it. Rap music is a great tool for facilitating that process because due to its popularity, it has the ability to bring a message to the masses. The vast majority of rap artists are from the inner city where sub-par social conditions and inequality can be seen the most. Many times, when a rapper writes a song that speaks of violence, drug use or other criminal activity, it is because it is something that they have seen in their living environment and therefore are in a good position to give a detailed account of how life is there. Some rappers may admit to participating in some of the aforementioned activity but again, it does not always mean that they are glorifying it. A certain story may be told to give hope and let a listener know that just because they have made mistakes in the past, it does not mean that they cannot change their life and be involved in something positive. The rappers use their music to raise awareness of these issues so that some focus can be put into improving them.

Rap music’s general purpose is to entertain its audience. Just because a rapper paints themselves in a picture of being associated in criminal activity, spending millions of dollars on seemingly unnecessary items or having sex with multiple women doesn’t mean that they actually do. On many occasions, the rap artist is creating a fictionalised account of certain events for the purpose of intriguing and entertaining people and sometimes uses characters to facilitate those accounts. Some of the more talented rappers are able to use their words to create these characters along with vivid story lines that often are related to urban subject matter. This is no different from other forms of entertainment, in particular, the movie industry. When we watch our favourite actor carrying and using their guns to kill people, consuming drugs, or being portrayed highly sexually in a movie, it is not seen as degenerate. Some of the characters being created in these movies are no different than some of the characters that are created in rap music. Just because a rapper says that they do certain things in their music, it does not mean that they always do.

While the images that are presented in some rap music can certainly be considered a bad influence, it does not mean that all rap music is degenerate. Is it degenerate when churches use Christian rap in their service to send a message? Is it degenerate when police officers, firefighters and teachers use it to spread their message and attempt to make a connection with the youth? Rap music is a great and powerful tool that can be used for good purposes. When critiquing rap music, one has to go beyond the surface of what they are hearing and attempt to ascertain the message that the music is attempting to send.


Rap and hip hop is being used within the social work field as a form of therapy. Hip-Hop Therapy uses hip hop culture and music to engage youth and address their issues in therapy. The goal is to get youth patients to reflect on their past experiences by connecting with hip hop lyrics.

Recently grassroots organizations have sprung up in the United States that aim to use

hip hop and rap to decrease youth violence. In Tucson, Arizona, Usiel Barrios has created ELEMENTary Hip Hop Skool, which aims to use hip hop to get young people involved in community building. This program aims to empower young people with leadership skills, encourage positive self expression, and promote community involvement – through hip hop.

Another grassroots organization that has been created in recent years is, Project Spitfire. This organization was founded by Henry Mann and aims to pair young musicians with professional producers who help them record songs and videos. Spitfire also provides artists with a $100 signing bonus, photo shoots, and publicity. Spitfire aims to sign young artists who speak of change and alternatives. Their goal is to sign artists who can teach the youth that there are alternatives to gangs and violence. Mann wants to give young rappers an avenue to tell their stories and past lived experiences in hope that it will instill change in the youth culture.

DMU Timestamp: April 30, 2019 18:47

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