The Evolution of Rap

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Music and the Emergence of Rap

Music has been in existence as far as humankind has been around the face of the earth. There have been different kinds of music genres that have been a hit and consequently diminished as others took the center stage and the attention of the people. On the other hand, there are those that emerged and were not awarded similar attention; hence they diminished slowly without many records and reminisce. However, there are other types of music that have continuously been a hit/success since their inception and continue to capture the minds of many people. Rap music, for instance, falls within this latter category. In the mid-1980s the music industry experienced a shake-up with the birth of a new genre of music, Rap music. This type of music was like none other as it portrayed images of sexism, guns, gangs, and violence, but was equally received warmly among people, especially the young generation, and became very popular within a very short span of time. Some of the earliest rap music artists included the likes of Schoolly D, N.W.A, Dr Dre, Eazy-E, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dog, and Ice -T. These artists displayed various unique styles of music, however, they all professed similar underlying messages and images, including sex, discrimination, violence, and drugs. This placed them on a different level from that of other pre-existing artists which generally appeared acceptable to the society, more so the young generation. Rap music has not had many changes since its inception as the messages conveyed by different artists still lingers around sexism, drugs, violence, and guns. Some of the hit songs by early rap artists including N.W.A and Schoolly D that got the rap genre of music rolling were "Fuck Tha Police" which was produced in the year 1988 by N.W.A and "PSK What Does it Mean" by Schoolly D. Evoking a controversial debate, there have been stands that Rap music has been unfairly criticized and generalized has it equally portrays positive effects/impacts on the society through lyrics that seek to transmit positive messages to their listeners as well as educate them on various aspects of the society and speak up about things that are occurring within the society. Several rap artists have experienced a transformation from merely insignificant people in the society and have made it big, thus offering encouragement and hope to the young generation that they can be whatever they set their minds upon. These arguments indicate that there have been both positive and negative influences as a result of rap music. In the article "The Evolution of Rap" writer Clara McNulty-Finn states how rap has been a uniquely genuine voice in American society throughout the decades. Even though rap has been looked upon in a negative light since its origin because of the messages of drugs, violence, and misogyny, rap has made positive impacts on American society by educating listeners on social issues, showing Americans that anyone can make it big, and messages of motivation and success.

Negative impacts of rap music on the society

As earlier mentioned gangster rap music has been portrayed with themes that talk about violence, drug abuse, sex as well as other sorts of reckless behaviors. Despite their wide acceptance by society, especially among the youngsters, rap music has been a negative influence on the lives of most teenagers. Rap music has glorified reckless behaviors which most teenagers take up with the claim that if they did (rap artists) then so can I. Consequently, has most youths resonate with the words in the lyrics so as the rates of criminal activities increased in the society, most especially among black youths. Federal statistics indicate that "homicide is the leading cause of death for black men between the ages of 15 and 34" (Weebly). Young black men associate their experiences with the lyrics of the songs, as most artists defend their genre of music with claims that they are only retelling of their experiences and life on the streets and gangster neighborhoods when they were growing up, which is where most black youths reside. It's as a result of these shared circumstances that these young people idolize these rap artists as well as imitate their behaviors since they figure that if they made it in life so will we.

The song lyrics have also been identified with consistent promotion and glorification of drug use such as heroin, marijuana, and several other illicit drugs. Current Rap artistic the like of Wiz Khalifa glorify the use of drugs in some of their lyrics, for instance, "Young Wild and Free" where he states "So what we get drunk, so what we smoke weed, we're just having fun, we don't care who sees". Unlike the common expectation of icons such as musicians speaking against such detrimental behaviors to the society, they promote them through images of indulging in these acts and consequently fail to address their negative impacts on one's health and the society at large. An article on in the year 2008 indicated that drug reference in rap music lyrics had significantly increased six folds since its early years (Weebly). Similarly, on the same study by, it indicated that reference to drugs in rap music had relatively evolved from cautionary tales to stories that glamorized the use of illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, marijuana codeine, pharmaceutical drugs e.g. opioid drugs, and many others. According to Dr. Brian Primack from the University of Pittsburgh, a reference to drug use in rap music supersedes the reference to the same in other genres. For instance, he indicates that it's likely that one comes across 250 references to illicit drug use in rap lyrics per day as compared to only 5 references to drug use in other music genres such as pop music (Acharya). As most songs display their use of drugs alongside what most of the society, especially the young term as being successful in the current wave that is women, houses, cars, they feel compelled to engage in these behaviors to obtain similar success as those artists they idolize. Who would want this kind of life?

In another study looking into the impacts of rap music among the youths and the effects on their behaviors, the study indicated these youth were more than likely to engage in similar acts. Teens who spend most of their time, say at least 14 hours per week watching violent acts and sexual scenes displayed in rap music videos, are likely to engage in these similar acts in real life. Often, artists do not realize the impacts on their behavior as well as the influence of the messages they convey through their songs to the society, more specifically to the youths. It's all about the individualistic decision when it comes to an artist. "Do I make music that might have a chance of helping me pay bills or do I make music that represents my heart, my community, and how the country is going?" With most artists choosing the former, songs that glorify detrimental behaviors to the society take the center stage. This coupled with the struggle to remain relevant in the music industry contributes to the decay of morals among the youths. The study involved 522 black girls who were aged 14 to 18 and hailed from non-urban lower socioeconomic neighborhoods. The research indicated that these girls who spend at least 14 hours viewing these contents were three times more likely to hit a teacher, twice as likely to have multiple sex partners, over 2.5 times more likely to get arrested, and 1.5 more likely to drink alcohol, use drugs, and get an STD (Kirchheimer). According to a lead researcher on this study, Ralph J. DiClemente, PhD, of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, the most alarming concern regarding the findings of the research was the association with not only one risky behavior such as drug use or violence, but the association with a string of these behaviors.

Misogyny and Degrading of Women

Besides the promotion of drug abuse as well as other violent and reckless behaviors among the young generation, rap music equally degrades the value of women through sexism and misogyny. Misogyny is the dislike of or ingrained prejudice against women while sexism refers to the discrimination and prejudice against a specific gender, although mostly it affects girls and women. Every little girl is often taught about a prince charming from a tender age, with likened cartoon themed examples of Snow White and Cinderella. The girls are taught that men are supposed to love, save, and protect them. However, all these teachings fade away as the harsh and cruel reality dawns on them. Men no longer treat women as princesses nor do they act like royal princes. To an extent, men are not to blame since their heroes, rap music artists such as Snoop Dogg, use words such as "B***ches ain't sh*t but h**s and tricks" in their lyrics. Who then expects that young men will grow up showing respect to women if these are the kind of songs that are awed by society? Most rap songs display women as unintelligent, sex objects, and material things that can be owned, can be used anyhow, and eventually dumped off (Weitzer and Kubrin pp4). For instance, in Ugly God's "Water," the lyrics include some words that demean women and display them as sexual objects "I splash on your b**ch with water...I pull up and f***k on your daughter" (Vox ATL). These images and portrayals erode moral values from teenagers as they demean the value of women in society. Women are equally displayed as people who are dishonest and untrustworthy as well as figures that are completely dependent on men, hence can hardly survive without their support. This sort of images and video clips impacts the self-esteem and self-confidence among women and causes them to respect their being even less. On the other hand, these lyrics and video clips suggest to men that it's okay to disrespect women as well as handle women in an inappropriate manner (Brown). Misogyny and sexism became a popular trend in rap music since most of the rap artists were men. Women, however, the likes of Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Queen Latifah made efforts in trying to change the sexism and misogyny that most male rap artists had adopted. These female artists called out the misogyny in rap music and created identities that went beyond the demeaning and derogatory terms (Vargas). However, women in this industry are quite a few and men take advantage of this opportunity to glorify themselves over women as they display their images in an unfit manner. It's not uncommon to witness women completely naked or barely dressed in a music video alongside men that are fully dressed.

Positive impacts of rap music on the society

The controversy surrounding rap music mainly focuses on the negative impacts the genre of music has on the society. That is the promotion of sexism and misogyny, drug use, guns, and other reckless behaviors. However, there is also a hidden side of rap music that has not received much attention hence the stereotyping. Despite the unpleasant effects rap music has on society, it equally impacts positively on the society. The media, which plays a significant part in advocating for various things to the society, mainly focus on the negativity displayed on rap music but fails to concentrate on the positive aspects/messages. Although less featured, there are rap songs that aim at educating the masses on various happenings in the society, speak out against certain awful activities towards specific groups, and improve social consciousness through increasing awareness of the issues that several people face (Weebly). In this case its, therefore, unfair to make generalized conclusions regarding rap as a music genre. Some rap musicians have employed education and awareness strategies to create awareness within societies and communities across the country. They strongly speak out against violent behaviors, use of illicit drugs, racism, discrimination, and guns. They also employ their popularity in preaching the gospel of peace and anti-violent acts, especially among the youths (Weebly). Their music directly speaks to the young generation regarding the negativity of involving in reckless behaviors and violence, hence providing an opportunity for them to make positive changes to the society. Often people listen to music for the purposes of entertainment, but it's rather difficult for one to ignore the messages in the song, hence this acts as food for thought. Consequently, they figure that if their idolized artists are for peace in the society so should I.

Rap artists that have made it from rags to riches, more so with messages of positivity in their songs, largely encourage the youth to strive hard and make it in life. The past hustling life of an artist is almost non-existent once they have made it in life. At the surfaces, things look glamorous and the efforts and struggles are not quite evident. However, most of the top rap artists including Lil Wayne, Eminem, 50 Cent, Snoop Dog, and Jay Z were once down-and-out hustlers who hailed from communities and neighborhoods where crime and reckless behaviors thrived (Madden). Nonetheless, they strived, worked hard, and successfully made a name for themselves and a respectable position in the society. The success of these artists showcases the use of the little resources they had to make it big in the society. This serves as an awakening call for most youths who have plenty of valuable resources within their reach, to utilize and take advantage of them in order to make themselves better for the society. There are also grassroots efforts by several organizations aimed at using rap music with the involvement of the youths in the society to bring about change in society. Elementary Hip-Hop Skoll, in Arizona, through the involvement of artists, intends to use music in order to engage more youths in community activities/programs. It intends to empower youths with leadership skills as well as encourage community involvement and positive self-expression.

Role models

Teenagers are experiencing a lot of pressure from society, social media, and their peers to keep up with the upcoming trends. This pressure has caused youths to engage in activities that have negative impacts on their lives with the aim of belonging. Rejection and being outcasts, especially in the current society due to inabilities to keep up with trends, can take a great toll on the youth causing them to commit despicable acts such as suicide while some fall into depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. However, rap music comes in handy as it has proven effective in helping youths deal with depression and anxieties caused by the pressures of society. The positive rag-to-riches narrative lyrics act as a positive image to the youths, hence prompting them to envision what they would like to achieve in the future and consequently act towards achieving the set goals. This equally promises a gradual response to their mental health issues and progression to a better mental place. Listening to motivating and encouraging lyrics about how they, the artists, have made it in life helps the youth focus on achieving a better life. Jay Z, for instance, in the song "On To The Next One," states "World can't hold me, too much ambition/ Always knew it'd be like this when I was in the kitchen..." (Cashmore). These kinds of lyrics empower and motivate youths to make the best out of their lives. Similarly, young artists such as Prince Ea, with whom most millennias resonate with, are employing their lyrical prowess in spreading messages of great essence to society (McCracken). Prince uses the YouTube platform, which is easily accessible to most teenagers/millennias, to cover a wide range of topics that are a national concern in order to get his audience to act upon them for a better society.


When listening to rap music, the average Americans will probably think "they curse too much, why so much violence, are the two hobbies sex and doing drugs? Looking at the history of rap gives off a similar impression with misogyny added to the list and so has been looked at negatively by most people. With the advancement of technology and new artists with different views and messages, rap does have a positive impact. Rising artists like Prince Ea are good role models for the new generation. The sad truth is though, there are new names in the rap game, many that never see more fame than their social network accounts. The names and songs majority of Americans hear are the ones on radio stations that show the negative side of life and so rap is lost to them. Nonetheless, the media, due to the large coverage and audience it possesses, can use the platform to advertise and sell out artists and lyrics that have positive messages to the society. Lyrics that employ the society to advance good morals and values while avoiding reckless behavior such as violence and drug use. Consequently, this results in a positive society that upholds morality.

Works Cited

Acharya Monica. How Are Hip Hop and Ra Music Affecting the Youth? 2015, Accessed 10th Dec 2018.

Brown Lauren. How Does Rap Music Influence Modern Day Youth? Eco Jazz, 2016, Accessed 10th Dec2018.

Cashmore Pete. Putting the rap into therapy: can listening to hip-hop beat depression? The Guardian, 2014, Accessed 10th Dec 2018

Kirchheimer Sid. Does Rap Put Teens at Risk? WebMD, 2003, Accessed 10th Dec 2018.

Logins Isabel. Misogyny and Sexism In Rap Music, 2016, Accessed 10th Dec 2018.

Madden Sidney. Five Legendary Rags-to-Riches Stories in Hip-Hop, 2016, Accessed 10th Dec 2018

McCracken Colin. Watch: This rapper called Prince Ea has a message you will never forget. My good planet, 2016, Accessed 10th Dec2018

Vargas Carlo. The Effects of Rap Music in Society., 2016, Accessed 10th Dec 2018

Vox ATL. The Impacts of Rap Music Videos on Teenage Society, 2018, Accessed 10th Dec 2018

Weebly. Negative impacts of rap music on youths, Accessed 10th Dec 2018.

Weebly. Positive impacts of rap music on youths, Accessed 10th Dec 2018

Weitzer Ronald and Kurbin E. Charis. Misogyny in Rap Music. SAGE Publications, 2009, Vol 12 (1), Accessed 10t Dec2018

October 05, 2023


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Rap Music

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Expertise Rap Music
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