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Rap Music and Society

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Abdi Hired

on 20 March 2014

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Transcript of Rap Music and Society

Rap Music and Society
Process of Commercialization/Commodification

A brief history:
rap started out as a tool for resistance against social institutions.
Racial issues.
What happened?
Original culture has faded.
Planet rock, fight the power vs. love me, monster.
Conscious rap is still around, but no longer visible.
“You been brainwashed by the fake life that you used to livin’, when I say the word “fun” what do you envision? Probably drinking and smoking out with your crew, and chillen with clueless women you tryna bang, bumping New Edition. Is that all you think life really is? Well if so, then you’re a fucking idiot!” - Ill Mind of Hopsin 5
When did rap become commercialized? Gain in popularity.
Interests in advertisement.
Interest in record companies.
Fabrication of an image.

Prison–industrial complex

12%-13% of the American population is African-American.
40% of the almost 2.1 million male inmates in jail or prison are African-American (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009).
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the biggest name in the private prison industry.
Prison’s for sale! Minimum 90% occupancy rate over the term of the contract guaranteed.
90% of the media content is controlled by six media companies.
In 2013, 232 media executives were responsible for the intake of 277 million Americans, controlling all the avenues necessary to manufacture any celebrity and incite any trend - > 0.00000008%
Time Warner, as owner of Warner Bros Records (one of the three major labels). Also owns Entertainment Weekly, New Line Cinemas, HBO, TNT.
BET and MTV belong to Viacom.
Hot 97 and Power 105 owned by Emmis Communications, who also owns rival station Power 105.
Violence and Crime
The "Street Code"
· Dr. Charis. E. Kurbin referrers to violent, criminal, misogynistic, material and nihilistic attitude as “street code.”
· Dr. Kurbin combined 6 elements that are portrayed in rap music to create the “street code”.

Rap Music’s Larger Social Context

Glorification of the rap-code - ‘ruthless drive for profit’

Rap Culture both engages and criticizes these ‘alternate’ and often illegal forms of profit. Rap both satirizes and plays drug and crime culture straight.

“Now I pay Taxes that you never give me back
Do I gotta go sell me a whole lotta crack?
For decent shelter and clothes on my back?
Or should I just wait for help from Bush
Or Jesse Jackson and Operation Push?”

-Ice Cube, A Bird in the Hand

Origins of Misogyny: Four Main Influences
Hegemonic Masculinity

We live in a patriarchal society, whose values are represented/documented in rap music and music videos
Hegemonic Masculinity: attitudes and practices that perpetuate heterosexual male domination over women.
Exploitation of Masculinity (competition amongst men)
of physical power, daring demeanor, virility, and emotional distance.
‘Bad Boy’ Image as a sex symbol.
Girls / Women are encouraged to be attracted to boys and men who don’t respect women.
Boys / Men are encouraged to be disrespectful towards women in order to get their attention.
Desensitization: Rebel image obscures the fact that sexism perpetuates established male power.
The Music Industry
Rap artists are also influenced by pressures from elites in the music industry.
A marketing tool: Sex Sells.
An alternative message is often rejected, and does not reach the commercial market.
Direct proportion between rap music’s explicitness and the sale of its records.
Abandonment of political and social messages and focus instead on material wealth and sexual exploits

Local Roots – “the streets”
Resistance to Feminism
Race & Social Class
Music = alternative means of expressing masculinity.
Evidence of discord between men and women in disadvantaged, minority neighborhoods.
Men are admired for economically and sexually exploiting women.
Exploitation and degradation of young women is still a feature of some inner-city communities today and continues to shape gender relations (Miller and White 2003).
The street code places a high value on sexual conquest, promiscuity, and the manipulation of women.
We do not argue that neighborhood, industry, or larger cultural forces, as just described, are necessarily direct causes of the lyrical content or images, but instead that these forces are an essential part of the context within which the messages contained in rap are best understood.

Blocking progress toward gender equality and resuscitating male domination.
Music is part of a larger ideological state apparatus
Collins (2000, 82, 144) considers rap to be one of the contemporary ‘‘controlling images’’ used to subordinate Black women
Oliver (2006, 927) argues that rap’s sexist lyrics ‘‘provide justifications for engaging in acts of violence against black women’’ (see also hooks 1994; Rhym 19
Rap may be seen as a way to control all women

The Politics Behind Rap: Social Control Cont.
Sociologists have many views on why crime develops. Some examples of these views include:

1. Crime as a rational, innovative response to capitalist society (as proposed by Robert Merton)
2. Crime as a way of life that is so culturally entrenched that it just becomes another lifestyle choice (Argued by Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay)

Rap manages to promote these perceptions of crime via the usage of 'false consciousness': ideology as a kind of ‘veil’ over the eyes of the oppressed.

Just look at the lyrics to the Juelz Santana song “I am Crack”:

Touch the coke, touch the pot, add the soda what you got ME
I am what I am I be what I be and that you will see I AM CRACK

Popular rappers often use the 'rags-to-riches' archetype. For instance...

Jay-Z's usage of crack cocaine dealing as a way to escape the humilliation of low wage labour and achieve success in the music industry (He boasted about having $100,000 from dealing crack cocaine to start up his rap career)

Can this social irresponsibility directly relate to drugs?
Origins of Misogyny: Four Main Influences
Ownership conglomeration

Largest holder in Corrections Corporation of America is Vanguard Group Incorporated.
Vanguard is the third largest holder in both Viacom and Time Warner. Vanguard is also the third largest holder in the GEO Group (2nd largest in correctional, detention and mental health services).
Number-one holder of both Viacom and Time Warner is Blackrock.
Blackrock is the second largest holder in Corrections Corporation of America, second only to Vanguard, and the sixth largest holder in the GEO Group.
Underlying fact: The people who own the media are the same people who own private prisons, and using one to promote the other is very lucrative.

Rap ‘puts crack to work’

Rap legends talk about ‘grinding’- slang for dealing crack – and the lyrics are laden with connections between cocaine and anything from family to biblical allusions, as when Pusha T raps, saying, ‘My grind’s about family, never about fame, Some days I wasn’t Able, there was always Cain.’ (Bogazianos)

This lyric demonstrates the 'simplicity' of both rap and crack cocaine culture:

Moral Value + The necessity of taking a darker path

The significance of these stories in rap ‘mythology’ lays not in the mere fact that street and suite are fused, but in the characterization of crack and rap as ‘specific kinds of work’. (Bogazianos)
Significance of Commodification

Who was the target market?
White suburban youths.
Increase in sales correlate with increase in gangster rap.
Consumers are now controlling the product, rather than the artists.
Adorno: Culture Industry.
What makes the ‘ghetto’ image so appealing?
Respect. Symbol of superiority. Bridge between communities. Fulfilling a fantasy.

The othering of black people.
Creating stereotypes about what it means to be black.
Matches the stereotype of the black man in the early 20th century.
Contrary to the dominant fantasy of success.
What was once a tool of movement has turned into a tool of oppression.

Dr. Kurbin’s Study
Street Code % mentioned in songs


Willingness to use violence

Material wealth


Objectification of Women








She listened to these songs and kept track of how many times any one of the six elements of “the street code” were mentioned
These elements are: Respect, Violence, Material wealth, retaliation, objectification of women and nihilism
Ice Cube
One of the founders of “gangsta rap” music
Disney movie star
Claiming to have been “running the game” the whole time
Calls himself the “godfather” of rap still today
Video depicts his “youngings” restoring control via violent means
Dr. Kurbin concluded that “street code” serves two primary functions
1. Establish Identity
Examples of this in mainstream rap culture
2. Exert Social Control
Examples of this in mainstream rap culture
Is there an ulterior motive to the promotion of violence, crime, misogyny, and sociopolitical apathy?
Social Commentary or Social Irresponsibility?
Due to the influence of a capitalistic and patriarchal society, modern commercial music industries have utilized the power of language through rap music to negatively influence the dominating fantasies of: gender by creating a misogynistic view of sexuality; crime and drugs, by supporting a substance abuse mindset and encouraging criminal activity; and politics by creating sociopolitical apathy, a nihilistic perspective, and promoting materialism.

Dr. Kurbin conducted a study that entailed 632 songs
• “Chief Keef scares me. Not him specifically, but just the culture that he represents,”-Lupe Fiasco
"Tuck my napkin in my shirt, cause I’m just mobbin like that
You know good and well that you don’t want a problem like that
You gone make someone around me catch a body like that
No, don’t do it, please don’t do it
Cause one of us goes in, then we all go through it"
- Drake, Headlines
Bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks
Lick on these nuts and suck the dick
Gets the fuck out after you're done
And I hops in my ride to make a quick run
"Bitches Ain't Shit" - Dr. Dre
Prison Industry Lobyists.

American Legislative Council, a policy organization funded by CCA and GEO, championed the incarceration promoting “truth in sentencing” and “three-strikes” sentencing laws.
Early 80’s privatization of the prison system correlates with rise in incarceration.
Crime rates dropped, incarceration rates have skyrocketed.
“the vast majority of the prisoner increase in the United States has come from African-American and Latino citizen drug arrests.”
The “war on drugs” has been waged almost entirely on low-income communities of color.

Effects of rap music on the individual
Exposure to rap music implies negative behavior.
“black teens exposed to rap videos were more likely to support the illegal acquisition of wealth”. “desensitization to actual acts of violence, learning aggressive behaviors, and increased fear of victimization“. (Dixon, 2009)
Antisocial rap lyrics were less likely to inspire pro-social behaviors than antisocial country and pop lyrics.
"black teens exposed to rap videos were more likely to support the illegal acquisition of wealth”.(Dixon 2009)

The root of all evil
What is the primary cause of violence and crime?
Money > power > respect.
Respect = free market capital
The primary cause of violence, misogyny, and nihilism is due to extreme desire for material wealth / Capitalism.
Social Control: Rap is a byproduct of society, and serves as a unique and powerful tool to promote its existing motives to the youth.
Desensitization of sociopolitical issues.

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