Does rap music really influence violence?

Brittany Beans, The East Texan Contributor

Rap music is a large part of the African-American culture, a major part of the music industry, and often a platform used to address various social issues, concerns, and reflect cultural norms. However, this music genre is frequently seen as hateful, riot inciting, derogatory, and a genre that encourages overall violence in society, especially amongst youth.

My position on this issue is that the individuals making the music have more of an influence on the individuals listening to it. A person’s mindset, and various environmental factors contribute to the amount listeners are influenced. Although rap music has been linked to violence, one can often find that the individual who appears to have been influenced by the music has had a preexisting mental deficiency, prior violent tendencies, or even an increased susceptibility simply due to their level of intelligence.

A study at Western Connecticut State University analyzed the effects of rap and rock music on various individuals, utilizing control groups for comparison. The results of this experiment were significant and revealed that the angry tone of the music videos that were shown coupled with the vulgar lyrics and display of weapons produced hostility in the participants of the study. Scenario questions presented after the showing of the videos were answered in a more violent way while those who watched significantly calmer videos answered with less violent answers. This study led to the conclusion that the violent lyrics and videos of the rap and rock genre were a serious influence on individuals and was the source of a growing population of violent youth.

Though this study showed that violent rap and rock music does have an influence on the mind of those who listen to the genres, the Chicago Tribune makes a more reasonable argument in my opinion. A good majority of the rappers that express this violence and vulgarity in their music have lived the things they rap about and therefore are merely rapping their reality. Those listening to the music can sometimes relate based on their reality and therefore might feel more of a connection and therefore seem more influenced. In order to change the music and its influence, there would have to be a change in the artist and listener’s reality. The Chicago Tribune also argues that other music, jazz and blues particularly, makes double-entendres that, although less lyrically explicit, could easily have the influence rap music does.

Despite the correlation, rap music does not cause violence in its listeners by itself; there are various environmental factors that play a part. The music alone cannot be used as a definite cause of violence in listeners without considering factors such as the lives that the artist and the listeners are living, the violence that the listeners are exposed to on a daily basis outside the music, and the overall mindset of the listener. I believe that, in order to effectively measure the overall influence of rap on violence in its listeners, you must consider how the individual grew up, their susceptibility to such influences, their preexisting violent tendencies, and any other factors that can contribute to violence in an individual. Rap music should not be considered one of the major influences on violence in individuals without considering these factors first.