Beyond the Beat: The Relationship of the Hip-Hop/Rap Genre and Drugs


Teens and young adults everywhere have made hip-hop/rap music become very popular in today’s music industry.  Constantly downloading the new songs on the top charts and listening without putting much thought into it.  Most don’t even realize that they are subject to numerous drug references, marijuana references being the most popular, every time they listen to music, specifically hip-hop and rap being in 77% of these songs.  It’s not their fault that they are exposed to a marijuana reference almost every other minute.  It is because of this that so many people want to blame the entire hip-hop/rap genre for “making” their kids do drugs, but in reality, there are more factors that people take into account before making this big of a decision.  So do the changes over the years in the hip-hop/rap genre influence young people to do drugs?

Just to give some background information on the subject of drug use i have included a video that shows most all the statistics of drug abuse in recent years.

Below is a link that shows some quick facts about just how many drug references are in today’s music.

Music is powerful, and it can even create social normalizations.  Normalizations are explained in chapter 3 of the book Drugs and Popular Culture as when someone views something as “deviant”, but after being exposed to it many times or having the audiences opinion of the “deviant” thing not be a big deal, it becomes normalized.  It can create these normalizations because music stimulates the frontal lobe of the brain, which is in control of decision making, consciousness, and emotions.  Anyway, the hip-hop/rap genre places at the 7th most popular genre in America, but the most popular when talking about adolescents, which is when drug use is at its peak.  And listening to songs like the one below (No Sleep by Wiz Khalifa) when your a teenager seems like it could be pretty influential.

As you can tell from the clip, these artists mostly display drugs in a good, or fun, manner.

In one study by Brian Primack, from the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, researchers estimated that on average, someone who listens to Hip-Hop/Rap music, listens to about 21.8 hours of it per week, with approximately 40 references to marijuana alone in a single day.  They came to the conclusion that people who listen to songs with references to the drug are almost twice as likely to be a current user than the people who don’t listen to those songs.  To build further on this research, one study looks at Hip-Hop/Rap music’s number of drug references over a two decade period.  From 1979 – 1997, they looked at the most popular rap songs and compared the numbers over time.  From 1979’ – 1984’ only 11% of the top rap songs had drug references.  That number quickly jumped to 45% in the early 90’s, and continued increasing to 69% in the late 90’s.  Another study found that it kept increasing to 77% in 2005.

So what do all of these statistics mean?  Well, the facts don’t really add up because the overall drug usage in the United States has actually declined since the first rap songs developed in the 80’s, despite the dramatic increase in drug references.  On the flip side, drug overdoses have dramatically increased which doesn’t make sense if that influence came from hip-hop/rap songs because they mainly promote marijuana, which has zero recorded deaths directly associated with it throughout human history.  That means that from this data, there is no noticeable correlation between hip-hop/rap music and drug use.  This also means that it’s not usually the music that gets people to make these decisions, but rather their decisions that usually attract them to the music.  Put in other words, most of the people who listen to Hip-Hop/Rap are not drug users, but many drug users listen to hip-hop/rap music.

Below is a podcast advocating the bad reputation that hip-hop/rap music gets for no good reason.


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