The Impact of Hip Hop

Published 28 Dec 2016

An article entitled Hip Hop and Its Wrong Identity writes about how ‘hip-hop will remain as the leader of today’s popular culture’. Because of this, knowing its impact on listeners is important. Measuring the effect of hip hop among the youth is a very broad topic. But through the effective designation of different questions applied in the research, there was a chance that the act of measuring the impact of hip hop among the youth can be done by breaking down hip hop through the different present social and personal life stratas to where it has managed to hold ground. These personal and social layers are the following: Hip hop and the Inpidual personality impact, Hip Hop and the Social Impact, Hip Hop and the Environment and Hip Hop and Its By-Product Stereotypes.

Hip Hop and Inpidual Personality Impact – Hip hop is a state of being (Leslie, 2007), and the respondents’ answers show that people have very varied reactions to the effect of hip hop in a personal level. The study showed that amongst the designated respondents of the study, 100 percent of the male respondents admitted that the glamorization of sex in rap music created a pressure on the respondent and to his peers to have sex. Among the three female respondents, two yielded the same answer similar to the ‘yes’ answer of male respondents. One of the female respondents noted that ‘every time a movie, commercial, music video, or song comes on, something about sex is most likely present. Sex is depicted as the ultimate pleasure, so one is bound to get curious.

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‘ One respondent, a female interviewee, said replied ‘not at all’ when asked whether hip hop produces a certain kind of pressure to have sex. While the answers of the respondents on the influence of hip hop on the youth engaging in sex, the manner by which they responded to the query on hip hop and drugs and violence leaves a lot of gray areas; it was an avenue not clearly defined by mere ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers as respondents took time to pen out their sentiments on what is considered as a very strong and noticeable feature of hip hop. One respondent noted how she feels ‘deeply saddened and very angry that these rappers think it is okay to promote that type of lifestyle to our people, who are already out there killing each other’ even as another respondent noted how it is ‘unnecessary to do it as excessively as they do’ while another respondent expressed concern, saying that ‘they should do this because some youth do not know how to differentiate reality from tv.

They see these rappers with all this money and they look so happy promoting drugs and violence. So the youth may begin to think that this is how one goes about attaining happiness’. Other respondents tried to look at the brandishing of hip hop of drugs and violence on a deeper, psychological perspective, as one respondent noted how hip hop artists maybe just ‘putting on a front because half of them probably grew up in drug free, positive environments’ while another respondent provided a more cognitive insight, marketing and business-wise: “They know that that sort of thing sells well so they talk about it.” But it was not a resounding 100 percent as the study yielded the presence of apathy among the respondents. One of the respondents considers the rappers’ promotion of the use of the drugs and violence in their song and videos as something that the respondent ‘can care less’ because ‘it doesn’t affect me.’

Hip Hop and the Social Impact – The most noticeable contribution of modern rap and hip hop, which has ‘permeated popular culture’ (Reese, 1998), to the society is the persistence of hurtful, derogative and insulting terms that, sadly, insults, belittles and humiliates the same set of people that gave hip hop the opportunity to blossom as a majority musical genre. African American and other black artists understand that most of their listeners are of the same genealogy and yet terms referring to black inpiduals continue to be pervasive, calling them ‘niggers’, ‘hoes’ (a corruption of the term ‘whores’) and bitches. Despite the fact that more than half of the respondents are women, the answer towards the use of degrading terms to refer to women in hip hop songs elicited a variety of reactions from the respondents.

One believes that ‘all women’ should not be considered as either a whore or a bitch while another respondent said that ‘it is only offensive to women in a certain category’. “I do think that it is very unnecessary to refer to women in that way because I don’t consider myself either. So if you act the way they are talking about you should be offended by it.” Some of the respondents ‘feel offended and angry’ while another respondent consider it a ‘degrading term’. A female respondent noted how she takes ‘the “n” word to mean an ignorant African-American who does not have a mind of his/her own and doesn’t have the ability to amount to anything’ while the other female respondent said that she does not like when I hear the n word’ because it ‘was a term that our oppressors used and now we are using the term ourselves’.

But what can be considered as either more alarming or as a sign of apathy is the fact that majority of the respondents are hardly affected by the use of the ‘n’ word. One respondent noted how ‘it means…nothing’ because ‘it has become so prevalent in today’s society that I’ve come to ignore it’, the same outlook of another respondent who ‘heard it so much that it just another word’ to him. One of the respondents has a more complex take on the issue: ‘I don’t really think about it too much unless I am around other races when it is playing. I interpret the word in songs as just a word they use to refer to other people. If the song is not sung by a black person, I would be offended.’

As varied as the respondents’ answers to the use of ‘n’ word was the outcome of the respondents’ collective belief about the impact of government censorship in music, noting how some do not believe that controlling the use of the “n” word can lower violence in the urban communities. One respondent said that “it is all a scheme to place blame. That is where they get their satisfaction’ while another points out to the fact that even with radio censorship, ‘you still have movies and TV’ to worry about. Still, some of the respondents are optimistic of the positive impact of government censorship of the ‘n’ word; ‘it may decrease…it’s hard to say. Life imitates art and art imitates life.’

Hip Hop and the Environment – Majority of the respondents believe that the environment that they grew in determine their lifestyles. One respondent expounded why: ‘I grew up in a pretty nice neighborhood in Detroit. Most of the people that I am/was around were either at or above my socioeconomic level. Therefore, I thought that this lifestyle was the norm—working parents, adequate money, vacations at least once a year, literate, and things of that nature. As I got older, I realized that that wasn’t the case. For instance, Detroit has a very high level of illiteracy. In addition, drugs aren’t anything that appeals to me but there are many people my age who take drugs. Since I was raised around people who knew that they didn’t need drugs and I was informed of the harmful effects of drugs,

I don’t have a desire to do drugs.’ Again, it did not yield a unanimous answer since not everyone agreed on the given premise. But environment is not just an issue about the listeners and how it impacts them; the research also noticed the persistence of repetitive themes based on environment issues like thugs, neighborhood violence and the absence or shortness of social control. Three of the respondents pointed out the refusal of rappers to grow up, saying that ‘they still have a hood mentality. There has been no inward change; all that has changed is their outward appearance’, while the other reasoned that’ nothing really changes and the old rappers still living in the past and if they stop rapping the way they do they will be called (sic) abandoners of there community, they will be told they forgot where they came from.’

The third respondent who shared the majority opinion said that ‘they don’t want to seem like a “sell-out.” They don’t want people to think that they forgot where they came from. In addition, it’s probably the only thing that they know so it is hard to make that transition from “hood” to “sophisticated”. A respondent, however, point out to business reasons, saying that the attitude is called ‘profit’. “It’s what makes his money so he knows his audience will purchase his work. Money rules everything.” The respondents were not unanimous as well in answering the question ‘Do you think that hip-hop music has the same affects on kids outside of America?’

Some said no, owing to the fact that ‘we don’t hear about it here’ and that ‘ they probably believe that stuff only happen in America’ while one said yes – ‘I have been to other countries and if they have access to some kind of media, they are very westernized. They know who all the big artists are over here.’ The respondents’ belief in the effect of hip-hop music in white suburbia and its similarity in the inner cites is more united with a resounding no. Respondents believe that there are many reasons why the government is still at odds with hip hop generally. One respondent’s reason was this: ‘Because hip-hop encouraged black people to join together for a common goal.

The government knows how powerful we can be if we united together for a positive change, that is why they didn’t like hip- hop’, while another one said that ‘because most people attribute hip-hop to black people and the government wants to do anything to keep us oppressed’. One respondent has a more insightful comment: ‘I think that the government’s problem is because some rappers talk about more political things and not just doing drugs and having sex. They don’t like people doing that because it gets listeners thinking about it’.

Hip hop and Its By-Product Stereotypes – ‘Hip Hop is one of the most controversial categories of music’ (WriterzBlock, 2006), and the media chronicles the high end lifestyle of rappers and hip hop artists. But some respondents believe that while they are capable of earning that much money, most of them do not know how to use it. As commented by one of the respondents, ‘ There are stereotypes that say that black rappers are ignorant when it comes to spending money. For instance, they spend their money on depreciating material goods oppose to investing wisely.

They were so much (too much) jewelry, over priced clothing and accessories just to say that they can afford it. But you never here them talking about investing in stock or savings bonds or things that appreciate over the years’. Another respondent noted how ‘they but large mansions that they hardly have time to live in, but they don’t donate money to worthy causes’. One respondent, however, considered this particular stereotype as ‘not true at all’. But money spending is not just the only stereotype that this particular musical genre created; it also created the hip hop and rap stereotype. When asked what the difference between rap and hip-hop music is, one respondent said ‘I really don’t know, but if I had to guess I would say Rap is the nonsense music that we hear on the radio today.

Basically music with no meaning, and hip-hop is a movement/genre of music with a purpose, positive meaning and meant to better people not degrade them’ while another opined that ‘rap is driven more from that inpiduals’ environment. Hip Hop geared more toward having a good time’. One respondent said that ‘rap is more of the cursing type and dissing but hip-hop is like a new generation of R&B’ while another one said ‘rap is just a style, hip-hop is a culture.’ The fifth respondent was plain honest and ignorant, saying ‘I don’t remember.’

Conclusion – The study was undertaken with the objective of identifying whether the hypothesis presented was correct or not, that hip-hop music most likely has taken a negative effect on today’s youth because of the lack of education of the youth who are listening to hip hop music, the absence of sufficient guidance that can empower the upholding of correct morals, principles and values, the lack of family stability and the persistence and existence of violence in the cities where hip hop is prevalent and influential. The result of the survey indicated that neither was the hypothesis completely correct nor was it completely incorrect.

This is because, as the study shows, the impact of hip hop differs from one person to another and differs in the level by which it touches and influences a listener. The replies of the respondents to the questionnaire was varied, and the absence of uniform answers to the questions which tried to tie hip hop and the youth into one standardized listener stereotype did not manifest at all because, as the study shows, there are other factors that either balances out the perceived negative impact of hip hop or puts hip hop and its components in an entirely different context. The study also revealed that there is a need for further research because there are still many things that the study did not discuss because ‘the influence of Hip Hop on American culture grows stronger every year’ (Hip Hop Film Festival).


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