The Violence of Rap Music… Or is it!?!

The music industry is vital in the daily lives of many. Look around society and you will see that we listen to a large number of music on a regular basis. Whether we are driving in the car, working out in the gym or just hanging out with friends, music tends to always be with us. Yet within this very same music industry there still are different genres that are enjoyed by a variety of listeners. One of the genres which is popular among the youth is rap. Many people though, have long believed and understood rap music as encouraging violence and if this is true then it has the potential to be greatly damaging to our society. Some researchers which include Kubrin, Baxter, and Smith, have found that the messages within this genre are negative and promote violence (qtd in Conrad 2009). To determine whether rap music actual does promote violence in both its music videos and lyrics I analyzed the content of the rap songs, focusing on of the representation of violence. This is particularly important because in our current society, we listen to copious amount of music on a daily basis. Just think about the number of songs you listened to yesterday or the amount you have listen to so far today. Yet with the amount of music we listen to, do we even know the content in these songs and the meanings contained within them? It has been shown through a study that these songs have an effect on our daily lives. Through an experiment performed by Wayne A.Warburton and Heidi I. Brummert Lennings, they found that the content of music, both lyrical and visual content, have large effects on the aggression of listener (2011). This kind of effect would be devastating to the youth who often indulge their ears in this music genre. These effects would increase the aggression within them and cause more violent acts in our society and possible even lead to greater criminal offences. With such effects on listeners, it is important to see how much violence is being presented in the genre that has been previously associated with violence. If the music that we listen to has an effect on us, and we listen to it so often, then shouldn’t we be more aware of what we listen to along with the messages being passed to us? For this reason we should be aware of what we listen to and the ideas associated with a specific genre. When it comes to the topic of rap music, many will argue that violence is promoted and glorified in the genre. However from my research into these tracks, violence does not play a crucial role within the rap genre and in the few instances when it presents violence, this violence is negatively portrayed.

To begin my research, I looked for previous work that had already been done through the EBSCO host database with a focus on the Communication & Mass Media Complete database. I was able to find articles concerning the topic and this search was further streamlined to focus on academic journals which had been peer-reviewed. From the database I found “The effect of auditory versus visual violent media exposure on aggressive behaviour: The role of song lyrics, video clips and musical tone.” And in this article the authors Wayne A. Warburton and Heidi I. Brummert Lennings write about their experiment studying the effects of both auditory and visual violence on aggression. They uses a unique method to measure aggression which is through the amount of hot sauce each participant allocated to a fellow participants food, whom they believed would consume it. The hot sauce procedure was done twice once before and the second after listening to various songs with violent content. It occurred that when participants had been exposed to violent lyrics and visual from the songs, they tended to place more hot sauce than before in the bowls meant for a fellow participant. The fact that each participant who viewed or listened to violent songs allocated a larger amount of hot sauce for consumption, lead to the researchers to conclude that these two forms of violence do have effects on the consumer. It is clear from this research that if violence were a major theme in rap music it greatly affects society by increasing the aggression of consumers who think they are merely listening to music they enjoy.

A secondary article in my study was by three scholars Kate Conrad, Travis Dixon, and Yuanyuan Zhang and title “Controversial Rap Themes, Gender Portrayals and Skin Tone Distortion: A Content Analysis of Rap Music Videos”. In their research, the authors looked at music videos of rap songs that appeared on popular music channels and cataloged what these videos presented. The researchers then had four coders, who were from various ethnic backgrounds, who went through specific coding training to analyze the music videos. In conclusion and contrary to previous research done by other scholars, there work found that rap music videos were no longer filled with violence as believed, but rather the main themes were of materialism and misogyny.

Further research in the field of representation of violence is shown in a third source that is similar to the previous source I just mentioned. This source also engages in the researcher’s, Kenneth Jones, findings from his analysis of music videos, except in this instance his focus was not only on rap. In his article called “Are Rap Videos More Violent? Style Differences and the Prevalence of Sex and Violence in the Age of MTV”, Jones selected 203 music videos from various popular music video channels and assessed each video in search for violence along with other behaviors such as gun talk and gambling. This article also mentions Aldridge and Carlin who argue that the rappers are sending positive messages by using the violence shown in music videos as a means to end violence. As Jones progressed into his own research the findings from this research was that violence within the rap music genre is no less or more likely than other genres. These results are yet another attack at the idea that rap music tends to be more violent than other genres.

To engage within this ongoing argument I did my own research concerning the topic. For my analysis I looked at the top 15 rap songs off the Billboard chart, from the week of November 15th 2012, and I analyzed both the music videos along with the lyrics of the songs to determine how violence is represented in the rap genre. Out of these 15 rap songs I was only able to find 6 songs which represented violence within their songs.  The most popular rap song according to that week’s Billboard was “Gangnam Style” by PSY. This is one of the few songs that portray violence in a positive view, through the images presented in the music video. There are no references towards violence in the lyrics of the song, but there is a one instance of violence in the music video. About one minute into the song there is a buildup in the beat, which climaxes with an explosion, in the background of the video, and two people being thrown off their feet (PSY, “Gangnam Style”). This singular violent scene in the music video portrays violence as being exciting and climactic thing that can be used to add energy and excitement to the situation. The violence in this song seems random and unconnected, which is a similar trend seen in the other songs where violence is portrayed positively. One of these popular songs that has this similar perspective towards violence is “Birthday Song” by 2 Chainz and Kanye West. In its music video, we see a clown at what is a birthday party first being beaten on the street after he was pulled out of his car by a mob of people. The second instance is the same clown being dragged involuntarily on a slip and slide (2 Chainz and Kanye West, “Birthday Song”). Both of these scenes play a very minor part in the music video with a combined length of only 10 seconds in a 5 minute long video. These two scenes also do not have significant connection to the song and they portray each violent act as something done for fun.

However unlike the previous songs where violence isn’t really connected to the song, in the songs were violence is represented negatively the connection to songs are much clearer. The song that has the highest representation of violence from my research was “I Cry” by Flo Rida. The main theme of this song seems to be the resolution of the hardships that individuals endure and many of these hardships are attributed towards violence. In the lyrics of the song the first representation of violence is in the lines, “Norway no you didn’t get my flowers, No way to say it better but the killer was a Coward” (Flo Rida, “I Cry”). These two lines of the some are referring to the incident that occurred in Norway, in the summer of 2011, where Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in a mass murder attack (Staff). These lines show that Flo Rida disapproves with such acts of violence evening referring to Breivik as a coward for his actions. In the music video there is a scene of a dead body, covered by a blanket, in an open grass area followed by a scene of a grieving woman, who can be inferred to be the victim’s mother (Flo Rida, “I Cry”). These make the viewer feel sympathetic towards those that have had to endure situation caused by violent acts while also condemning violence. Furthermore a series of quick violent scenes flip through on the video which include riot police in action, a child holding an AK-47, a soldier discharging a flame thrower and conclude with a scene from the attack on the twin towers on September 11th2001 (Flo Rida, “I Cry”). Right after these quick scenes the song slows down into a mellow tune and once again the view is left with those images in their heads and sympathizing with the victims. During this same mellow moment, the lyrics sang are “When I need a healing, I just look up to the ceiling, I see the sun come down I know its all better now” (Flo Rida, “I Cry”) which are repeated four times. The way that this video has been compiled leaves the audience to view violent acts as detrimental to our society, while providing an avenue of hope for people to overcome the hardships.

Another song from the Billboard chart that presents the same negative idea of violence is the song “Swimming Pool (Drank)” by Kendrick Lamar. At first it may not seem as apparent as to how and where violence is represented within this song, but with a further understanding on the intentions and vocabulary of the lyrics, the connection is brought to light. The song is about the artist remembering his childhood in a house where adults indulged in large amounts of alcohol. Lamar, in this song specifically, views drinking as a bad and we see this through the use of his conscience as an adviser to his drinking. “I’m your conscience, if you do not hear me, Then you will be history, Kendrick.” (Kendrick Lamar, “Swimming Pool (Drank)”) In the bridge Lamar makes the connection to violence using the following lyrics, “I ride, you ride, bang, One chopper, one hundred shots, bang, Hop out. Do you; bang? Two chopper, two hundred shots, bang.” (Kendrick Lamar, “Swimming Pool (Drank)”) The word chopper is a slang term that is used to refer to an assault rifle. It seems like he is taking the view that acts of violence are like drinking, where it is more of a social thing that groups do together. This is evident as these lines start with “one chopper” followed by the question “do you; bang?” and then the next line begins with “two chopper”. Furthermore, a key repetition in the bridge is the word “bang” which is commonly referred to as the firing of a gun. The connection in this song between the use of a rifle and each shot fired and the drinking of alcohol by taking shots is crucial. It is important to remember that in this song, Kendrick’s speaks of alcohol as being a bad thing and he connects this with violence, by presenting the violent act of firing a gun as also being negative to society.

Rap music has been associated with promoting and glorifying violence. This however is no long true. From my research into the rap music genre, it showed that violence does not play a crucial role within the genre and in the few instances where it is violence is presented, it is negatively portrayed. Furthermore, it is clear that the rap music genre has had a shift from what it was previously known for, violence, into a new main focus of materialism and misogyny as stated by Conrad, Dixon, and Zhang (2009). I clearly saw this in my research as a very large majority of the songs that I analyzed, the remaining 9 of the 15, did not contain any violent content but rather were filled materialistic and misogynistic ideals. It is much more comforting to know that one of the youth’s popular genres is not sending out the wrong message about violence, but rather mainly preaching the negative effects of the vice. For it were not so, it is possible, considering the research lead by Lennings and Warburton, that the increase in aggression may turn into criminal offences. This may be a relief to some, but the works done by Lennings and Warburton may leave others wondering whether the new content in rap music may also have a similar effect on us.

References:

Brummert Lennings, Heidi I., and Wayne A. Warburton. “The Effect of Auditory versus Visual Violent Media Exposure on Aggressive Behaviour: The Role of Song Lyrics, Video Clips and Musical Tone.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 47.4 (2011): 794-99. Communication and Mass Media Complete. Web. 26 Oct. 2012.

Conrad, Kate, Travis L. Dixon, and Yuanyuan Zhang. “Controversial Rap Themes, Gender Portrayals and Skin Tone Distortion: A Content Analysis of Rap Music Videos.”Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 53.1 (2009): 134-56. Communication and Mass Media Complete. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.

Jones, Kenneth. “Are Rap Videos More Violent? Style Differences and the Prevalence of Sex and Violence in the Age of MTV.” Howard Journal of Communications 8.4 (1997): 343-56. Communication and Mass Media Complete. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.

Staff, CNN Wire, Journalist Olav Mellingsaeter in Oslo, and Laura Perez Maestro Contributed to This Report. “Norway Mass Murder Suspect Charged.” CNN. Cable News Network, 07 Mar. 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2012.

Song List:

“Gangnam Style” – PSY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0

“I Cry” – Flo Rida

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLuWHr6-0YQ

“Clique” – Kanye West

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOrLNHbEzMg

“Swimming Pools (drank)” – Kendrick Lamar

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-ejyHzz3XE

“Whistle” – Flo Rida

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSnkWzZ7ZAA

“Pop That” – French Montana ft Rick Ross, Drake, Lil Wayne

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X98HX5nbsCI

“Mercy” – Kanye West

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Dqgr0wNyPo

“Bandz A Make Her Dance” – Juicy J

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI0gk2KJeho

“Birthday Song”        – 2 Chainz

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y34jC4I1m70

“No Lie” – 2 Chainz ft. Drake

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQZMaG1eO74

“Turn on the Lights” – Future

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIrhcTkHX_A

“No Worries” – Lil Wayne ft Detail

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5z25pGEGBM4

“Thrift Shop” – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft Wanz

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QK8mJJJvaes

“F**king Problems” – A$AP Rocky ft Drake, 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tqmIsF4s48

“Diced Pineapples” – Rick Ross, ft Wale and Drake

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jb6HZa151s8

Die Hard

I think that the movie Die Hard is a deceit movie, but I would definitely have to say that is was not a great movie. If anything I would rate this with 2 stars out of 4. My rating is greatly affected by the newest version of Die Hard, Die Hard 4.0, which I felt was much more engaging and I enjoyed the setting and the plot of that movie much more. I felt like the plot of this Die Hard was not as engaging and could have had so much more to make the plot more complicated. However, some people may argue that it is an older movie and back then movies were not as dense compared to the present films. To this I have to point out the film Blue Dahlia, which is older than Die Hard, yet the plot, contains twists and turns that leaves the viewer wondering. Furthermore, while watching this movie there wasn’t really anything that grab my attention and hooked me into the film. I didn’t feel like there was anything unique and exciting about it such as unique stunts or memorable quotes, but rather it was a basic average movie.

I and Roger Ebert have at least one thing in common which is that we both gave this movie a 2 star rating. However, there is also one key area that Ebert talks about in his blog that I would have to disagree with. Ebert says that the role of the deputy police chief, Paul Gleason, is an unnecessary additional character. I disagree with him on this as I think Gleason adds value to the movie by getting the viewer to further appreciate the police officer who keeps in contact with Willis. Ebert gives the opposing side and shows that not everybody is as trusting as the officer. I think that Ebert also is placed to be compared with Willis as when Gleason messes up; it is Willis that comes around to fix his mistakes even though he isn’t in charge. This then creates a better image for Willis and draws the audience to relate with him more.

Why Most Mass Murders Are Privilege White Males: Response

The article by Hugo Schwyzer, a professor at Pasadena City College, argues that the privileged white male is led to mass murder in public places due to them feeling unrecognized in a place where they should be. I see how Schwyzer lands on this idea and the reasons make sense as to why the privileged white male would feel that they have been wronged. I see this because they would be so used to a certain way of living and that changed takes them by shock and in the end for some their reaction leads to mass murder.

One idea that he mentions is the “white boy mojo”. I feel like this idea is one that I can greatly relate with because I was a Kenyan at an American high school in Kenya. I felt like I had a greater connection with the locals around the school than my American friends merely due to the fact that I was a Kenyan. However, now being at the University of Richmond I have lost that connection that I once had with the locals. The different approach that I take is that I understand that I am no longer at home and I can act the same way everywhere and expect this privilege that I had to follow me around. I think for the privileged white male they expect the same kind of privileged treatment everywhere that they go.

This same idea though makes me think about why it is the white male expects to be welcomed everywhere they go. The one thing that I get from this is that it comes from the way that they live their lives and how they have been received from past experiences. I can only speak really from two perspectives that the white male encounters that I know of. The first would be in their home country as here they are a “native” and would have that special connection I talked about earlier. Then there is the second perspective which would be them in a foreign country. The one county I can talk about is Kenya. Once again in Kenya if a white male would be seen they are placed in a higher level. One aspect is seen when young children get really excited when they see a white person and they begin to happily chant “mzungu, mzungu, mzungu”, which is white person in Swahili. To them they are absolutely thrilled to be seeing a white person.

Stuart Hall shows part of this white male privilege in his article “The Whites of Their Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the Media”. In the article Hall gives an example of inferential racism on the matter of race relations. The media in this example infers that the blacks are the problem and that the whites are innocent in the matter. Another example for this same article is the slave figure. This example once again doesn’t show the whites as bad people. If we look further into the media we can also see that in a large number of movies the main hero is white male. I think these ideas would also play into the white male privilege as they see themselves as causing no harm to society and expect people to listen to them.

 

 

Swenson Article on King, Denny, and TV News

The article by Jill Dianne Swenson focuses on the beatings of Rodney King and Reginald Denny, the encoding within the respective videos and together. This article talks about how the use of videos to show both of these beatings creates a hyperreal concept in the memory of viewers. Furthermore viewers are seduced by the news broadcasters to think that just watching the video enough to solve the problem. The main focus however, is the encoded message within the videos, and how those two messages relate to one another forming the idea of racial inequality. The Rodney King video contained both intentional encoding from the news stations and unintentional encoding from the amateur cameraman, Holliday. Some of the attributes in the encoding included are the gaze, lighting, camera angle, color, texture, and style of the recording. All these things put together enhance the realism of the unclear video making it look more historical with the perpetrators unaware of the recording. The black and white color creates the two sides, good and bad. The Reginald Denny video encoding gives the view of God from above, with clarity allows the viewer to distinguish who is who. This video also shows the great contrast between the victims light skin tone, his white cloths and the blood over his body. The Denny video is presented as the reversing of roles from the King video. Swenson though argues that this is not true and instead the Denny video was used by the media to add the racial inequality being push by the media. She says Denny is encoded as only the victim while King is both the victim and villain. Overall she believes the two videos portrayed the dangers of black and whites being together.

CSI

CSI is a very popular show that is enjoyed worldwide by a large audience. Yet this very show has multiple underlying ideas that the common viewer rarely notices. In an article written by Gray Cavender from Arizona State University and Sarah K. Deutsch from University of Wisconsin, the two bring to light these many hidden themes.

The article showcases the ideas generated from the research done by these two individuals. They compare the differences between episodes from the first season of CSI and the season aired in 2006. Their research focused on the crime statistics, crime genre, and the forensic science in each episode. They present their findings in three parts. First, CSI present the police as the moral authority and its reliance of the usual television crime genre. From their research they found that a large majority of the crimes were violent crimes that mainly focused around murder and that the police are presented as the good guys. The police are further presented as a smooth running body that is able to get the job done. Secondly, how CSI presents a sense of science and how it makes it appear as a moral authority. The science in CSI is used in a way that makes the characters seem knowledgeable as they are able to explain all their steps in the investigation. Science is also shown as the having to the answer to problems by revealing the evidence which is also considered the truth, making it a great resource and the best judge possible. The third and finally part is the combination of melodrama and realism along with police themes in CSI to showcase cultural meaning. Throughout each episode the appearance of scene were made to look realistic, focusing even on the small details to create the idea of realism. Finally the article concludes with the idea that such shows have had great effect on viewers, even to the extreme that some now consider forensic science as being the only type of evidence.

To try view this ideas first, I watched an episode of CSI. The episode begins with Mac lying down in a pharmacy where he has been shot and moves one to him being rushed into the ER. Throughout the rest of the episode it is a constant switch between Mac’s unconscious thinking and the investigations in real time. The first and last dream state scene is of him and his late wife having a moment to reflect the things that they wish they had told each other. Throughout the rest of the episode each “dream” is Mac talking to each member of his team reconciling various unspoken matters. It then moves on to tell the story that led to Mac getting shot. A suspect is brought in for questioning over a bank robbery and the evidence takes a drastic turn to implicate his grandfather that he lives with rather than him. The grandfather confesses and he is also quite sick so Mac offers to go get him medication. At the pharmacy he encounters a robbing in process and kills the robber in the store, but eventually is shot in the back by the thief’s girlfriend. The team’s investigation leads them to a DNA sample on the counter that identifies the shooter. They initiate pursuit of the suspect by first raiding her residence where they find she has just left and end up pursuing here into a school bus parking lot. After a small chase they are able to apprehend her and bring her into custody. Mac recovers from surgery and the final scene is of the whole team, including Mac, 6 months later investigating a new crime scene.

I feel like this was a less conventional episode of CSI that focused a lot more on the personal story of Mac, the team leader, rather than on the investigation. Yet the other themes that Cavender and Deutsch mention in their article are also very apparent in this episode. One key aspect that is shown is the use of technology and the reliance on it as an unfailing resource. This is clear when one of the agents, Lindsay, tries to use muscle structure analyzer to connect the suspect to the scene and not only disappointed that it didn’t make the link but also seems shocked that it didn’t work. Another idea presented from the article is that majority of CSI episodes are about murder, and I was not at all surprised that this particular episode consists of one and even almost two murders.

The one area of this show that jumps out in relation to one of the findings of the article is when Mac (during his unconscious state) tells Donald not to take revenge for his death like he did before but rather to just do his jobs. This stands out greatly as by Donald doing his job, the police are presented as the moral authority. Furthermore in this episode never do we see the suspects being taken to court to be sentence, but instead the second they are caught by the team it seems like they are immediately guilty and no further process needs to take place. The moral authority image created for the police force in CSI is further polished by the show never showing any problems within the police force that would disrupt investigations.