Music plays a great role in our social life. Some people listen to music to boost their concentration while working in offices or studying while others listen to it for pleasure. Some listen to music to release pressure after a day’s heavy work. For some, the beat or rhythm of the music is enough to make them enjoy and feel good. While some enjoy lyrics, others enjoy music without concentrating on the message. For instance, an American can love Hindu music only because he likes the way the dancers dance or the rhythm although he understands nothing. Some young people love music because they love a particular celebrity or a superstar who sang the song. Such industry heroes include Eminem, JA Rule, Rihanna among others. Generally, music, like drugs has the effects to the listeners irrespective of the age.Due to their curiosity, young people may be greatly affected by the music which consequently shapes their moral values in the society. Since many of our media today plays music to attract their audience, poor selection of music may have grave effects. For instance, if a music video which has some pornographic content is played while children are watching, it may affect their sexual behavior. Therefore, this paper will look at how rap music affects children. Through empirical approach, the paper will also establish the validity and a critique of the empirical findings of the results obtained and if the methodology used deserves the credit.
Tatum (1999) defines rap music as, “a genre of African American music of the 1980s and 1990s in which rhythmic lyrics are chanted to a musical accompaniment” (p.5). Several forms of rap music have emerged. The majority of young children may be attracted by the beats of the music without bearing in mind the lyrics used in the song. As it has been established, most children are not keen on the lyrics of the rap music and admit that the beat of the rap music is their main concern and not the lyrics. On the other hand, some young children and youth confess that they only get gratification from rap music through the lyrics. In this situation, children tend to learn most of their behavior from them. Social perceptions and conceptions are defined and explained through music. Furthermore, study shows that children lay much importance to rap music that contains lyrics which carry controversial themes as compared to those which are not controversial (Council on Communication and Media, 2009).
Most of the critics of rap music base their positions on contents of the lyrics or words that have been used in the rap music. Some songs have explicit sexual messages which have a direct negative influence on the sexual behavior of an individual, gender perception, racial and cultural stereotyping among other things. Such contents may influence how the children think and act in their daily lives. Thus a great emphasis is laid on how such contents may contribute to issues of drug abuse ,Satanism, sexual violence, misogyny, racism, homicide and the suicide to the viewers of such music hence affecting their moral ethics to the family, community and the nation at large(Council on Communication and Media, 2009).
The lyrics used in rap music by the artistes directly affect the behavior or the emotions of the children. Such lyrics contain themes that carry violent messages like extreme sexual explicit and encourage the abuse of substances like cocaine, bhang, heroine and some other forms of violence shown in some music videos by the rappers. The contents of the rap music revolve around the themes to do with explicit sexual language, the issue of suicide, homicide, racism, violence and drug abuse which are a common feature in the rap music. Therefore children may express their feelings in the manner in which they see the rapper in the music video react towards a particular issue like sex, race, culture or even the abuse of drugs to relieve him or her from a particular anxiety. A research was conducted to identify the effect of rap music on children using children who have had the chance to come across rap lyrics without exposure to rap music itself and those who have been exposed to rap music but did not know the lyrics. The last group had never listened or read the rap or its lyrics. The findings pointed out the fact that rap lyrics altered the young boys’ views towards the female gender. The research also established that if a child listened to explicit language used to address sex by a rapper, such a child would probably use the words either when with his or her friends or even in front of older people and most likely when he or she is angry and thinks that he or she may only get relieved by using sexually degrading language. This will automatically have changed her behavior hence causing a moral problem to her parents who will be forced to look for ways on how to avert the child’s behavior (Dyson, 1996).
Corrupting contents in rap music usually cause a disruption of social order. With misinterpretation of lyrics, children can resort do engaging in certain anti social activities which will eventually lead to weakening of the family values. For instance, spirituality, which forms one of the fundamental elements of morality, can be greatly affected by lyrics that contain elements of Satanism. Consequently, children listening to it may have their religious moral perspectives replaced by satanic and antisocial beliefs which will temper with the moral fabric of the society. Social order is also impacted by rap music as a result of lyrics that promote use of drugs sexual explicitness. Certain drugs like bhang, cocaine, heroine, et cetera are glorified within the rap music. Apart from singing good words, the celebrated musicians also pose in pictures and clips using some of the drugs. These pose a great danger to the children’s behavior. Considering that they intend to emulate the lives of the great singers, they will eventually resort to using these drugs in order to be like their super heroes. Extensive use of drugs could have a negative moral and economic implication to the society (Hall, 1998).
Rap music tends to change the mood of children and their behavior whenever they listen to it. Research has shown that children listening to rap music are likely to shift their normal behavior and how they react to some situations that they encounter. This means that rap music alters the way children control their moods under different circumstances. According to research rap music mainly brings about mood control problems and manipulates emotional stability of the children who listen to the rap music. Those children who were sad leaned on listening to rap music that had violent themes and this reaction normally affected the female children. There is a greater difference in the intensity and the effects of the rap music on the regulation of mood and behavior between male and female children as per the findings of the research which indicate that females are more affected than the males in terms of the influence of the rap lyrics. Most male children like to listen to rap music with the sole purpose of being stimulated in their energy levels which increase their physical activities while female ones like to listen to the rap music when they are affected with the feelings of sadness and hence they want to cool down their spirit so that they can resume their normal life.In simple terms we clearly understand the role of the rap music on the regulation of the mood and behavior of the children who listen to the music and the differences on the degree on the male and female reaction to the rap music lyrics, or rap music videos on the listeners. In addition boys declare that they listen to heavy metal and rap music whenever they are in an angry mood so that they can calm down their mood as a result of rhythm and lyrics expressed in the songs. According to them, listening to these songs gives them an inner feeling of gratification and relief to their moods hence the destructive energy levels that could cause harmful effects to their psychological set up are released through such heavy metal and rap music (Dyson, 1996).
Rap music on the effects of children does not only serve the purpose of balancing the emotional environment of the listeners, but it also has the social effect in that it allows children to deal with different social conditions appropriately. Reaction to certain social phenomena by children is established by what they hear and see. This has to do with the fact that children will react to various social conditions basing on the impacts of the rap music that they were exposed to. Lyrics containing content that is extremely explicit might serve as the position from which a child emulates. For instance, a child who is exposed to explicit sexual content could have his or her sexual behavior compromised.
Hardcore rap can affect the behavior of children in terms of violence. The media networks like MTV offer rap music videos that contain lyric that are violent to the children listening to such music. Therefore, the interpretation of such music lyrics may bring problems on how these children deal with social situations that would trigger anger. To be precise, lyrics from such music helps the children establish the conception that violence is the normal way of dealing with certain issues. These has something to do with the influence on the social and psychological development of the children in terms of how they are going to think and act on the analysis of the lyrics found in the rap music. Even though it has been found that the media has a large degree of influencing the masses through its representation of the rap music that contains themes with violent messages, it sometimes depends on the exposure of the children to such contents found in the music. Therefore, those children who are highly exposed to the media that plays rap music with the violent themes like that of suicide ,drug abuse, homicide have a higher chance of acting in a similar manner due to the influence of such music. Those that are less exposed to violent themes are less affected. But the more the children get exposed to those rap music with violent themes the more the effects accumulate for a longer period thus their social and psychological behavior is negatively affected. As a result, they will probably act violently whenever the social conditions in their normal life are affected (Anonymous, 2010).
Rap music has negative effects on children’s conceptualization of gender. Most of the lyrics and video clips of these songs show a biased image of women. It is evident that some of the songs create the picture that women are nothing but objects for sexual pleasure. Just like having enough money to buy luxury goods like cars and “blings”, women are also a product of wealth. One has to get enough money so that he can have women all over him. With such views being shown to young minds, it becomes dangerous that they would grow up to know that this is the role of women. Little boys would grow up to as hardworking young men who intend to make enough money that would enable them get enough beautiful women. On the other hand, girls would grow up knowing that they are there to give pleasure to men who have money. Their sexual behavior will be greatly impaired because their lives will be based solely on money. The music could also portray information arguing that the best way of appearing strong is through being violent to women. The research has shown that male young children who watched violent rap music turned out to be more violent in life especially to their female counterparts unlike those who never watched violent rap videos who were less violent in terms of sexual violence against women (Hall, 1999).
Formation of false stereotypes is the other effect of rap music on children. From the lyrics and video clips, children tend to establish a certain standard of measure for some aspects in life such as body weight and the general body appearance. This could lead to phobias like body dysfunctional disorder which causes the young adults to dislike their figures. This may eventually leads to suicide among the youths as an attempt to avert the situation, which may greatly affect their human development in the later stages of their life (Hall, 1998).
Rap music affects academic performance of children. Researchers have affirmed that those children who listen to heavy metallic rap music tend to cause a lot of problems at school. They tend to find themselves in conflict with their teachers and other school administrative authorities. Such children also perform poorly in their academic activities which comes as a result of the change in their social behavior which bears negative perception on the moral principles that guide their behavior (Dyson,1996).Some studies have shown that those children who listen to rap music have lower grades in their academic studies as compared to the rest. However, some contrary results have been witnessed too. An observation was made which showed that white students actually had amazing improvements in their academic affairs after they watched rap videos. In addition, they showed progressive improvements in their attitudes by watching politically focused rap videos that embraced the liberal perception towards campaigning for the black political candidate during the election period. But a similar research on the black students was never carried out and therefore no analysis was established to find out if the effects of the rap and heavy metallic music had on the children in terms of their academic progress.
To some extend researchers have established that even though rap music may pose negative influence on the social behavior of children, there are some positive effects of rap music on them. The main focus area was to relate school children and how the content of the rap lyrics affected their academic achievement. It was established that rap music had positive impacts on their academic development as it was noted that children improved their poetry skills, story telling and self expression. This was achieved by the lyrics of rap music of which children easily memorized hence improving in their poetry skills. For instance, rap artists like KRS-One and J-Live who were former public school teachers urged other fellow rap artists to help in educating children so that they could improve their communication and linguistics skills which can help them to excel in life. Therefore the culture of rap music is held responsible for inspiring children to embrace the culture of writing creatively as compared to other categories of the music in the past recent decades such views concurred with research shown by National Reading Campaign (Dyson, 1996).
Children who listen to rap music can easily make their personal identities in terms of strengthening their social relationship in their social lives both at home and school level and this is what is called quasi-social. Therefore many rap listeners and especially children want to avoid being lonely by listening to the rap music. It has also been established that the children who were rap listeners were quick to establish peer structure in their process of development towards the adolescence stage. The social effect of rap music on the children enhances them to equip themselves with social skills like enabling them to converse easily with others on the social issues that affect them. This enables them to develop the youth culture in their later life as adolescents in helping them to shape and define their social limits. The social use of rap music in childhood is the need for establishing peer groups that help them to shape their future. Adolescent peer groups which form the fundamental basis for youth culture for the youths are usually found at this early stage of life. Rap music hence assists a child to improve on his or her social intractability hence increasing the chances of perfect growth.
Critique of the methods used in determining how the contents of the music affected children in regard to their social behavior shows that there were some shortcomings in the whole process. The methods could yield to bias in the sense that the observer of the children may encounter the problem where the children may be influenced by other types of music like rock or hip hop and therefore no much information required by the observer may be provided since some children may shy off in their way of expressing their feelings. Also most of the literature that covers topics on the issue has mostly covered the adolescents who are either in the high grade schools and to some extend college students therefore the link of covering the effects of the rap music becomes too broad hence so many issues are looked down upon by the observers in that field therefore the end result is bias in the research that is being carried out may crop up. The other stakeholders like the parents whom the children are closely related to a greater extend in the most cases were left out and therefore vital information concerning how the rap music affect their children cannot be tapped from them to strengthen the body of the research could be left out.This is because the information regarding the effects of the music contents, effects of lyrics ,heavy metal music could not only be a problem affecting the children but could also be affecting the adults and therefore the research need also be extended there to find the true picture.
In summary, the past 40 years have seen rap music become entrenched in the lives of children and youth. Controversies on issues to do with sex and violence marked the main characteristic of this genre. In addition, rap music has relayed harmful health messages that greatly affect the children in the society today. A close survey of the young children who listened to the rap music indicates that they spent at least 3 hrs a day listening to the music and therefore those who are exposed to the rap music showed a change in their social behavior as well as their peer groups. Rap music that contains lyrics that are violent tends to enculture the children with the behavior of being violent in the manner in which they act, be it to their parents, their peer groups and even the authorities like the school teachers. The children may act against the school regulations and rules due to their intentional desire to violate such regulations as a result of listening to such violent lyrics (Council on Communication and Media, 2009).
In conclusion it should be noted that rap music is only one of the genres of music whose effects vary from situation to situation. The effects of the rap music on children offer a wide scope of study of which researchers have identified impacts on change of behavior in listeners. This has mainly focused on lyrics, content and their presentation i.e. video clips. It has been established that the rap music not only has negative effects but it also contributes positively to the academic achievements. Poetry and communication skills of the school children improved as a result of listening to rap music. It should also be made clear that heavy metal music has a greater chance of shifting the social behaviors of children listening to it because the children tend to be more violent as they struggle to counter balance their emotions as per the gratification they got from the heavy metal music. Consequently, parents should ensure that they regulate the rate of their children’s exposure to rap music. By doing this, they would save themselves great burdens in the future. Also, they should avail positive rap music which will enhance the performance of their children in academic work.
Anonymous. (2010). Rap music’s psychological effects: Research into mood, behavior, crime, violence and Gender relations. Web.
Council on Communication and Media (2009). Policy statement: Impact of music, music lyrics, and music videos on children and youth. Pediatrics, 124(5), 1488-1494.
Dyson, M. (1996). Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing witness to Black Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hall, P. (1998). The relationship between types of rap music and memory in African American children. Journal of Black Studies, 28(6), 802-814
Tatum, B.L. (1999). The link between rap music and youth crime and violence: A review of the literature and issues. Justice Professional, 11(3), 256-267