What Influence and Effects Does Rap Music Have on Teens Today?

Rap music features lyrics filled with slang and often peppered with profanity, which has caused concern among parents, educators and activists alike. Rap videos can also illustrate glamorous and dangerous fantasies. But rap music is a diverse genre, used to express a wide variety of realities and aspirations. Even if your teenager imitates the fashions and language used by rap artists, this may not always indicate a significant change in your teen's values or goals.

Young teens listening to music outdoors. Credit: JackF/iStock/Getty Images

Why Does Rap Music Appeal to Teens?

Rap lyrics are emotionally intense and often spin a rags-to-riches tale. According to Michael Delpleache of Hip Hop Gives Back, a youth empowerment organization, teens are drawn to the fantasies of wealth, glamour, and sex appeal in rap videos. For teens in poor communities, rap lyrics speak to their current reality and their fantasies of escape. And like all forms of music, rap offers a creative outlet and a way to connect with peers.

Does Rap Influence Sexual Behavior in Teens?

Not all rap songs have sexually explicit content, and some promote healthy sexual relationships. But according to researchers at Florida International University, the more time African American adolescents spent watching the sexualized images in in Hip Hop videos, the more likely they were to engage in sexually risky behavior themselves and endorse it in their peers. However, researchers believed that it was the presence of sexual lyrics or images rather than the musical genre itself that generated such attitudes among young people.

Does Rap Cause Violence in Teens?

Rap lyrics may discuss violence as a part of an exciting and dangerous lifestyle, but some songs condemn violence and even propose solutions. Research done at Western Connecticut State University found that those who listen to music with violent lyrics are more likely to be violent. Rap was born in poor urban communities where violence may be poorly controlled, but social and economic factors can play a much greater role in the prevalence of violence.

Can Rap Encourage Positive Behavior in Teens?

Using a teen's interest in rap to help them develop critical thinking skills is the aim of the 1hood Media Academy, founded by Jasiri X. At 1hood, kids learn to critique tropes found in rap lyrics and videos, and learn about the exploitative practices of music labels. Your teen's interest in rap isn't the end of your hopes for his successful adulthood. It's an invitation for you to help them develop greater awareness of adult issues.

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