Skip to content

Rap Music Research Papers

Hip Hop Influences on Society, Negative and Positive

Since the first day that the first hip hop artist busted a rhyme, it seems that there has been a raging debate about the harm that music has done to society. This has been the cry of the establishment throughout the history of modern history. As a new genre of music was developed that represented the young, the establishment attacked it. There are many people who feel that hip hop music has been a negative force on society, but it isn’t based in fact, simply on personal taste.

The Positives of Hip Hop

One of the most significant positive influences of hip hop music is that an entire segment of the population developed a way to relate their experience artistically to the world. Much of the style and the language used was determined by the lives and cultures of the artists. Since most hip hop artists were of African American decent, much of established white America saw the music as a threat. They heard the explicit lyrics and the violence that some of the music talked about. This gives people a voice of expression. When inner conflicts are expressed to others, often times that expression allows others to relate. Even though the lyrics are violent, they may actually give an outlet to aggression and stop actual violence. There is also the financial reward that a great hip hop artist can make.

The Negatives

One of the most significant negatives is the stereotyping that hip hop music perpetrates about black culture in America today. Because the clothing style and language are so different, those differences can cause fear in others. That fear can lead to a violent backlash, and when that backlash comes from the police and authority figures then violence is often the result. Also, there are generally negative themes against women and other groups that are generally negative and harmful. These words tend to perpetuate stereotypical behavior toward relationships and to other people, making life more painful for others. The stereotypes and rhetoric of the hip hop culture might also prevent any real dialogue from occurring between different sides.


Hip hop music has influenced the culture of the world by presenting its hard hitting lyrics with an upbeat tempo of music that provides great entertainment, yet can send inappropriate messages about violence and the treatment of women.

This study examined the culture of rap/hip-hop music and how misogynistic lyrical messages influenced listeners’ attitudes toward intimate partner violence. Adams and Fuller () define misogyny as the “hatred or disdain of women” and “an ideology that reduces women to objects for men’s ownership, use, or abuse” (p. ). Popular American hip-hop and rap artists, such as Eminem, Ludacris and Ja Rule, have increasingly depicted women as objects of violence or male domination by communicating that “submission is a desirable trait in a woman” (Stankiewicz & Rosselli, , p. ). These songs condone male hegemony in which “men find the domination and exploitation of women and other men to be not only expected, but actually demanded” (Prushank, , p. ). Thus, these messages glorify violence against women, including rape, torture and abuse, and foster an acceptance of sexual objectification and degradation of women (Russo & Pirlott, ). These misogynistic themes first emerged in rap/hip-hop songs in the late s and are especially apparent today with women being portrayed as sex objects and victims of sexual violence (Adams & Fuller, ; Russo & Pirlott, ).

Young adults between the ages of 16 and 30 are the most likely age group to consume rap/hip-hop music, and in turn, may become desensitized to the derogatory lyrics condoning relationship violence and sexual aggression (Smith, ). Specifically, the college-aged demographic has been influenced by the prevalence of sexually explicit media and the negative images of women presented in hip-hop culture, which “teach men that aggression and violence are closely linked to cultural views of masculinity” (Wood, , p. ). Furthermore, the physical abuse of women is celebrated in rap/hip-hop songs promoting “models of masculinity that sustain and encourage misogyny” (Cobb & Boettcher, , p. ).

This paper evaluated the impact of cultivation theory and whether exposure to misogynistic rap increases the acceptance of perpetrating violent acts against women (Johnson, Jackson, & Gatto, ). Also, this paper incorporated the disinhibition hypothesis in relation to how audiences become desensitized to media violence after repeated exposure (Rosenberry & Vicker, ). Analyzing the relationship between rap/ hip-hop lyrical content and song popularity showed how audiences have responded to objectifying messages through their music consumption.

Domestic violence is a pressing issue often deemed acceptable by the media, and thus, challenges men and women’s perceptions of how they should treat their partners in their relationships. Over the past two decades, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women “reported a tremendous increase in the representation of violence against women, particularly sexual violence, in the media” (Stankiewicz & Rosselli, , p. ). Studies suggest that increased exposure to misogynistic messages has desensitized audiences to the issue of intimate partner violence and fosters greater tolerance of male aggression (Barongan & Hall, ). The mass media portrays domestic violence both visually and aurally by normalizing the use of force in relationships, which correlates to the fact that “more than one in three women in the United States have been sexually coerced by a partner” (Nettleton, , p. ). Therefore, it is not surprising that “men commit at least 90% of documented acts of physical intimate partner violence in the U.S.” by exerting control over women (Wood, , p. ).

The ambiguity of what constitutes sexual assault or intimate partner violence contributes to public misperception of domestic violence. The Office of Violence Against Women defines domestic violence as a “pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner” (“What Is Domestic Violence?,” ). Physical, sexual and psychological actions or threats of abuse toward a partner are the most common forms of domestic violence (“What Is Domestic Violence?,” ). Domestic violence includes behaviors that “intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone” (“What Is Domestic Violence?” ). The National Violence Against Women Survey, conducted by Tjaden and Thoennes (), estimates that one in five women in the United States is physically assaulted in her lifetime and one in 13 is raped by an intimate partner (Russo & Pirlott, ).

While women of all ages are at risk of experiencing domestic and sexual violence, those between the ages of are most susceptible to experiencing nonfatal intimate partner violence (“Get the Facts: The Facts,” ). According to a study by Laurel Crown and Linda Roberts, “one-half of college women in their senior year reported one or more unwanted sexual interactions during their college careers” (Wood, , p. ). The perpetration of violent behavior can be explained using the cognitive learning theory, asserting, “individuals receive messages through society and media that shape relationship ideologies” (Bretthauer, Zimmerman, & Banning, , p. 30). This study specifically analyzed college students’ views on the issue of domestic violence and its portrayal in popular rap/hip-hop music.

In a recent content analysis of six types of media, Pardun, L’Engle, and Brown () found that music, in particular, contained substantially more sexual content than any other media outlets. Sexually explicit and derogatory lyrics are especially apparent in rap music, which has been criticized for its graphic derogatory presentation of women using lyrics that objectify, exploit or victimize them (Weitzer & Kubrin, ; Cobb & Boettcher, ). Adams and Fuller () assert that rap music reduces women to objects “that are only good for sex and abuse,” which “perpetuate ideas, values, beliefs, and stereotypes that debase women” (p. ). This study also noted six themes common in misogynistic rap music, and further examined three of them: derogatory statements about women in relation to sex; statements involving violent actions toward women, particularly in relation to sex; and references of women as usable and discardable beings (Adams & Fuller, ).

Armstrong () conducted a content analysis of rap songs from to , in which 22% contained lyrics featuring violence against women including assault, rape and murder. His study classified rap songs into different categories in which rappers either pride themselves on sex acts appearing to harm women, justify other acts of violence, warn women who challenge male domination that they will be assaulted, and/or seem to invite male violence against women (Armstrong, ). Weitzer and Kubrin () conducted a follow-up study analyzing the portrayal of women in rap songs through a content analysis, in which themes of derogatory naming and shaming of women; sexual objectification of women; distrust of women; legitimation of violence against women; and celebration of prostitution and pimping appeared at the greatest frequency. Sexual objectification was found to occur in 67% of the misogynistic lyrics in their songs sampled (Weitzer & Kubrin, ). This study further examined the frequency of explicit music content found in the past decade’s worth of popular rap/hip-hop music. Furthermore, stereotyped gender roles emerged from lyrics containing sexual imagery that promote the “acceptance of women as sexual objects and men as pursuers of sexual conquest,” (Martino, Collins, Elliott, Strachman, Kanouse, & Berry, , p. ).

George Gerbner focused on violent television content and how audience exposure to these violent images influences their views and conception of social reality, by cultivating a “common view of the world” (Rosenberry & Vicker, , pg. ). As a result, Gerbner developed cultivation theory by examining how long-term exposure to violent media messages alters audience perceptions of violence in their everyday lives (Rosenberry & Vicker, ). This approach can be applied to all forms of media by interpreting individuals’ reactions to violent content; thus, this study will incorporate cultivation theory in an analysis of misogynistic lyrics affecting listeners’ attitudes toward domestic violence (Rosenberry & Vicker, ).

In reviewing more than five decades worth of research, Potter () extended cultivation theory to determine the following effects of exposure to media violence:

Exposure to violent portrayals in the media can lead to subsequent viewer aggression through disinhibition. Long-term exposure to media violence is related to aggression in a person’s life. Media violence is related to subsequent violence in society. Exposure to violence in the media can lead to desensitization. People exposed to many violent portrayals over time will come to be more accepting of violence (Rosenberry & Vicker, , p. ).

In turn, Dr. Edgar Tyson () developed a item instrument, the Rap Music Attitude and Perception (RAP) Scale, the “only tool available to access an individual’s attitude toward and perception of rap music lyrics” (p. ). The RAP Scale contains three constructs: empowerment, artistic aesthetics and violent misogynistic. This study incorporated the empowerment and violent misogynistic constructs to measure “violent, sexist, and misogynistic images conveyed in the lyrics” to examine college students’ perceptions of the content through a survey (Gourdine & Lemmons, , p. 65). Using a meta-analysis approach, Timmerman et. al () found that “listening to music generates an effect on listeners consistent with the content of the music,” such as when rap/hip-hop artists communicate themes condoning “power over, objectification of and violence against women” (p. ; Bretthauer et al., , p. 42). This study applied the term “priming” to determine “whether music serves as a mechanism to ‘prime’ someone for subsequent actions and behaviors,” and in turn, react to, incorporate or reject the media content into the listener’s life (Timmerman et. al., , p. ). While a correlation may exist between exposure to misogynistic music and audience attitudes regarding violent acts against women, a causal link cannot be demonstrated between listening habits and resulting misogynistic behavior (Baran & Davis, , p. ). Therefore, the consumption of misogynistic music can influence audience perceptions of misogynistic content, but does not directly lead to “subsequent aggressive actions” (Timmerman et. al., , p. ).

This study expanded upon previous research incorporating the RAP Scale, priming and cultivation theory to determine how college students’ perspectives on issues of domestic violence reflect misogynistic themes emphasized in explicit rap/hip-hop music.

This study explored whether consuming rap/hip-hop music containing misogynistic messages affects the attitudes of audiences regarding domestic violence.

  • RQ. 1: How do college students perceive and respond to the portrayal of women when exposed to misogynistic lyrics?
  • RQ. 2: Does gender impact how college students interpret misogynistic messages found within popular rap/hip-hop songs?

 Continued on Next Page »

Using a qualitative content analysis and online survey, this research examined how college students perceive and respond to the portrayal of women when exposed to misogynistic lyrics. Based on cultivation theory, this study analyzed the lyrical content of popular rap and hip-hop songs (n=20) on Billboard’s “Hot ” chart between and Song lyrics were classified into one or more of the following coding categories: demeaning language, rape/sexual assault, sexual conquest and physical violence. Themes of power over, objectification of and violence against women were identified as prevalent throughout the content analysis sample. Survey results indicated a positive correlation between misogynous thinking and rap/hip-hop consumption.

About Elon University. (). Retrieved October 30, , from xhtml

Adams, T.M. & Fuller, D.B. (). The words have changed but the ideology remains the same: Misogynistic lyrics in rap music. Journal of Black Studies, 36, –

Armstrong, E. G. (). Gansta misogyny: A content analysis of the portrayals of violence against women in rap music, Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 8(2),

Baran, S. J., & Davis, D.K. (). Mass communication theory: Foundation, ferment, and future (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth.

Barongan, C. & Hall, G. (). The influence of misogynous rap music on sexual aggression against women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19, –

Billboard Hot Retrieved October 11, , from Billboard website:

Bretthauer, B., Zimmerman, T. S., & Banning, J. H. (). A feminist analysis of popular music: Power over, objectification of, and violence against women. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 18(4),

Cobb, M. D., & Boettcher, W. A. (). Ambivalent sexism and misogynistic rap music: Does exposure to Eminem increase sexism? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37(12),

Dixon, T. L., Zhang, Y., & Conrad, K. (). Self-esteem, misogyny and afrocentricity: An examination of the relationship between rap music consumption and African American perceptions. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 12(3),

Gan, S. L., Zillman, D., & Miltrook, M. (). Stereotyping effect of Black women’s sexual rap on White audiences. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 19,

Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In J. Bryant & D. Zillman (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (pp. ). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Get the facts: The facts on domestic, dating and sexual violence. (). Retrieved September 13, , from Futures Without Violence website: action_center/detail/

Gourdine, R. M., & Lemmons, B. P. (). Perceptions of misogyny in hip hop and rap: What do the youths think? Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 21,

Johnson, J. D., Jackson, L., & Gatto, L. (). Violent attitudes and deferred academic aspirations: Deleterious effects of exposure to rap music. Basic & Applied Social Psychology, 16,

Martino, S. C., Collins, R. L., Elliott, M. N., Strachman, A., Kanouse, D. E., & Berry, S. H. (). Exposure to degrading versus nondegrading music lyrics and sexual behavior among youth. Pediatrics, (2),

Nettleton, P. H. (). Domestic violence in men’s and women’s magazines: Women are guilty of choosing the wrong men, men are not guilty of hitting women. Women’s Studies in Communication, 34,

Pardun, C.J., L’Engle, K.l. & Brown, J.D. (). Linking exposure to outcomes: Early adolescents’ consumption of sexual content in six media. Mass Communication & Society, 8, 75–

Prushank, D. (). Masculinities in teen magazines: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Journal of Men’s Studies, 15(2), –

Rosenberry, J. & Vicker, L. (). Applied Mass Communication Theory. A Guide for Media Practitioners.

Russo, N. F., & Pirlott, A. (). Gender-based violence: Concepts, methods, and findings. New York Academy of Sciences,

Smith, S. L. (). From Dr. Dre to dismissed: Assessing violence, sex, and substance use on MTV. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 22, 89–

Stankiewicz, J. M., & Rosselli, F. (). Women as sex objects and victims in print advertisements. Sex Roles, 58,

Timmerman, L. M., Allen, M., Jorgensen, J., Herrett-Skjellum, J., Kramer, M. R., & Ryan, D. J. (). A review and meta-analysis examining the relationship of music content with sex, race, priming, and attitudes. Communication Quarterly, 56(3),

Tjaden, P. & Thoennes, P. (). Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington DC: National Institute of Justice/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at:

Tyson, E. H. (). Rap-music attitude and perception scale: A validation study. Research on Social Work Practice, 16(2),

Weitzer, R., & Kubrin, C. (). Misogyny in rap music : A content analysis of prevalence and meanings. Men and Masculinities, 12(1).

What is domestic violence? (, August). Retrieved September 29, , from

Wood, J. T. (). Gendered Lives (10th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Zhang, Y. & Wildemuth, B. M. (). Qualitative analysis of content. In B. Wildemuth (Ed.), Applications of Social Research Methods to Questions in Information and Library Science (pp). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Save Citation »  (Works with EndNote, ProCite, & Reference Manager)

APA 6th

Cundiff, G. (). "The Influence of Rap and Hip-Hop Music: An Analysis on Audience Perceptions of Misogynistic Lyrics." Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, 4(1). Retrieved from


Cundiff, Gretchen. "The Influence of Rap and Hip-Hop Music: An Analysis on Audience Perceptions of Misogynistic Lyrics." Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications (). <>

Chicago 16th

Cundiff, Gretchen. The Influence of Rap and Hip-Hop Music: An Analysis on Audience Perceptions of Misogynistic Lyrics. Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications 4 (1),


CUNDIFF, G. The Influence of Rap and Hip-Hop Music: An Analysis on Audience Perceptions of Misogynistic Lyrics. Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications [Online], 4. Available: