The purpose of this research project is to examine the topic of gangsta rap and its role in influencing high-school behaviors. The research project begins this examination by asking the question “is gangsta music entertainment or destructive?” Organizations like Hip-Hop 4 Peace would suggest that rap music does indeed have a destructive quality. In fact they purport that rappers need to reexamine the violent nature of their lyrics. Violent lyrics can lead to equally violent behaviors as listeners conclude that such behaviors are acceptable and glamorous (Anonymous, 2002).
This leads the researcher to hypothesis that “when gang members leverage gang affiliation as a resource for personal success, it can lead to dire consequences.” Dire consequences can include law-breaking and violent activities that can ultimately lead to death. It is also proposed that a symbiotic relationship exists between gangsta music and a culture of violence. Further this report will examine microscenes including gang members in Chicago Illinois, and high-school students including Toronto Canada. Ultimately this research project purports that the reshaping of the gangsta lifestyle and culture goes deeper than lyrics. It requires an examination of the background and socio-economic conditions that many gangsta artists emerge from. By changing the socio-economic conditions, or at least providing a broader range of hip-hop artists (i.e. Run-DMC and Mos Def) perhaps the sub-cultures and microscenes will begin to change (Anonymous, 2002).
Finally, emergent trends in social media (i.e. internet banging) must be examined. There’s an implicit relationship between urban masculinity and social media behavior. Since the majority of gang members are male, a careful observation of modalities of communication is critical. Such observation must lead to mediation that includes encouraging a re-examination of music, video content, and virtual engagement (Patton, Eschmann, & Butler, 2013).
In this experimental study there are both independent and dependent variables. According to a recent article the goal of the researcher is to understand the causative relationship between the independent and dependent variables. In other words, the independent variable is that which is manipulated by the researcher. In contrast the dependent variable (DV) is that which is measured following the modification of the Independent variable (IV). Subsequently a researcher often measures the causative relationship between the IV and DV based on the relevant degree of influence (Mcleod, 2008).
The research theory is that gangs and gangsta rap can form a dangerous combination, particularly given the allure of the gangsta rap industry. According to one article there are common traits that exists in the various microscenes of the gangsta rap industry. Success in the music industry is often dependent on an authentic portrayal of the image presented. As such gang membership creates “street credibility”, which often leads to increased sales. Further the intersection of gangs and gangsta rap would appear to create shared value both for the consumer and the rappers. Gangsta rappers create an opportunity for youth to live vicariously through stories of conflict and violence. In like manner, gangs depend on the income generated from music sales to fund their illegal gang activities (Harkness, 2013).
Implicit within the understanding of the causative relationship between gangsta rap (GR) and the gangsta lifestyle (GL) is an understanding of a built-in economy. The problem appears to be that the two worlds of GL and GR do not seem to operate in perfect harmony. An example is the tragic death of Joseph Coleman aka Lil JoJo on September 4, 2012. Coleman was a member of the Gangsta Disciples who had a long-standing rivalry with Keith Cozart (Chief Keef). Essentially Lil JoJo was seeking to create a public relations media frenzy by mocking Keef and the Black Disciples using social media. It ultimately backfired and resulted in the death of Lil JoJo (Harkness, 2013).
For this study the best way to measure the impact of GR is to analyze its influence on youth culture. Therefore the primary independent variable will be the socio-economic background of targeted youth. For examination of this study various literature was reviewed including an extensive report by Tanner, Ashbridge, and Wortley. In the article the target population was approximately 3,393 high-school students. The research primarily utilized a questionnaire to measure factors like respondent (age, gender, national affiliation, race, parents’ education background, subjective social class, and views/behaviors about education (Tanner, Asbridge, & Wortley, 2009).
In the study by Tanner, Asbridge, & Wortley (2009) there was a cultural mix between (Caucasians, Asians, blacks, and other nationalities). According to the study approximately 68.4% of respondents did not have a father who received a Postsecondary education. Also, approximately 73% of respondents did not have a mother who received a Postsecondary education (Tanner, Asbridge, & Wortley, 2009). This would indicate that the majority of respondents typically did not have higher education modeled in the home. Modifying the independent variable for the proposed study, would necessitate factors like focusing on Cultural capital leisure. For example offering youth from lower socio-economic backgrounds opportunities such as (learning musical instruments, going to cultural festivities, and introducing them to positive activities) (Tanner, Asbridge, & Wortley, 2009). It would be equally important to promote benefits to education that were directly/indirectly connected to their areas of passion or interest.
The dependent variable (DV) would be an affiliation with or an affinity for urban music. In a previous study there was a social injustice index or statement. It asked participants to agree or disagree about how they felt about racial profiling and police involvement within their community. The researchers sought to better understand whether or not the high-school students blamed discrimination and racial profiling on job and education opportunities. It also sought to understand how students felt about social class and the advantages that wealthy Canadians had over lower class Canadians. Through this social injustice statement/index researchers wanted to ascertain the probability that avid listeners of urban GR would have similar beliefs. Such beliefs would cause messages of violence, sexual exploitation of women, and gang activity to be perceived as a unifying message (Tanner, Asbridge, & Wortley, 2009).
In terms of a niche this study will focus on high school students between the ages of 14-18 years old. While the previous study focused on Canadian teenagers this study will focus on youth who currently reside in the United States. The goal will be to engage a wide base of youth from various cultural backgrounds (especially Latino and African-American males). Another critical criteria is that the research site offers a significant number of urban communities with a strong gang presence. Therefore the proposed research site is Chicago, due to the pervasiveness of violence combined with the number of gangs. Some studies estimate that there are approximately 70-75 gangs in Chicago. This was also viewed as an ideal site given the normative intersection between gangs and the local gang scene (Harkness, 2013).
Statement of Study
As previously stated in the Abstract “the purpose of this research project is to examine the topic of gangsta rap and its role in influencing high-school teenagers. This is especially significant due to the conflicting messages presented within the context of Hip-Hop music of which Gangsta Rap is a sub-set. In other words there are values within the “code of the streets” that are detested by the majority within society. However, the ascension of the Hip-Hop industry (i.e. gangsta rap) has created a conflict of values (Rutherford, 2004). The only way for youth to navigate this conflicting moral dilemma is for society-at-large to provide them with a counter-balance of a morally acceptable message.
As understood in the literature review, there are often adverse consequences when gangster/hip-hop music is revered by youth. Therefore the purported hypothesis for this study is that “the emergence of Hip Hop/Gangsta Music has created a social conflict. Further, extended listening to Gangsta Rap (GR) by youth can create a sub-culture with values that are counter to mainstream ethics.” Therefore, the prominent messages within the musical content must include the promotion of socially acceptable behaviors. If individuals don’t fear the law and this position is glorified, socially rebellious behaviors are likely.
One of the potential repercussions from the continued glorification of GR is its impact on youth. Many youth become engaged in listening to GR and subsequently begin to live the lyrics that are celebrated in the songs. This can often lead to rebellious attitudes and behaviors that could ultimately lead to illegal offenses and consequences. One-time offenders with felony convictions usually have what has been referred to as an “economic life sentence.” This is aptly stated due to the fact that even after being released from custody youth are often still restricted (Rutherford, 2004).
Youth often find themselves engaged in a justice system in a way they never envisioned. For example, former Chief Judges, and other researchers have noted an inequity between the committed crime and the subsequent punishment. Not only does the system cause youth to become immersed in undesirable legal trouble, there is an emergent attitude of indifference. Further, many youth who find themselves caught in the cycle of the judicial system are eventually trapped by the “Three Strikes” laws. Researchers argue that rehabilitation would be a more beneficial process (Rutherford, 2004).
Taking it a step further Prehabilitation should be considered. Prehabilitation would be understood as a process of proactively minimizing incarceration rates by focusing on positive actions. Such actions should include redirecting youth who are acting out. This would be especially critical for youth who are coming from middle to lower socio-economic backgrounds. This concept is further supported by a RAND study that revealed the positive impact of positively rewarding. For example, providing cash and other incentives to economically challenged families for education and employment they are more likely to finish (Rutherford, 2004).
A closer examination of the message often prevalent in GR is alarming. For example Ice Cube in his song “Ghetto bird” (1993 album Lethal Injection) provides an anti-law message. Cube talks about 400 years of oppression of the black population and proposes violent retribution. Such retribution is aimed at the white-run institutions. There are also countless stories of illegal surveillance by law enforcement using technologies like phone taps and hidden cameras. This combined with stories of police encounters creates a hostile image of law enforcement and their role in oppressing the socially downtrodden (Nielson, 2011).
The individuals who are drawn to such music and images includes those who are victims of the Post-Fordist (PF) unemployment. The PF period occurred approximately during the early 1970’s. Prior to the 70’s many within the urban communities were working in factories and for industrialized companies. However as a result of factors including globalization many factories and jobs were shipped overseas. The result is that there was a transition to self-reliant or free economies. This PF period was further understood as an entrepreneurial environment that punished those communities without sufficient economic resources (Patton, Eschmann, & Butler, 2013).
In a previous study there were approximately 4,000 high-school students involved. In the proposed study there will be approximately 20 urban high-schools targeted throughout Chicago. The goal will be a participant group size of (n=10,000). The previous study focused on gang members who loved rap music. In contrast, this study will explore the listeners of gangster rap. The proposed time frame for the study will be approximately 3 years. Recruiters will screen male teenagers residing in lower income neighborhoods. Adolescents will be eligible to participate if they are either African American or Hispanic males. The goal will also be to target those participants who have had some level of disruptive behaviors either at home/school or both.
As indicated in Appendix A, covariates will include grade, employment background, neighborhood description, school behaviors, family composition, other socio-economic indicators (i.e. recipient of public assistance). Additionally there will be questions that probe the formation of values. Univariate analysis will describe gangster rap exposure (listening and viewing) characteristics at baseline. Subsequent bivariate analysis will consider the causative relationship among high-school students exposure to gangster rap at baseline, potential covariates, and the associated behaviors over the 36 month research period.
The primary materials will be survey questionnaires, authorization forms, and electronic tools used to capture the data (i.e. video cameras, recording equipment, and computers to create a database of participant information). There will be mobile units (i.e. trailers) set up at each high-school campus to conduct the studies. The length of the study will enable researchers to monitor the progression of participants, especially as independent variables are modified.
Participants will be recruited by introducing the study at general school assemblies. There will also be flyers passed out at the school. Participation will be strictly on a volunteer basis. The participants will be individuals from targeted “At-Risk” neighborhoods (see Appendix B). Participants will be provided a cash stipend for participation as well as other incentives (i.e. mobile video cam). The video cam will be useful for electronic journaling and recording of thoughts by participants. Additionally, participants will be provided with consent forms that must be signed by a parent or guardian.
Plan of Analysis
The purpose of this research study is to aptly examine trends and behaviors of adolescents who listen to gangsta rap (GR). We purport that by listening to GR adolescents begin to adopt the same values promoted in the songs. Ultimately we hypothesize that such exposure to violence creates barriers to socio-economic success. The plan of analysis will include soliciting “At-Risk” students at approximately 20 urban high-schools throughout Chicago. Further, the goal will be to secure a participant group size of approximately 10,000 students.
The study will take place over the course of a three year period. The data will be initially collected using standard (hard copy) surveys and face-to-face interviews. Subsequently such information will be eventually be transferred into an electronic database. This electronic database will include information from the surveys, face-to-face interviews, and other participant information. Researchers chose such a large participant group given the propensity of interview participants to drop out of studies over an extended period. In other words the goal is to ensure that there are sufficient participants to gather data from over the course of three years.
Journals and Other Outlets
Students will be encouraged to journal in binders but will also receive small portable video cameras to record information. Given the oft violent nature of the socio-economic neighborhoods of many participants a contingency plan will be presented. For students that want to take the video equipment home to journal they will be able to do so. However, researchers will also be able to store the cameras at an offsite secure location that will only be accessible to research participants. For students that do journal either using standard notebooks or portable video’s such information will be transcribed electronically. The students will be included in the study albeit identified using a pseudo name.
Limitations and Future Directions
One of the first limitations of this study is the fact that it primarily targets adolescents in Chicago. Future studies should consider other “At-Risk” gang infested cities throughout America. One recent article provided the top 6 Cities in America. Those cities include the following:
Source: (The Richest, 2014)
It is significant that Chicago has implemented a two-year anti-violence initiative in high-schools. However, the same outrage that the nation felt regarding the brutal beating of Derrion Albert needs to translate into broad action. This is based on the understanding that home grown solutions are probably most effective. Concerning future direction, other cities (i.e. Los Angeles & Chicago, Illinois) should pursue similar funding as that obtained by Chicago. To-date the Chicago initiative has received government funding of approximately $50 million dollars. In addition to the federally allocated money, the school system is adding an additional $20 million for mentor-to-mentee intervention. The target group includes those who have an estimated 10% probability of being killed due to gang violence (The Richest, 2014).
Author, A. (2002, December 13). Gangsta Rap under Arrest. ProQuest Central, 102(14), 3.
Harkness, G. (2013). Gangs and gangsta Rap in Chicago: A microscenes perspective. Poetics, 41(1), 151-176. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2013.01.001
Mcleod, S. (2008). Independent, Dependent and Extraneous Variables. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/variables.html
Nielson, E. (2011). Here come the cops: Policing the resistance in rap music. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 15(4), 349-363. doi: 10.1177/1367877911419159
Patton, D. U., Eschmann, R. D., & Butler, D. A. (2013). Internet banging: New trends in social media, gang violence, masculinity and hip hop. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(1), A54-A59. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.12.035
Rutherford, C. D. (2004/2005). "Gangsta" Culture in a Policed State: The Crisis in Legal Ethics Formation amongst Hip-Hop Youth. National Black Law Journal, 18 (2), 305.
Tanner, J., Asbridge, M., & Wortley, S. (2009, December). Listening to Rap: Cultures of Crime, Cultures of Resistance. The University of North Carolina Press, 88(2), 693-722.
The Richest. (2014, July 26). The 6 Most Gang Infested Cities in America. Retrieved from http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/most-shocking/the-most-gang-infested-cities-in-america/?view=all
Urbanplan Nerholic. (2015). Urban Relations. Retrieved from http://urbanrelations.info/post/34094892798
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