What Is Rap Really Saying?: A Content Analysis of Pro and Anti-Social Rap Lyric Themes in Traditional and New Media Outlets.
Mentor:Travis Dixon, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles
The landscape of rap music is changing rapidly through technological advances and the ability to produce, distribute, promote, seek, and share music cheaply online. Production of Culture literature suggests that this new level of access for rap artists and fans alike will increase the variety of lyrical themes created and consumed. While anti-social themes still exist in both major record label and independent releases, we predict that the increase in new market entries has diversified the genre to include more pro-social themes in independent releases, which are accessible primarily through new media outlets such as social networking sites. This research project aims to determine if lyrical themes in rap music consumed and shared online are in fact more diverse and less anti-social than those found through traditional outlets. Preliminary findings from a sample of 116 top rap songs on the 2010-11 Billboard charts suggest that materialistic, misogynous, and sexually explicit themes are most prevalent among major record label supported music. Surprisingly, homophobic themes appear to be nonexistent on the Billboard charts. Implications for these findings, as well as understanding how rap consumption and sharing behaviors are influenced by access to lyrical diversity will be discussed. Finally, the possible correlation between the sharing of varied rap themes online, racialized identity (re)affirmation, and inter/intra-group relations in online communities will be examined.