The Impact of Rap and Hip-Hop Music On American Youth


In recent years, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding hip hop and rap music, it has been the forefront of the American media. Majority of it came from the east coast-west coast rivalry between the two rappers that got murdered named Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. if it were not for those two artists along with other hip hop pioneers, the rap and hip hop genre would not be what it is today.

Hip Hop music has been demonized by the public and the political and media groups were quick to blame rap for a seeming trend in youth violence after the school shootings that took place in Littleton, Colorado.

Just like every other genre, every rap song comes with a message and a meaning, in order to understand it you have to know that rap reflects its origin in the hip hop culture, it roots in the African oral tradition. It is the voice of the underrepresented group of America which are the African Americans.

The research I have done will provide an up to date view on what rap and hip hop music represents today and how it has influenced and impacted the American youth from how they dress to how they talk. I will also be talking about how it all began and what has made this genre very popular to everyone all over the world.

Moreover, Hip hop has spread everywhere to all different cultures around the world and has somehow influenced not only the music industry but also the fashion industry and the way of living for the youth.

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This research that I conducted will be of significance to those who have an interest in this field.

Literature Review and Research Questions

In the early to mid 70’s, the biggest genre in music was Disco like the “Saturday night fever” in 1977. Late into the 70’s, bands like Earth, Wind and Fire added funk to disco but while part of the world was boogieing, Life was not the same in the Bronx, New York. The economy was really bad and building owners could not find people to rent out their apartments to so they ended up burning their buildings. There was an overall of 60% unemployment rate among young adults, this caused the people specifically African Americans to turn and tap into their creativity and with this Hip Hop was born.

“Out of oppression and depression came much creativity.” -Kurtis Blow, Hip Hop Music Pioneer.

Grand Master Slash developed scratching and mixing techniques that became the basics of Hip Hop. He started doing what DJ’s do now which is physically placing his hand on a record and scratching and coming up with beats by having absolute control. Grand Mater Slash and his crew “the furious five” were the first hip hop artists to be inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame. They were presented by rapper Shawn Corey Carter also known as “Jay Z” in 2007.

“How you act, walk, look and talk is all a part of Hip-Hop culture. And the music is made from black, brown, yellow, red and white.” -Afrika Bambaataa. South Bronx born DJ Afrika bambaataa, is best known for bringing electro funk to the world of hip hop. He did this by using a drum machine instead of rapping over disco music, Afrika bambaataa and his crew the soul sonic force had electronic background music. Like other hip hop artists, he used his music to convey important messages and express his feelings about the issues going on in the world. Hip hop gave the inner city a voice and the world awareness. There were a few hip hop pioneers but the man that was considered to be the “father of hip hop” was DJ Kool Herc. He is credited for introducing classic “Mo Town funk” like James Brown to the youth in south Bronx during the 70’s. What these hip-hop pioneers created could not be contained in the urban neighborhood were the movement began. Today hip hop is mainstream, 6 of out of the US billboard top 10 songs were hip hop songs, the artists are now as diverse as the fans of this genre. Hip hop fans are not confined by neighborhood race or economic situations. Hip hop was created many years ago and till this day it has continued to change dance and fashion not just in the American culture but all around the world. “Contemporary hip-hop culture includes music, film, graffiti, dress, language, expressions, journalism, activism and knowledge” (Ciardiello, 2003: Veltre & Hadley, 2012).

“Rap music is different from Hip-Hop. Rap is the music, the beats, and rhyme of a culture known as hip-hop” (Eligan 2012 p.28). As I mentioned earlier both rap and hip-hop started in the Bronx and to this day it is a multi-billion dollar industry. “Rap is the only African American genre of music that has both remained primarily created and performed by its people while simultaneously gaining widespread popularity across racial and ethnic lines.” (Alvarez, 2012: Hara 2012). Many of the authors acknowledge rap and hip-hop as an influential force in the American youth and youth communities. Although they believe that, they also believe that with rap comes violence and destructive forces due to its music videos and what it promotes. On the contrary, for the youth rap and hip-hop is a source of strength. It is the way they express themselves. Whether it is in the lyrics of the song, the music videos or in through their fashion it is all expressive. Tyson (2005) found that people from different backgrounds have both positive and negative perceptions of rap music, and generally view it in three ways: violent-misogynistic, empowerment-positive, or artistic-aesthetic. In the news, they only show violent-misogynistic type of music that are produced by a minority. 

Philosopher bell hooks (2006) states, “Rap is so diverse in its themes, styles and content. But when it becomes a vehicle to talk a bit in mainstream news, the rap that gets in national news is always the rap music that perpetuates misogyny and that is most obscene in its lyrics, and this comes to stand for what rap is.” This misconception of rap/hip-hop started long time ago with the East Coast VS West Coast beef and the first complicated relationship it started with was two rappers named Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. A lot of today’s influence came from these amazing artists that are spoken about till this day. They first met in 1993 on the set of “Poetic Justice”. Tupac was already a huge artist at this point and during the show he was playing biggie’s single called “party & bullshit” on repeat which made biggie very ecstatic as this was his first single and it being played by a known rapper made it even bigger. 

The pair then became friends, Tupac use to send bottles of Hennessey to Biggie and he would constantly give him advice. Biggie use to crash at Tupac’s LA home when he visited all the way from New York. The Duo use to perform together on stage and they even freestyled together at venues such as the Madison Square Garden. By this point, Tupac was already a platinum selling artist and a movie star, while biggie was still getting his career to advance. He wanted to reach the level that Tupac was on so he asked Tupac to become his manager. Tupac denied to be his manager and told him to stick with Puff daddy and that he would make him a star under the management “bad boys.” While in New York to shoot the film “Above the Rim”, in 1994 Tupac started hanging out with Jimmy Henchman and Jaques ‘Haitian Jack’ Agnant. Biggie warned him not to befriend as they were known to be notoriously tough guys. On 30th November 1994, Tupac was called by biggie’s affiliated rapper Lil Cease to Quad recording studios and he ended up getting shot, beaten and robbed of his jewelry. 

Later finding puff and biggie inside the building he was led to believe that biggie was behind it. Their friendship was no longer after that night. 7 days later, Tupac was sentenced to prison for sexual abuse, he was unable to pay the bail which was for $3million so he ended up serving most of his sentence in a maximum security prison. It was then that tupac, along with his management team Death Row records Suge knight, vowed to ruin Puff and biggie’s rival label Bad Boy records. While Tupac was in prison, biggie released a suspected Tupac diss track called ‘who shot ya’ both Puff and biggie claimed that the song was not aimed at Tupac but the public believed otherwise. Biggie said that the song was written before tupac was shot and that he still saw Tupac as a friend and that he could not believe that he thinks that he was behind the shooting. Biggie tried to belittle the situation but Tupac escalated the it, he did everything to ruin his name from saying he slept with his wife ‘faith evans’ to saying biggie’s style was a rip off of his own. He continued to say he was superior in hip-hop. 

On 7th September 1996, Tupac was fatally shot in Vegas in a drive-by. The pair never settled their beef before his death. Even though there was no concrete evidence that biggie or puff had anything to do with his death, Tupac’s death still remains a mystery till this day, the shooters were never found and there is still a lot of controversy around his death. Biggie’s wife Faith Evans claimed that biggie was distraught by the news of Tupac’s passing, he called her on the phone crying. He was afraid given everything that went down between them and all the hype that was surrounding that was put on the so called rivalry that people would assume that he most definitely had something to do with his death. On 9th march in 1997 biggie was also fatally shot in a drive-by in Los Angeles. This also created another conspiracy theory and people started to believe that this would be the end of Hip-Hop at the time. 

Hip-hop brought Tupac and Biggie together but it also tore them apart. The biggest thing that has happened to Hip-hop was their East Coast vs West Coast rivalry, this has impacted a lot of people’s lives the youth has embodied Tupac and biggie into their fashion sense and lifestyle, what they portrayed in their music video is what the youth followed and even though this happened a long time ago their music and their story still lives on in todays current rap and hip-hop music. Rap and hip-hop music culture have been shown to draw out a person’s emotions and communicate significant messages across racial and ethnic lines (Iwamoto, et al. 2007). People are able to identify with the messages in the lyrical content, and the music can have positive psychological impacts such as increasing energy and motivation and relieving stress (Iwamoto, et al. 2007).


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The Impact of Rap and Hip-Hop Music On American Youth. (2021, Dec 21). Retrieved from

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