Changes in the prevalence of alcohol use in rap song lyrics, 1979–97

Authors


Denise Herd, 790 Spruce Street, Berkeley, CA 94707, USA, E-mail: tiara@calmail.berkeley.edu

ABSTRACT

Aims  This paper explores the role of changing images of drinking and alcoholic beverage use in rap music from its beginnings in the United States in the late 1970s to the late 1990s.

Design  A sample of 341 rap music song lyrics released from 1979 to 1997 were selected using Billboard and Gavin rating charts. Song lyrics were coded for music genres, alcohol beverage types and brand names, drinking behaviors, drinking contexts, intoxication, attitudes towards alcohol and consequences of drinking.

Findings  From 1979 to 1997, songs with references to alcohol increased fivefold (from 8 to 44%); those exhibiting positive attitudes rose from 43% to 73%; and brand name mentions increased from 46% to 71%. There were also significant increases in songs mentioning champagne and liquor (mainly expensive brand names) when comparing songs released after 1994 with those from previous years. In addition, there were significant increases in references to alcohol to signify glamour and wealth, and using alcohol with drugs and for recreational purposes. The findings also showed that alcohol use in rap music was much more likely to result in positive than negative consequences.

Conclusions  Many of these findings are consistent with the idea that rap music has been profoundly affected by commercial forces and the marketing of alcoholic beverages. In addition, it is possible that the increase in references to alcoholic beverages in rap music, particularly spirits, is a reflection of a broader advertising culture which increasingly associates African Americans with alcohol use.

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