I have been reading an interesting story published by Sarah Yang of the University of California-Berkeley, regarding research on references to illegal drug use in rap music from 1979 to 1997. From what I read it was not necessarily an anti-rap music campaign according to its data. It was a fact finding analysis based on the lyrical content of the most popular rap songs (and other music genres) and illegal drug references.
This study was conducted by associate professor, Denise Herd, from a division of Community Health and Human Development at UC-Berkeley’s School of Public Health. This research was based on lyrics from 341 of the most popular songs according to recording industry ratings by vendors like Billboard. These are fact findings of approximately 20 years of charted hits.
The study’s findings pointed out references to drug use has exponentially increased in two decades beginning with the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” The report detailed its findings not just based on glamorization of drug use but also on its casual stance towards illegal drugs.
Between the years 1979 to 1984, out of the 38 most popular rap songs only 4 made references to drug use. The research concluded its findings when the numbers climbed to 69 percent, which is 86 out of the top 125 rated songs, during the years of 1994 to 1997. I wish to see the report’s entire list of the songs that were analyzed. Some of the hit songs exposed in the study were positively credited, as anti-cocaine songs from the 1980s, like “Crack Monster” by Kool Moe Dee.
This part of the article is what really intrigued me.
Denise Herd’s research made reference to a 1996 Vibe magazine article on how these numbers are further relative to rap music’s commercial success, and how rap music has been marketed in the 1990s. The glorification of marijuana use, and its eventual marketing impact in rap music, enhanced the pursuit of multi-Platinum sales status. The article discussed the recording sales success of West Coast artists Cypress Hill, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg in the early 90s due to their pro-marijuana musical content. She concluded this was the trend setting cornerstone for the glamorization of marijuana in rap music to promote sales.
I recall this period well, which occurred when I was in college. During this time everybody on campus was sporting a Philly Blunts t-shirt and baseball cap as a novelty. Hip Hop went from African medallions, to peace signs, to marijuana leaves in less than 2 years. Although most people I knew who were listening to Cypress Hill, Dr. Dre, or even the Wu Tang Clan, were not rolling up squares to puff-puff pass. I for one am a big fan of these albums for their artistic merit and substance. These albums are considered all-time classics compared to the crap that is out now. However a rap artist creating a pro-marijuana image was definitely a landmark in lyrical content and music promotion at that time. During the 1980s you normally heard cheeba references in old school tapes but not on wax as much unless it was Schoolly D. Not even much gangsta or thuggery content. Speaking from my experience none of that was glamorized until gangsterism made a commercialized home in rap music.
Overall, Herd’s study was not subjecting rap music to the social increase of drug use in society, but it was being examined as an influential medium promoting illegal drug use in its content. The study continues furthermore by Dr. Brian Primack of The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In 2005, his stats recorded 77 percent of Billboard’s most popular rap songs made references to drug use. This is definitely research to take heed in regards to how rap music is portrayed today and even manipulated.
Do you think this glamorization of drug use has numbed popular rap artists from marketing social consciousness to the mainstream? I think not because they have money on their mind. It does make me wonder about any debate of this study. Let’s get real. With all of the crap the United States and the World is experiencing right now, there is much more to speak about and protest as people of culture and consciousness than glamorizing any damn thing! We are much more than a few popular, lascivious industry tap dancers promoting narcotics, alcohol, and Bentleys. Are we not?
What do you think, or am I messing up your high?