Study Puts Some Heat on That Violent Beat of Rap Music

By William Raspberry Copyright Washington Post Writers Group | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 3, 1994 | Go to article overview

Study Puts Some Heat on That Violent Beat of Rap Music


William Raspberry Copyright Washington Post Writers Group, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration wants to regulate tobacco because nicotine contains a drug - a dangerous, mood-changing and addictive drug.

There's a good deal of logic to David A. Kessler's notion - particularly since the recent disclosure that at least one tobacco company has come up with a new strain of tobacco with a greatly enhanced nicotine content.

I wish him luck. Then maybe he'll turn his attention to regulating rap music. And why not? Rap seems to share many of the dangerous qualities of nicotine. It is addictive (or at least habituating); it is available in some particularly harmful strains, and it is mood-altering.

If you doubt that last statement, you ought to talk to James D. Johnson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, who has just done an experiment on the deleterious effects of rap music.

His first finding won't surprise you: Violent rap increases the consumer's tolerance of - and predisposition to - violence. This one might: Nonviolent rap exacerbates the tendency toward materialism, reduces interest in academics and makes long-term success seem less likely.

Johnson took 46 young black males (ages 11 to 16) from Wilmington's inner city and randomly divided them into three groups. One group was exposed to nearly a half-hour of rap videos replete with shootings, explosions, assaults, killings. A second group was exposed to a similar period of non-violent rap videos, mostly dancing and partying; and the third group - the control - to no rap at all.

The youngsters were then given two separate tests: one to determine their propensity for violence, the other to test their attitude toward academics.

They were asked to read two passages. The first was an account of a boy who learned that his girlfriend had given "a big hug and a small kiss on the lips" to another boy. The boyfriend grabbed the girl and pushed her and told her never to kiss another boy. Then he went to the other boy and punched him, warning him to "leave my girlfriend alone."

The boys who had seen the violent videos were significantly more likely than either of the other groups to find the boyfriend's violent response acceptable, or to report that they would have done the same thing. …

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