Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Guiding the Influence of Hip-Hop Music on Middle-School Students' Feelings, Thinking, and Behaving

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Guiding the Influence of Hip-Hop Music on Middle-School Students' Feelings, Thinking, and Behaving

Article excerpt


Although the nature of the relationship of music on students' emotional development remains an issue for continued research, my overall purpose is to provide adults with research-based methods to help children become better consumers of hip-hop music. First, I identify research-based recommendations to prepare adults as facilitators of children's developing pro-social behaviors. Second, I provide techniques that adults could use to help children interpret and analyze characters in popular lyrics within pro-social behavioral guidelines. Finally, partly based on findings from a national middle-school student focus group questionnaire, I offer a plan for easy-to-implement activities adults could utilize to help children assess and appreciate the feelings of characters described in popular musical lyrics.


In recent years, adults have expressed concerns about the impact they believe popular hiphop music has on the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of young adolescents. Adolescents' attitudes about school, material success, appreciation of themselves and others seem to be shaped to a large extent by the music they listen to. Similarly youths' behavior, as reflected in their clothing styles, language usage, desire for jewelry, and automobile preferences, have been attributed to lyrics and videos from the hip-hop industry. Beyonce sings Crazy in Love and her video has teens (and Oprah) dancing the "Beyonce," Lloyd Banks' I'm So Fly reminds listeners of his appreciation for material possessions, Mannie Fresh raps (the act of saying rhymes to the actual beat of the music) (Robert, 2004) that everything should be Real Big and children want to wear big clothing and jewelry, and want to drive big cars. Whenever the Franchise Boys sing about bangin' in White Tees there is a sudden surge in sales of white tee-shirts. Clearly, adults should have some degree of concern about children's perception of popular musical lyrics, but what do children think about the impact music has on their psychological well-being? What role do adolescents think educators and parents play in helping them sort through and make meaning of popular hip-hop music? Do children have a clear understanding about the commercial aspects of the music industry and how that industry targets them for marketing? Are there techniques that caring adults can use to help Cihildren develop pro-social behavioral skills through hip-hop musical lyrics?

I had these and other questions in mind when I recently met with over 300 middle school students in focus groups, and then separately with parents, educators, and other concerned adults from cities across the country. The main purpose of these meetings was to gain firsthand insights into adolescents' thinking about the music they listened to. Generally, I wanted them to tell me whether they believed music had an impact on their thinking and behaving, and on their self-perception as it related to their favorite music, and to what extent they thought adults such as teachers, school counselors, parents, and community leaders should be involved in their decision-making about the music they listened to. Specifically, the students were asked to complete a 13-response "discussion-stimulating" questionnaire intended to educe students' honest thoughts about four central themes: (a) how their favorite music impacted their thoughts and behavior; (b) the roles of adults in advising them about their music choices; (c) ways adults could use music to open avenues for honest communication between them; and, (d) the importance of trust relationships with key adults. It was in the framework of these focus group sessions and the Middle School Student Music Preference Questionnaire (MSSMPQ) that student participants responded openly to my inquiries.

Based on student responses to the questionnaire, follow-up discussions with middle school administrators, counselors, teachers, parents and other adults, along with numerous informal and formal workshop settings, findings reported herein will be presented with references to three complementary lines of research: (a) the inherent motivational nature of music; (b) successful marketing strategies of the music industry to attract adolescents' purchasing power; and (c) parallel strategies adults involved in the lives of middle school children can take from the music industry in order to help them improve children's pro-social behaviors while they open meaningful avenues of communication. …

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