Rap Music and Alcohol Advertisements: The perfect mix for underage drinking
This essay discusses the role that alcohol advertising in Rap music plays in underage drinking among U.S. adolescents, especially African American adolescents. Viewed through a sociological lens, underage drinking among African American youth may be explained by highlighting how advertising influences pop culture, societal values, and adolescent socialization. Special attention is given to Cooley’s Looking Glass Self theory to further explain adolescent vulnerability to alcohol advertising in Rap music. The essay concludes with a recommendation on how to decrease adolescents’ acceptance of underage drinking.
Key words: African American adolescents, alcohol advertisements, Rap music, pop culture
Rap Music and Alcohol Advertisements: The perfect mix for underage drinking
Compared to Caucasian youth ages 12-20 African American youth drink less alcohol (Wallace et al., 1999). However, despite lower levels of drinking among African American youth, African American youth suffer greater alcohol related diseases compared to other racial groups (Mulia, Greefield, & Semore, 2009). Alcohol is the most used drug among African American youth (Mulia, Greefield, & Semore, 2009). One explanation for the overabundance of underage drinking among African American youth results from the disproportionate targeting of alcohol advertisements by the alcohol industry, within African American communities Wallace et al., 1999). This essay will discuss how alcohol advertisements are promoted within American pop culture in order to promote underage drinking, especially among African American youth.
Brief Literature Review
A recent study (Herd, 2014) suggests that the rap music industry contributes significantly to a culture of underage drinking among African American youth. Rap music, once considered a significant component of an African American subculture may now be considered a significant component of American pop culture (Koffa, 2014). Although the rap industry has widened its mainstream appeal to all racial/ethnic groups, African American youth overwhelmingly identify with rap music artists and their messages compared to other racial/ethnic groups (Dyson, 2010). This is significant to note because a recent content analysis of 1,000 popular songs reveals that compared to other music genres, rap music makes reference to alcohol most frequently. In addition, almost half of the rap songs researched for the study mentioned specific alcohol brands by name. A cursory content analysis (see Table 1) of some popular rap songs that are played on the radio demonstrates how alcohol is used in rap music. The chart below lists 10 popular rap songs that advertise a specific brand of alcohol and/or drinking. In some songs, alcohol is mentioned briefly compared to other songs where alcohol predominates the lyrics.
Table 1: Ten advertisements of alcohol/alcohol use in rap
|Rap Song/Artist||Alcohol use and/or Specific Brand Advertised||Amount of time devoted to alcohol|
|1. Pass the Courvoisier, Part II – Busta Rhymes||Courvoisier||Predominate|
|2. Tequila Sunrise – Cypress Pain||Tequila
|3. Everybody Drunk – Ludacris||No specific brand mentioned||Predominate|
|4. Hennessy and Buddha – Snoop Dog||Hennessy||Predominate|
|5. Slow Jamz – Twista||Hennessy||Mentioned|
|6. I Drink, I Smoke – Belly (ft. Snoop Dogg)||Patron||Predominate|
|7. P & P – Kendrick Lamar||Patron||Predominate|
|8. Places to go – 50 Cent||Dom Perignon||Mentioned|
|9. Amen – Meek Mil||Cîroc||Mentioned|
|10. You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You) – Notorious B.I.G.,)||Cristal||Mentioned|
The above chart presents a snapshot of how rap music incorporates alcohol and/or alcohol use in its songs. Rap music can have far reaching implications for the socialization of African American youth because it may be considered an important agent of socialization. As mentioned in course readings, agents of socialization can be peers, family, colleagues, and any others who provide cues to the social roles that an individual plays over the life course. Rap music certainly provides social cues for youth to follow (e.g. underage drinking, gender roles, social activism, etc.). Rap music may help to influence young people’s beliefs about alcohol, specifically when to start drinking and how much to drink. As suggested in the song by Ludacris, “Everybody drunk”, consuming enough alcohol to get drunk is considered to be desirable. Research (NIAAA, 2006) notes that adolescents who drink the most also place the greatest emphasis on the positive and arousing effects of alcohol. Rap songs that incorporate alcohol use help to promote the positive and arousing influence of alcohol among youth.
Moreover, it may be argued that the incorporation of alcohol in rap music glamorizes underage drinking, which in turn normalizes a deviant behavior. Due to the fact that it is illegal under U.S. law for persons younger than age 21 to consume alcoholic beverages, underage drinking is a deviant behavior. However, because rap music is such an integral component of pop culture, especially among African American youth, the concept of the relativity of deviance more appropriately explains underage drinking among this population sub-group. As mentioned in the course readings, relativity of deviance refers to the fact that what is considered deviant to some is not deviant to others. Given that rap music glamorizes alcohol use, underage drinking is normalized. In fact, a young person may be considered deviant by his/her peers if he/she does not engage in underage drinking. What is considered deviant by wider society (underage drinking) may not be considered deviant by youth.
Cooley’s theory of the Looking Glass Self may be important to consider when discussing the role of rap music to underage drinking. According to Cooley, a person develops a sense of self as a result of social interactions with others. In essence, how a person views him/herself depends on how he/she perceives others to view him/her. For example, if alcohol use in rap music is widely accepted by a young person’s peers, he/she may not want to go against his/her peer norms by rejecting alcohol messages in rap music. He/she ultimately defines him/herself by how important others view him/her. If a young person does not approve of the use of alcohol in rap music, he/she may engage in what is known as impression management in order to maintain a positive self-image among his/her peers. According to Goffman, impression management is one’s ability to change his/her presentation of self. For example, a young person who disapproves of alcohol use in rap music and underage drinking and voices this disapproval to her peers may be ridiculed and labeled as “square” or “lame”. In order to avoid these negative labels the young person may retract her statement of disapproval in order to “fix the situation” and avoid further embarrassment.
In , this essay highlights how alcohol advertising may significantly influence the socialization process of U.S. adolescents, especially African American youth. Historically, rap music has served to empower the African American community by giving voice to a socially, economically, and politically marginalized group. However, some may argue that the transcendence of rap music as part of the African American sub-culture to a critical component of American pop culture has made this medium ripe for mainstream alcohol advertisement and adolescent exploitation. Rap music is an important medium of advertisement for the alcohol industry. Advertising significantly influences the socialization process of society’s members by helping to shape societal values. As stated in course readings, values are conceptions of what is considered good, or desirable in a society. Therefore, it is critically important for parents to express their values regarding alcohol use and underage drinking to their children in order to combat the negative influence that alcohol advertising has on youth.
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