Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues” paints a violent picture of snorting up cocaine and shooting down women all to a hunky-dory twang — but social stigma still says it’s rap fans that are the menaces to society.
Researchers conducted a series of three studies, wherein they asked participants whether song lyrics were literal, offensive, and in need of regulation. The presented lyrics were identical, but half of the subjects were told that they were in a country song and the other half was told rap. When the lyrics were characterized as rap, they were deemed threatening. In a related analysis, researchers assigned different races to the author of the lyrics but, in this case, there was no effect on how threatening the song was believed to be and the race of the lyricist.
Only a few studies have evaluated whether stereotypes fuel the belief that rap is threatening. But they were predominantly conducted in the 1990s — a time that the researchers behind this new study describe as “a period of heightened scrutiny for rap.”
Rap has never had it easy in the mainstream, but it’s the type of stereotype that is worrisome. And now that rap has become admissible as court evidence, how we perceive rap is something we should be cognizant of.