The Role of News Media and Stereotypes in Hip-hop’s Bad Rap: Insights into narratives, movements, public opinion, and U.S. race relations.

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Principal investigator:

Philip Garland

Communication Leadership



Sample size: 549

Field period: 08/31/2006-09/05/2006


Hip-hop has experienced tremendous growth in spite of tremendous obstacles since its first billboard chart single in 1981. Its growth is evidenced by nominations in 15 Grammy Award categories in 2004; its obstacles are evidenced by court proceedings, advisory labels, and investigations decrying the presumed violent and anti-social content claimed to characterize its lyrics. Scholars (and rappers themselves) have argued that hip-hop is a mechanism of social resistance against mainstream culture and a means of empowerment for many disenfranchised groups in the U.S.—particularly African Americans (see Dyson, 1996; George, 1998; Kennedy, 2000; Rose 1994). From this perspective, rap music’s inception and growth follows the course of music such as blues, jazz, and early rock and roll. Rap however, seems to experience resistance even when its detractors are without first hand experience with the music (see Sieving, 1998). This study tests whether such resistance is in fact based on manifest lyric content or is a result of other factors including genre stereotypes, news media influence, or individuals’ racial prejudice.


1. Media coverage may subtly signal race influences attitudes toward music genres.
2. The description of social concern (e.g., ascribed effects on criminal behavior, child development, misogyny) will activate thinking about censorship and about problems with popular music lyrics—thus more negative attitudes about the lyrics in the news conditions than the “control” condition.
3. In a test of the “priming gradient” hypothesis, we envision a strong negative effects in the African American/rap condition and modest positive effects in the white rock condition
4. People who are not prejudiced will not be primed by racial cues in the article

Experimental Manipulations

Factor 1: Music Genre: rap, rock, and country
Factor 2: Performer's Race: black and white
Factor 3: Media Coverage


Interpretations of lyrics


Garland, Philip. 2008. Still hoping for separate and unequal: New perspectives on racial attitudes in America. Ph.D. dissertation. Stanford University.