Cultures of Crime, Cultures of Resistance Julian Tanner, university of Toronto Mark Gabriele, Dalhousie University Scot Worldly, university of Toronto This research compares representations of rap music with the self-reported criminal behavior and resistant attitudes of the music’s core audience. Our database is a large sample of Toronto high school students (n = 3,393) from which we identify a group of listeners, whose combination of musical likes and dislikes distinguish them as rap universe.
We then examine the relationship between their cultural preference for rap music and Involvement in a culture of crime and heir perceptions of social Injustice and Inequity. We find that the rap universe, also known as urban music enthusiasts, report significantly more delinquent behavior and stronger feelings of inequity and injustice than listeners with other musical tastes. However, we also find that the nature and strengths of those relationships vary according to the racial identity of different groups within urban music enthusiasts.
Black and white subgroups align themselves with resistance representations while Asians do not; whites and Asians report significant Involvement In crime and delinquency, while blacks do not. Finally, we discuss our findings in light of research on media effects and audience reception, youth subcultures and post-subcultures analysis, and the sociology of cultural consumption. Thinking About Rap The emergence and spectacular growth of rap Is probably the most Important development In popular music since the rise of rock roll In the late asses.
Radio airplay, music video programming and sales figures are obvious testimonies to its popularity and commercial success. This was made particularly evident in October 2003 when, according to the recording industry bible Billboard magazine, all top 10 acts in the United States were rap or hip-hop artists;l and again in 2006, when the Academy award for Best Song went to It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp, a rap song by the group Hustle & Flow. Such developments may also signal rap’s Increasing social acceptance and cultural legalization (Bandanna 2007).
However, Its reputation and status in the musical field has, hitherto, been a controversial one. Like new music before it Jazz, rock ‘n’ roll), rap has been critically reviewed as a corrosive influence on young and impressionable listeners (Best 1990; Datum 1999; Tanner 2001; Sac and Kennedy 2002; Alexander 2003). Whether rap has been reviled as much as Jazz and rock ‘n’ roll once were Is a moot point; rather more certain Is Its pre-eminent role as a problematic contemporary musical genre.
Direct correspondence to Julian Tanner, Department of Social Science university of Toronto at Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, Ontario;o, Canada, MIMIC IA. Telephone: (416) 287-7293. E- mail: Julian. Tanner@utoronto. Ca. The University of North Carolina Press Social Forces 88(2) 693-722, December 2009 694 ; social Forces 88(2) how print Journalists wrote about rap and heavy metal in the asses and asses.
While both are devalued genres (Roe 1995), she nevertheless contends that they are framed differently: the presumed harmful effects of heavy metal are limited to the listeners themselves, whereas rap is seen as more socially damaging (for a similar distinction, see Rose 1994). The lyrical content of the two genres is established as one source of this differential framing: rap lyrics are found to be more explicit and provocative (greater usage of “hard” swear words, for example) than heavy metal lyrics.
The second factor involves assumptions made (by Journalists) about the racial imposition of audiences for heavy metal and rap – the former believed to be white suburban youth, the latter urban black youth. According to Binder, rap invites more public concern and censorious complaint than heavy metal because of what was assumed to be its largely black fan base. At the same time, she identifies an important counter frame, one component of which elevates rap (but not heavy metal) to the status of an art form with serious political content. In both the mainstream press (I. E. The New York Times) and publications targeting a predominately black readership (I. . , Ebony and Jet), she finds rap lauded for the salutary lessons that it imparts to black youth regarding the realities of urban living; likewise, rap artists are applauded for their importance as role models and mentors to inner-city black youth. Thus, while rap has been framed negatively, as a contributor to an array of social problems, crime and delinquency in particular, it has also been celebrated and championed as an authentic expression of cultural resistance by underdogs against racial exploitation and disadvantage.
How these differing representations of rap eight resonate with audience members was not part of Binder’s research mandate. 2 Furthermore, while she does acknowledge that Journalistic perceptions of the racial composition of the rap audience are not necessarily accurate – that more white suburban youth, even in the asses and asses, might have been consuming the music than black inner-city youth – this acknowledgment does not alter her enterprise or her argument.
At this point in time, when the listening audience for rap music has both expanded and become increasingly diverse, our research concerns how young lack, white and Asian rap fans in Toronto, Canada relate to a musical form still viewed primarily in terms of its criminal and resistant meanings. Researching Rap Much of the early work on audiences preoccupied itself with investigating the harmful effects of media exposure, especially the effects of depictions of violence in movies and TV on real life criminal events.
Results have generally been inconclusive, with considerable disagreement in the social science research community regarding the influence of the media on those watching the large or small screen (Curran 1990; Firebombed and Longhorns 1998; Freedman 2002; Sac and Kennedy 2002; Alexander 2003; Newman 2004; Savage 2004; Longhorns 2007). Listening to Rap ; 695 effects, although these too have proven difficult to verify. For example, in one high profile case in the asses, the heavy metal band Judas Priest was accused of producing recorded material (songs) that contained subliminal messaging that led to the suicides of two fans.
This claim was not, however, legally validated because the judge hearing the case remained unconvinced about a causal linkage between the music and the self-destructive behavior of two individuals (Waller 1993). Strong arguments for the ill effects of media consumption rest on the assumption that audiences are easily and directly influenced by the media, with frequent analogies made to hypodermic syringes that inject messages into gullible and homogeneous audiences (Firebombed and Longhorns 1998; Alexander 2003; Longhorns 2007).
In contesting this view of audience passivity, critics also propose that texts are open to more than one interpretation. Again, TV audiences have been studied more frequently than audiences for popular music, although research on the latter has illustrated how song lyrics are not necessarily construed the same way by adolescents and adults. Research conducted by Prisons and Rosenberg (1987) indicates that songs identified by adults as containing deviant content (references to sex, violence, alcohol and drug use, Satanism) were not similarly categorized by adolescents.
Evidence that there are different ways of watching television or listening to recorded music has led to an alternative conception of audiences – one more concerned with what audiences do with the media than what the media does to audiences. The development within communications research of the uses and gratifications model (McLain 1984) is one result, with TV once more the media form cost commonly investigated.
Nonetheless, a few studies have documented how young people listen to popular music in order to satisfy needs for entertainment and relaxation (among other priorities), and utilize it as an accompaniment to other everyday activities, such as homework and household chores (Roe 1985; Prisons and Rosenberg 1987). More recent research has added identity construction as a need that popular music might fill for young listeners (Roe 1999; Graced 2001; Laughed 2006).
One particular usage emphasized by British cultural Marxist associated with the now defunct Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies has focused attention on how active media audiences counter dominant cultural messages in their consumption of popular culture. In what has, by now, become a familiar story, a series of music-based, post-war youth cultures (Teddy Boys, Moods, Rockers, Skinheads, Punks) in the United Kingdom have been represented as symbolically resisting the dominant normative order (Hall and Jefferson 1976; Hebrides 1979).
This argument has, however, relied on a reading of cultural texts and artifacts for its evidentially base, rather than observations of, or information from, subcultures participants themselves (Cohen 1980; Firth 1985; Tanner 2001; Bennett 2002; Alexander 2003). 696 ; social Forces 88(2) More recently, the utility of the term subculture for understanding young people’s collective involvements in music has been questioned.
The focus of this criticism is, argue that, under conditions of post modernity, music audiences have fragmented, and young people are no longer participants in distinctive subcultures groups (Bennett Bibb; Megaton 2000). Instead of subcultures, they are now involved with neo tribes and scenes (I. E. , Bennett Bibb; Bennett and Kahn-Harris 2004; Hexagonally 2005; Longhorns 2007; Hoodwinks 2008). Post subcultures research has been much less inclined than the Birmingham era researchers to decode and decipher texts, and much more likely to engage in ethnographic studies of music and youth groups (Bennett 2002).
However, while there has been occasional work on modes of (female) resistance in the “teen scene” (Lowe 2004) and “riot girl scene” (Sicily 2004), there has been no equivalent research on rap scenes and resistance. Examinations of audience receptions of rap are not numerous and have been of two main kinds: a few studies have explored how young people perceive and valuate the music, while others have studied the harmful effects of rap by trying to link consumption of the music with various negative consequences.
An early study by Sahara (1992) finds rap to be more popular with black than white college students, and more popular among males than females. However, reasons for liking the music varied little by race, with both black and white audience members proportioning the beat over the message. A more recent study by Sullivan (2003) reports few racial differences in liking the music, although black teenagers were more committed to the mere and more likely to view rap as life affirming (Berry 1994) than those from other racial backgrounds.
In a small but important study conducted in California, Maharani and Connors (2003) investigated 41 black middle school students’ perceptions of violence and thoughts about rap music. In focus group sessions and personal interviews, informants revealed a strong liking for rap music, valuing the fact that it spoke to their everyday concerns about growing up in a poorly resourced community. They did not, however, like the way that rap music on occasion (MIS)represented the experiences of black people in the United States.
They challenged the misogyny evident in some rap videos and rejected what they saw as the globalization of violence. Overall, their critical and nuanced engagement with rap music fitted poorly with depictions of media audiences as easily swayed by popular culture (Sac 2005). The search for the harmful effects of rap music has yielded no more definitive results than earlier quests for media effects. While some studies report evidence of increased violence, delinquency, substance use, and unsafe sexual activity resulting room young people’s exposure to rap music (Winning et al. 003; Chem. et al. 2006), other researchers have failed to find such a link or have exercised extreme caution when interpreting apparent links. One review of the literature, conducted in the asses, could find a total of only nine investigations – all of them Listening to Rap ; 697 small-scale, none involving the general adolescent population – and concluded that there was an even split between those that found some sort of an association between exposure to the music and various deviant or undesirable outcomes, and those that could find no connection at all.
Moreover, in those studies where the whether or not they were observing a causal relationship, and if so, which came first, the music or the violent dispositions (Datum 1999). A more recent investigation conducted in Montreal is illustrative of such interpretative problems. While a preference for rap was found to predict deviant behavior among 348 Fricasseeing adolescents, causal ordering could not be established, nor an additional possibility ruled out: that other factors might be responsible for both the musical taste and the deviant behavior (Miranda and Class 2004).
The notion that rap is or can be presented as cultural resistance – the counter frame identified by Binder – has become increasingly prominent in the rap literature over the past 20 years (Rose 1994; Kermis 2000; Keyes 2002; Quinn 2005). In his influential book, Why White Kids Love Hip Hop: Wants, Wiggeries, Wannabes, and the new Reality of Race in America, Kitting (2005) expounds at length on his emancipators view of rap’s history and development. Kitting sees hip-hop as a form of protest music, offering its listeners a message of resistance.
He also makes the additional claim that the resistive appeal of hip-hop is not restricted to black youth. Indeed, as the title of his book suggests, he is particularly interested in the patronage of rap music by white youth, those young people who might be seen as the contemporary equivalents of Mailer’s “White Negro’ or Keys’ “Negro Wannabes. “(Keyes 2002:250) In his view, the global diffusion of rap rests on the music’s capacity for resonating with the experiences of the downtrodden and marginalia in a variety of cultural contexts.
Quinn (2005) similarly explains the crossover appeal of gangs rap in the United States in terms of the “common sensibilities and insecurities shared by post Forbids youth. She continues: “many young whites, facing bleak labor market prospects, were also eager for stories about fast money and authentic belonging to ward off a creeping sense of blamelessness and dispossession. “(Quinn 2005:85-86) Thus, rap’s appeal is as much about class as it is about race. Nor is the resistive view of rap restricted to the North American continent.
At least one French study – conducted in advance of the riots in the fall of 2005 – has noted how French Rap has become the music of choice for young people of visible minority descent who have grown up in the suburban ghettos (Less Cities) of ajar cities. They have been routinely exposed to police harassment on the streets, subjected to prejudice and discrimination at school, and struggled to find decent housing and appropriate Jobs (Boucher 1999, cited in Miranda and Class 2004). The idea that popular music might serve as an important reference point for rebellious or resistive adolescents is not a new one.
As we have already noted, this is how a British school of subcultures analysis once interpreted the cultural activity of working-class youth in the United Kingdom (Hall and Jefferson 1976; Hebrides 698 ; social Forces 88(2) 979). Some attempt has been made to understand rap fantod in similar terms. Bonnet’s (AAA) ethnographic study, set in Newcastle, reveals how one group of white rappers translate the racial politics of blacks into the language of class divisions in the United Kingdom. However, for the most part there has been limited application of this kind of analysis to young people’s involvement with rap music.
Rap directed against exploitation and disadvantages at school, on the streets, or in the labor market, do so primarily without much input from the young people who make up its listening audience. Because they have not often been canvassed for their views about the music, we do not know to what degree they share in or identify with the message of resistance readily found in content analysis of the rap idiom (Martinez 1997; Nexus 1997; Kern-NSA 2000; Stephens and Wright 2000; Bennett 2001; Sullivan 2003; Kabuki 2005; Quinn 2005; Lena 2006).
Thus contemporary rap scholarship follows British subcultures theory in gleaning evidence of resistance from the texts, not the audience. Resistance is sought, and found, in the words and music rather than in the activities and ideologies of subcultures or audience members. We can suggest, echoing Alexander (2003) earlier critique of British cultural studies, that the audience for rap music has been theorized rather more thoroughly than it has been investigated. The Present Study The present study is concerned with three key questions: First, is there a relationship between audiences for rap and representations of the music?
Second, as compared to other listening audiences, are serious rap fans participants in cultures of crime and resistance? Third, if such a link is found, what are the sources of variation in their participation in these cultures of crime and resistance? The need to address these questions, as we see it, emerges from several limitations in the existing research on rap. These limitations are as follows: First, there is a significant disjuncture between dominant representations of the music as a source of social harms and evidence unambiguously supportive of this proposition.
Second, the case for a resistant view of rap music is usually advanced, as we have already intimated, by examination of the designs and intentions of musical creators, both artists and producers, as well as music critics. We do not know whether or not resistant assuages register and resonate with those who listen to the music. Third, we do not have an accurate gauging of the stereographic composition, particularly racial and ethnic, of the audience for rap music. Rap’s dominance of the youth market is widely understood as a crossover effect – the original black audience now Joined by legions of white fans (Spiller 1996; Houseman 2003).
However, purchasing habits – the usual arbiter for claims about rap’s increasing popularity with white consumers – may not be an entirely reliable measure of either rap’s popularity or racial and ethnic orations therein (Kermis 2000; Quinn 2005). The system devised by the recording industry to gauge record Listening to Rap ; 699 sales – Nielsen Scandalous – does not gather data on the race, or indeed any other personal characteristic, of purchasers. What it does do is categorize sales in terms of whether they were made in retail stores in high-income locations or in allowance locations.
Record companies, Journalists or academics then choose to equate those high-income sales with white suburban youth, and low-income sales with inner-city identity of buyers (Kitting 2005). Moreover, it has been argued that sales figures “under represent the taste preferences of the poor. “(Quinn 2005:83) As Rose (1994) explains it, in the black community, particularly in impoverished neighborhoods, many more rap CDC are listened to than bought – a single purchase being passed on from one fan to another. Similarly, homemade tapes and bootleg CDC are often produced and shared within local fan networks.
The implications of this point are clear enough: the appropriation of rap music by suburban white teens might not be as extensive as is commonly supposed. Finally, we do not know whether or how the AP audience relates to the dominant frame of the music as a catalyst for crime and delinquency or to the counter frame of the music as an articulator of social inequity. The mainstreaming of rap may have cost the genre its underground or counter- culture status as protest music, or made it less attractive to delinquent rebels.
Rap also may play no part in crime or resistance subcultures because, under post modern conditions, young people have become increasingly eclectic and individualized in their musical tastes; the close relationship between musical tastes and lifestyles, implied by subcultures theory, no longer applies. On this formulation, therefore, we would not expect to find strong connections between a preference for rap music and subcultures of crime and subcultures of resistance. On the other hand, reasons for believing that rap music may be a basis for subcultures lifestyles, at least among black youth, are more compelling.
At the time that we were conducting our research there was considerable debate, in the local media and among local politicians, about issues involving race and crime – racial profiling and the desirability of collecting race-based crime statistics, for example. Contributing to this debate were findings from another study, confirming what black youths in Canada have always suspected, namely that they are much more likely to be arbitrarily stopped and searched by police officers than are members of other racial and ethnic groups – even when their own self-reported deviant activity is statistically controlled for (Worldly and Tanner 2005).
In addition, contemporaneous research on the media coverage of race and crime in Toronto newspapers carried out by Worldly (2002), found black people disproportionately portrayed in a narrow range of roles and activities (principally hose involving crime, sports and entertainment) than members of other racial and ethnic groups; and when featured in crime stories, depicted primarily as offenders. Capricious policing and media misrepresentation may therefore contribute to a sense of injustice among black youth, a sense of injustice that has them gravitating to rap as an emblem of cultural resistance. 00 ; social Forces 88(2) Commercial success and artistic validation has not diminished rap music’s capacity to provoke moral panic. The music is still seen as threatening, dangerous and socially damaging by many political figures and established authority. Previous research suggests that negative media coverage of the cultural preferences and practices of adolescents often intensifies subcultures identifications (Cohen 1973; Fine and Galilean 1979; Thornton 1995). Rap based moral panics may therefore tighten and behaviors.
The lack of attention paid to rap’s consumers renders these questions relatively open ones, the meaning of rap music still to be discovered. Methods Whereas most contemporary research on rap focuses on those who create the music – artists and producers, and those who write about it, music critics – we pose questions about rap’s audience. Further, while audience studies usually employ qualitative data-gathering techniques (for example, Morley 1980; Roadway 1984; Shivery 1992), we use the methods of survey research.
We are more concerned with how audience members interact with the music than with the issue of cause and effect. We are interested in how music might be used as a resource in their everyday lives (Willis 1990; Adenoma 2000), how it might contribute to identity formation (Roe 1999) and, especially, how audiences might align themselves with (or distance themselves from) cultures of crime and resistance. Nonetheless, in our analyses, we read rap fantod as a dependent variable.
While there is considerable academic and public debate about whether music produces or is a product of cultural activities, legal or otherwise, existing research has failed to provide a compelling or consistent rationale for any particular causal logic. As we have seen, the idea that exposure to rap music causes crime is not unequivocally supported in the research literature. Research on resistant youth cultures, by contrast, is much more likely to reverse the relationship and see musical style as a result of subcultures activity (Willis 1978; Hebrides 1979).
Hebrides, for example, infers that punk rock in the United Kingdom was a cultural response to the subordination of existing working-class youth groups. Lying (1985) has countered that punk the musical genre existed before punk the subculture. In the absence of agreement about the direction of the relationship between musical taste and cultural practices, our decision to operational rap appreciation as a dependent variable is made more for pragmatic, heuristic reasons than unassailable theoretical ones. Our strategy is to focus on listening preferences rather than purchasing habits.
By asking students to report on and evaluate the sic that they like, dislike and in what combinations, we gain a clearer and more detailed picture of where rap is situated in the consumption patterns of groups of students differentiated by, among other factors, their racial identity. Our goals are to: (1 . Distinguish students with a serious, exclusive taste for rap from more casual fans; (2. To calculate the Listening to Rap ; 701 size and racial makeup of rap music’s prime audience; and (3. To map relationships between that core audience and resistant and delinquent repertoires.
Few surveys of general populations of young people have established any kind of connection teens rap and deviancy, net of other factors. We contend that rap’s reputation as a corrosive force is validated by that linkage, and that without it that representation becomes more contestable. A similar logic applies to the relationship between rap and social protest. The claim that the music carries a serious message – that it is an link between the music and a collective sense of inequity, and weakened by its absence.
Data The data for this research are drawn from the Toronto Youth Crime and Factorization Study, a stratified cross-sectional survey of Toronto adolescents carried out from 1998 wrought 2000 (Tanner and Worldly 2002). Self-administered questionnaires were completed by 3,393 Toronto students ages 13-18, from 30 Metropolitan Toronto high schools in both the Catholic (10 schools) and larger Public School (20 schools) systems. Within each school, one class from each grade, 9 (ages 13 and 14) through 13 (ages 18 and 19), was randomly selected. The overall response rate was 83 percent (83. 4% for Catholic vs.. 3. 1% for public schools), and is a conservative estimate as it was based on the number of students enrolled in each class rather than those present the day of the study. Informed consent was given for participation in the study. Surveys were completed during class under the supervision of a member of the research team (and without a teacher present) and took approximately 45 minutes to complete. The survey asked young people about a broad range of topics, including family life, educational experiences, leisure activities, delinquent involvement, factorization experiences and so forth.
The survey instrument was designed by members of the research team and evolved out of a series of 11 focus groups with adolescents in Toronto schools. The completed survey was reviewed by a rise of institutional ethics boards, including those at the University of Toronto, the Toronto Public School Board and the Catholic School Board. As the survey does not include high school dropouts, institutionalized youth and street youth, it is a school sample and thus any generalizations speak only to the experiences of school-based adolescents.
Our sample is ethnically and racially diverse and is representative of the Metropolitan Toronto high school population. Measures Musical Preferences Guided by Boride’s work (1984) and Peterson recasting of musical taste in terms of omnivorous and omnivorous patterns (1992), we focus our attention on 702 ; social Forces 88(2) how musical choices are combined: if young people liked (or disliked) one style or genre, what other styles or genres did they like or dislike (what Van Kick 2001 has referred to as “combinatorial logic”).
Indicators of musical taste were derived from the question: “How much do you like each of the following types of music? ” Respondents were then asked to evaluate each of 1 1 contemporary musical genres: Soul, Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, Hip/Hop and Rap, Reggae and Dance Hall, Classical and Opera, Country and New Country, Pop, Alternative (including Punk, Grunge), Heavy Metal (Hard Rock), Ethnic Music (traditional/ cultural), and Techno (Dance).
Musical tastes were assessed on a five-point Liker scale that addresses whether respondents Unlike previous research that dichotomize musical tastes, focusing exclusively on the musical genres most liked (Peterson and Kern 1996) or disliked (Bryon 1996), we target the level of appreciation (or lack of appreciation) each respondent has for a particular musical genre. For space considerations a detailed overview of the clustering procedure has been omitted but is available upon request.
We employed a woo-stage cluster analysis (hierarchical agglomerative and k-means) procedure to derive groupings of adolescent musical tastes. Cluster analysis assembles respondents based on their common responses to questions/ measures, and is useful for identifying relatively homogeneous groups, groups that are highly internally homogeneous (members are similar to one another) and highly externally heterogeneous (members are not like members of other clusters) (Aldermen and Falsified 1984).
Employing cluster analysis techniques, we uncovered seven musical taste clusters. Table 1 outlines the results of our cluster analysis. The largest group n = 616) was the Club Kids, composed of those who report an above average enjoyment of techno and dance, mainstream pop, and hip-hop and rap. Next were the Urban Music Enthusiasts (n = 605). Members of this group combined a strong appreciation of Rap and Hip Hop with considerable disinterest in most other musical styles. These adolescents are the primary focus of the current study.
Then there was a fairly large (n = 482) group of youth, the New Traditionalists, who have an above average liking of classical music and opera, Jazz, soul, R, country music and mainstream pop. The fourth largest (n = 425) group, the Hard Rockers, comprised a sizeable number of heavy metal and hard rock, alternative, punk and grunge fans. Then there was a surprisingly large (n = 384) group of adolescents, the Musical Abstainers, who are only marginally interested in any kind of music.
The group we call the Ethnic Secularists (n = 380) were so described because of a dominant preference for a quite wide range of ethnic music, as well as a greater than average liking for soul and R, Jazz, classical music and opera, country music techno and dance, and mainstream pop. The smallest group (n = 338), the Musical Omnivores, was composed of those who have an above average appreciation for all 11 musical unrest.