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University of Berkley Researcher Says the Glamorization of Drugs in Rap Music Has Increased Dramatically

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posted 08:25 PM EST, Wed April 02, 2008
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Drug references in rap music rose 600% between 1979 and 1997.

Teens and drugs – are kids getting the wrong messages from rap music?

Parents always bemoan the state of "music today" - it's a cycle of life thing, but according to Berkley University Researcher Denise Herd, of the School of Public Health, parents today have something legitimate to gripe about.

She studied the lyrics of rap music over 2 decades, from 1979 to 1997, counted the mentions of drugs, and evaluated the context and portrayal of each mention. She says that the incidence rate of drug references in popular rap songs rose 600% during the two decades studied, and that while in early rap lyrics drug references were mostly negative, there has been an evolution towards the glamorization of drug use.

Eleven percent of the biggest rap hits between 1979 and 1984 contained drug references – after 1993, 69% of rap songs contained drug references.

She says while early rap songs, like "White Lines" by Melle Mel and the Furious Five warned of the dangers of drugs, Dr Dre's influential album of 1992 "The Chronic" romanticized the use of drugs as a part of hip hop culture, and is far more representative of the message in rap lyrics of today. Today's rap songs are 7 times more likely to mention drugs in the context of sex or recreation, and 3 times more likely to glamorize the use of drugs.

Dr Herd warns parents to listen to the music their kids like, and try to understand the language used. She says that a lot of teens take their perspective on the world from popular music, and that "This is alarming because young children are exposed to these messages. I don't think this is a story we as a society want them to absorb."

Although the study examined lyrics only up to 1997, Dr Herd says that anecdotally, the trend towards the glamorization of drugs in hip hop music continues.

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