A Q-Methodological Study of Attitudes Towards Rap Music

AbstractThe aim of this research is to investigate attitudes towards rap music using Q-Methodology. Previous research shows varied findings, some suggesting that rap music can cause deviant behaviour and some suggesting that rap music can be beneficial. The method to investigate attitudes in this research involved asking participants to mark their level of agreement on different statements about rap music on a scale from -4 to 4. The data was then interpreted using a Q-Methodology computer program. The findings suggest that although there is no evidence to claim that rap music causes deviant behaviour, attitudes are greatly varied on how rap music affects society and youths, whether it be beneficial or not. Introduction

Rap music originated in the 1970s in the South Bronx area of New York City as a sub-genre of Hip Hop, eventually becoming one of the most popular music genres of our modern time. In general terms, rap music articulates personal and common experience in black urban America, usually how to gain local social respect and using catchy and memorable phrases. Rap music is thought to be essentially listened to by black and white youths. Media attention on rap music has claimed that this genre and culture of music promotes disrespect for authority, encourages disrespectful attitudes and violent behaviours towards women, promotes aggressive, violent and promiscuous behaviours and glorifies the usage of weapons such as guns and knives.

The debate of whether this is true or not is ongoing, resulting in the conduction of worldwide research investigating the effects that listening to rap music has on individuals, groups and cultures as a whole, focusing largely on youths, considering how rap forms and holds specific attitudes. Does listening to rap music encourage aggressive and deviant behaviour? Or is the debate simply an exaggerated image of the media that has become out of hand? Research has found that young adults who watched violent rap music videos were more accepting of violence, especially against women, although contradicting research claimed that only rap music with misogynistic themes created negative and violent attitudes towards women.

It has also been claimed that listening to rap music on its own does not cause accepting attitudes of crime and violence, rather viewing violent and sexist rap videos. Research on students has shown that listening to rap music did not increase suicidal thoughts or behaviours but did appear to indicate violent attitudes more than those who listened to heavy metal music regularly. It has been suggested that students who listen to rap music correlates with lower grades in education, although a study found that academic abilities and progressive attitudes were improved after watching rap videos in white students.

A Journal of Research on African American Men examined the effects of rap music on attitudes and behaviour of black students. 38 females were interviewed and results suggested that the students believed explicit lyrics are inappropriate and harmful to society but also accurately represents relations between black males and females. Research has also been conducted in the University of Maryland School of Medicine investigating attitudes towards male-female relationships of those who are exposed to rap music videos. Participants viewed rap videos and completed surveys. It was found that it is largely believed that exposure to rap music videos is associated with negative attitudes towards women.

The negative attitudes decreased when participants reported that they only watched the rap videos because their peers did, not because they personally enjoyed them. A study was carried out involving participants who were young males who had little previous exposure to rap music. Participants were split into two groups and were exposed to listening to rap music and reading rap lyrics. Neither group were found to hold more negative attitudes towards women after the exposure, though they were more inclined to express inappropriate sexual beliefs.

Overall, research is largely divided, some suggesting that rap music encourages negative and violent attitudes and some suggesting that there is no evidence that rap music is the result of deviant behaviour. There does not appear to be any consistent solid evidence that rap music alone is responsible for influencing attitudes, although the evidence for this claim is slightly more significant when rap videos are involved as well as music. Nevertheless, the debate is ongoing. This study aims to investigate attitudes towards rap music using Q-Methodology based on previous research. Method

Participants:There were 20 participants involved in this study, selected through opportunity sampling. The participants were all undergraduate students of Teesside University studying Psychology; 15 males and 5 females with a wide range of ages, the youngest being 19. Materials:

Materials involved in this research include consent forms; one copy given to each participant and one copy kept by researcher, debrief forms, list of statements and grids (see fig 1. Appendix) for stating agreement or disagreement with statements. Consent forms must be read and signed by participants before taking part in the study. The debrief is read by the researcher to each participant after they have taken part in the study and opportunity is given for the participants to ask any questions.

The list of statements (20) were given, each with a grid for the participant to mark their agreement on a scale from -4 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). An example of the grid was given on the consent forms. Examples of the statements given to participants include: “Rap music helps to glorify violence” and “Rap music helps to promote academic learning.” Procedure:

A pilot study was carried out before the actual study, to ensure that the procedure would be straightforward enough for participants to take part in and that no potential problems would arise. In the pilot study, the 20 statements about rap music were presented to a small group of participants who were undergraduate Psychology students of Teesside University. The participants were asked to either agree or disagree with the statements given. The findings collected confirmed that participants understood the statements enough for them to be used in the actual research. For this research, participants engaged in the task individually.

After they were selected and agreed to participate, they were sat at a desk and given a consent form with an example of a grid which would be involved in the study on it. Participants were required to sign their name to show that they understood what they were taking part in. They then read each statement and indicated on the grid where they agreed or disagreed with it from -4 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). This was repeated for each statement. The results from each participant were recorded and analysed.

Q-Sort AnalysisThe output data for the research was analysed. There were two factors found in the output which suggests that there were two significant attitudes distinguished from the 20 statements about rap music. These were factors B and H. The reason that these were named the most representative is that in factor B, 2 people were found to have the same attitudes with high results (8 & 9), and factor H also had high results (10). Each significant factor was analysed to decide whether the general response was positive or negative. Factor B: This factor was found to express an overall positive attitude towards rap music.

The statements ‘listening to rap music causes deviant behaviour’, ‘at risk youths are more likely to prefer rap music’ and ‘rap music encourages gun and knife crime’ were found to be rated -3 and -4 on the grid, determining that participants strongly disagreed that rap music encouraged or caused negative behaviour. The statements ‘rap music is a modern way of making young people more aware of social issues’, ‘rap music helps you be more aware of other cultures’ and ‘rap stars are good role models’ were rated at 3 and 4 on the grid, implying that participants agree that rap music has positive effects on society. Therefore, Factor B arrays a positive attitude towards rap music. Factor H: In contrast with Factor B, this factor expressed a negative attitude on rap music.

The following statements; ‘Rap music is mainly listened to by teenagers’, ‘rap music promotes self esteem’ and ‘rap stars are good role models’ were rated as -4 and -3 on the grid by participants, either disagreeing or strongly disagreeing, which indicates attitudes against rap music. To support the fact that this factor promotes a negative attitude, the statements ‘listening to rap music causes deviant behaviour’, ‘rap needs more parental guidance’ and ‘rap music helps to glorify violence’ were all rated 3 and 4 on the grid, meaning that participants agreed or strongly agreed with them.

DiscussionThis research aimed to investigate attitudes on rap music based on previous research, using Q-Methodology. Two attitudes were found in this research. The first attitude found about rap music was positive, based on the claims that participants believed that rap music encourages deviant behaviour and the use of weapons, and at risk youths are more likely to listen to rap. The second attitude that was found was a negative one, based on participants believing that rap music causes deviant behaviour, glorifies violence and should have more parental guidance.

Therefore overall, the attitudes found in this research lie at opposite ends of the scale; one promoting rap music as beneficial and one believing that rap music is a cause of deviant behaviour and violence. Research which has been previously conducted and published in A Journal of Research on African American Men has shown that females believed that explicit rap lyrics are harmful for society. Although this study only involved female participants, similar attitudes were found in this research as indicated by Factor H, suggesting that participants from Teesside University also agree that rap music causes negative effects in society including deviant behaviour and violence.

On the contrary, previous research has also indicated that rap music videos improved school grades in white youths, which may be supported by attitudes found in this research which stated that rap music can make people aware of social issues and other cultures. If youths are aware that deviant behaviour is wrong, but are still being exposed to issued which happen in the world through music, which is a more active way of learning, then this may be beneficial to learning and education.

Overall, Q-Methodology may be seen as an appropriate way to investigate attitudes, as it holds the advantages of both qualitative and quantitative research. It gathers people’s attitudes and opinions in a qualitative way but the results can still my analysed in a quantitative manner. However, the way the attitude scale grids are set out with set responses such as strongly disagree and strongly agree may encourage demand characteristics of participants if they believe the researcher is looking for a certain response.

The Q-Methodology approach also values every participant’s view and allows individual attitudes to be analysed rather than just generalising the data as a whole. If the study was to be repeated, it would be advantageous to use a greater number of participants from a wider range of areas, with an equal male to female ratio.

This would enable the collection of a larger amount of attitudes on a bigger scale, to see if similar findings and results would be collected. Overall, the attitudes gathered from this Q-Methodological study varied greatly but seemed to lie at either end of the scale, being strongly for rap music being beneficial and being strongly against rap music, believing that it is a cause of deviant behaviour and violence in youths. The findings can be compared and contrasted successfully with previous research.

ReferencesBooksRose, T. (1994). Black Noise. Hanover, USA: University Press of New England.

JournalsExplicit Rap Music Lyrics and Attitudes toward Rape: The Perceived Effects on African American College Students’ Attitudes. A Journal of Research on African American Men (1993), 4, 51 – 60. Bryant, Y. (2008). Music Videos and Attitudes Toward Relationships Among African American Youth. Journal of Black Psychology, 34(3), 356 – 380.


AppendicesList of Statements:1. Listening to rap music causes aggression.2. Listening to rap music causes deviant behaviour.3. Rap music helps to glorify violence.4. At risk youths are more likely to prefer rap.5. Rap music generates angry emotions.6. Rap music promotes sexual violence.7. Rap music promotes gender inequality.8. Rap music encourages children to engage in criminal activity. 9. Rap needs more parental guidance.10. Rap music encourages gun and knife crime.11. Rap music is mainly listened to by teenagers.12. Rap music doesn’t have a negative effect on the perception of women. 13. Behavioural problems usually begin before listening to rap music. 14. Rap music promotes self esteem.15. Rap music helps to promote academic learning.16. Rap music helps to create a sense of social identity.

17. Rapmusic is a modern way of making young people aware of social issues.

18. Rap music helps you to be more aware of other cultures.

19. Rap music addresses important social political issues.

20. Rap stars are good role models.

Fig 1.-5| -4| -3| -2| -1| 0| 1| 2| 3| 4| 5|| | | | | | | | | | || | | | | | | | | | || | | | | | | | | | || | | | | | | | | | |