Influence of Music Videos

Gangster Rap

Rap music, and mainly its subgenre “gangsta rap,” is one of the most controversial forms of popular music today. Critics have described gangster rap as overly violent, derogatory toward women, drug and gang oriented, and politically extreme (Adams, 940). This is clearly seen when looking at the shocking and absurd lyrics of rap songs. The mainstream audience tends to vary depending on the specific type of rap, but in general the white youth account for a large portion. Leaders of groups involved in the black community have said that rap and gangster rap is self-destructive. Not only do the lyrics and content of rap portray violence, but also so do the artists. Many well-known rappers such as Flavor Flav, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and Lil’ Wayne have been arrested for serious crimes including murder and sexual assault. The artists not only rap about violence, but they take part in it as well (Conrad, Dixon, Zhang, 134-138).


Gangster rap conveys messages of violence and harsh treatment of women. Adding to this, gangster rap also conveys messages of extreme cultural and political protest and hostility. Music videos have shown an increase in the acceptance of the use of violence to solve problems among young black children. Evidence and research has shown that African American adolescents watch about 3.3 hours of music videos per day (Peterson Et Al, 1158). Popular music videos are created around simple and familiar social themes, which make them easy to relate to. When children watch these videos enough, the behavioral tendencies are imbedded into their minds. So when a social issue arises in real life, children are more likely to react according to what they saw in their favorite video. Children often find a figure to look up to. The problem with idolizing hip-hop and rap artists is that they are not acceptable role models. They do not conduct themselves in society and their personal lives as a strong, healthy role model should. This is a growing issue for American adults and their children. Rappers often mistreat women, use foul language, commit crimes, are involved in gang activity, and send the message that material wealth is the most important thing. Similarly, music videos cannot only influence young children, but college students as well.

Effects and Consequences on Society

Music is a central part of most adolescent lives. Since the introduction of the music video in 1981, music and music videos have gone side by side. Adults will agree that the use of sexuality and violence in music today is much more prominent than it was years ago. Today’s music, and specifically rap music, contains frequent references to sex and violence. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that teenagers use entertainment media as their key source of information about sexuality and sexual health (Kistler, 68-69). It’s hard to believe that our society’s youth receive their information regarding sexual matters through rap and hip-hop. Young people today are being exposed to a much more mature subject content at a much younger age. Studies of exposure to sexual themes and treatment of women as objects have generally changed the attitudes toward women in society. Barongan and Nagayama Hall conducted an experiment where male participants were exposed to either misogynous rap or neutral rap, and then exposed to sexually violent music. It was found that thirty percent of men in the misogynous rap condition chose to show a sexually violent attitude to a female confederate, as compared to only 7% in the neutral condition. It would seem that sexually themed music videos could have similar effects regarding sexual aggression and views toward women. Seeing how a large portion of music videos are rap and gangster rap videos, this could have a deep impact on how women are treated and portrayed in today’s society (Kistler, 68-71).
Rap and hip-hop receive their fair share of bad media. However, there are positives as well. Political awareness is frequently found through out rap. Some researches have suggested that this is some people’s way of stressing social problems and dissatisfaction. It is possible that some images in music videos, including female body images, may differ in purpose in order to reflect a certain theme that the artist is trying to achieve (Zhang). For example, women are usually objectified in music videos. This, however, could be seen as appropriate in certain circumstances pertaining to sexual themes or an event in a person’s life. At the same time, rap music that contains political themes could be seen as a way to challenge the oppressive conditions and to promote black activism. Gangs, and black gangs in specific, voice their opinion of events and topics through music. A major topic of gang rap is how particular minority groups, like blacks, are put down through racism and other ways of oppression (Zhang).

The Music Video Production Process

The creation of a music video requires a lot of work and resources. The first step in creating a music video is issuing a call to music video production companies for a director. The production companies usually supply most of the resources need to create a video. They assist in the actual production of the film, hire crews, schedule locations, set up accommodations for director and his or her staff, and directly pay all staff members. If the video calls for talent, which most do, then the requirements and specifications are sent into different modeling agencies. After, the casting director schedules interviews and try outs for. Typically, the casting director and artists are not present during the auditions, especially in hip-hop and rap videos (Fitts, 218). Most of the talent in rap videos is primarily women. As one video director put it, “It’s all about the hot girls” (Fitts, 218). When auditioning female talent, casting directors usually employ other women to sit in on the auditions. When the audition committee is all males, women frequently find it uncomfortable. Through out the entire process, women are under harsh physical judgment, since their bodies will be a key selling point in most of the rap videos (Fitts, 219-220).
Women are often mistreated and demeaned on rap video sets similarly to how they are in the gangster life style. The music video setting is a harsh working environment for women. Their physical traits are constantly being assessed for employment purposes (Fitts, 219). In the rap music video scene, this often means trading sexual favors to move up the social latter. This behavior mimics the events that occur in gangs and shows how the two industries are intertwined. Sexual tension is not the only factor that makes the music video scene an unpleasant one. There is a constant mix of rappers, alcohol, and drugs that makes the work environment very unlikable (Fitts, 221). One women, who chooses to remain anonymous, states, “There was a lot of drug use on set, a lot of weed, a lot of Play Stations, music, and it becomes like a 12 hour party…” (Fitts 220). What is seen in rap videos is not only encapsulated to those videos, but to the real world as well. The work environment on sets of rap music videos is not much different than the stereotyped scenes in the videos (Fitts, 222). The sexual and demeaning imagery of women in music videos has a negative impact on the way white youth, who are the dominate audience for rap music, perceive black women, and women in general. The youth of today should not be exposed to this type of entertainment and forced to grow up with such images in their minds. Violence, the mistreatment of women, and drugs are at the center of gang behavior. The music videos that are created about rap songs portray just that. They reinforce the ideas and notions of the songs into the minds of the youth.

Gangs in Popular Music Videos


Rappers involved in gangs not only use music videos as a way to sell more copies of their songs, but also to represent their gang. Rap videos, especially popular mainstream videos, are a perfect tool to preach to the masses and get gang and motives known. Examples of two gangs that do this are the Bloods and the Crips. These two gangs have been rivals since the early 1980’s and have members ranging from street thugs to popular celebrities. Lil’ Wayne is known to be a prominent member of the Bloods and Snoop Doggy Dog is known to be a member of the Crips. Lil’ Wayne and Snoop Doggy Dog reference their affiliations with the gangs numerous times through out their songs and music videos. For example, Lil’ Wayne has three songs titled, “I’m Blooded,” “Bandana on the Right Side,” and “Blood Niggaz.” In Lil’ Wayne’s, “I’m Blooded” he raps about representing the Bloods. Some lines from the song are, “I got bloods on stage, bloods at my shows, fuck with my bloods got blood on your cloths, and I’m blooded… All red so these hoes know who we be, we B’s Bloods we B’s…” This clearly shows that Lil’ Wayne is affiliating with the Bloods. In Lil’ Wayne’s music video of “Blood Niggaz,” he and The Menace are dressed in red and waving red bandanas around. They make consistent references to the gang through their clothes, the background of the video, and the words they are saying. The music video of “Blood Niggaz” sends several messages. First, it portrays the idea that if you are in a gang, you have wealth and are tough. This portrays gangs as a positive and represents them well. When in reality, most members of gangs are not wealthy and have a difficult life. Secondly, it makes it seem that by being in a gang women want you. The messages that the video sends clearly are not true. On the other hand, Snoop Dog, who is a Crip , also represents his gang in the song, “Drop it Like its Hot.” The lyrics that most directly reflect his gang membership are, “I’m a gangsta, but y’all knew that… I keep a blue flag hanging out my backside but only on the left side, yeah that’s the Crip side…” Historically, the Bloods wear red and keep any gang material on the right side of their body. Similarly, the Crips wear blue and keep all gang material on the left side of their body. When Snoop Dog talks about hanging a blue flag out of his back left pocket, he is clearly referencing to representing the Crips. In the music video of this song, he distinctly shows this and makes it clear.


Rap originated on the streets of New York and eventually exploded in California. Rap and hip-hop are forms of expression in which people can voice their views and beliefs. At first, Rap was much different than how we think of it today. In the seventies and early eighties, there was no gangster rap and rap was not centered around, “getting money.” As rap grew, more and more people got involved and saw it as a way to easily express ideas. Unlike other forms of music, hip-hop does not require vast amounts of equipment or instruments to create basic raps. It simply requires a voice and sometimes a rhythm. Rap exploded in 80’s and 90’s and started to become well known. As this happened, gangs began to use hip-hop as a means of getting themselves and their messages known. Because of this, a new type of rap was created, gangster rap. Gangster rap incorporated radical ideas, foul language, mistreatment of women, and violent actions. Gangster rap is what has really given hip-hop the reputation it has today. However, the majority of hip-hop is not gangster rap. But with the tools such as music videos at rappers disposals, they can reach much larger audiences and convey messages visually as well. Instead of just hearing words and rhythms, people can see exactly what the artist is portraying. People see how the rappers act and how they treat women. They see them using drugs and affiliating with known criminals and gangs. Music videos have helped launch rap to a new level and have given the artists more of a way to represent their gang and beliefs.

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