Does Literacy Rate Impact Hip-hop Demographics?


Does the level of one’s literacy skills/knowledge impact his or her choice of songs? This post may be a little hypocritical because my English is far from perfect but I wanted to dig further into how education can impact hip-hop.

At school, it is very apparent that certain cliques listen to certain types of music and it is also apparent within the genre of hip-hop. Within hip-hop, we listen to songs that specialize in beat production or songs that focus on the lyrics. Once in a while, we come across songs that infuse these two together to create a masterpiece.

As adolescents, we are vulnerable to graphic content and messages so there is no doubt that we will always choose content that is suitable for our age. Some of us have fantasies of becoming rich and wealthy and so we start to pursue songs that follow that idea. There are only so many ways that one could rap about idolizing money and materials without getting boring. Finally, the technological advancements of beat and sounds production came in and saved the subject of materialism. That is why certain songs in the industry are doing so well; it’s because of the beat.

Rapping about something other than idolizing materialism has infinite outcomes. Why? Because there are so many ways to describe the subject. Metaphors and similes offer so much substance. Sure, there are many ways to describe drugs and money but they don’t compare to the complexity of something such as the subject of institutionalization in America.

Now back to the literacy rate topic. Kids are naturally introduced to the concept of money and wealth through media and parenting. But when are they introduced to topics such as racism, incarceration, misogyny, and healthy relationships? Maybe the order that we teach adolescents have something to do with music choice especially within hip-hop. Unfortunately, this idea is subjective because a kid introduced to money can use their ideas for various purposes. For example, one can create change to get money out of politics or one can legally bribe a politician. Both situations are handling money but they’re on the opposite sides of the spectrum of ideologies. In hip-hop, not everything about drugs and money are bad because there are artists shining light on the issue of crime and how rampant it is across the country. So it isn’t fair to judge a song by glancing over the subject.

If we can’t judge a song by its subject, how about wordplay and vocabulary? This is the part where things start to differentiate. There have been studies researching the level of vocabulary used by rappers and there seems to be a clear line separating rappers and their messages. It’s a little stereotypical but artists that focus on these materialistic gains don’t have that many vocabulary words in their careers. Yet, they have succeeded in the rapping industry because of the sounds produced by DJs and sound producers. So the conclusions is pretty simple, those who have a higher level in vocabulary will understand songs that don’t necessarily have a message about materialism.

For adolescents, the theory is simple because one can’t understand a subject that they’ve never heard about so they’ll automatically dismiss certain songs. However, adults are a little different because most of them understand the line between reality and fantasy. With adults, some pursue songs about materialism because they can’t pursue that in real life. Whereas a kid who feels that they are marginalized by the “cool” life will shift his or her focus towards something with more substance. Or it could be that adults prefer songs with meaning because they understand the downsides of materialism. It all falls down to what the individual is searching in his or her life.

Perhaps vocabulary level within adults doesn’t correlate with song choice. But by improving literacy rates within schools might mean a shift in hip-hop demographics.

What is your opinion on this idea?

6 thoughts on “Does Literacy Rate Impact Hip-hop Demographics?

  1. Very thoughtful post. I love hip-hop, and prefer hip-hop artists who rap about social and political issues. I don’t think the rappers who rap about materialism are less intelligent or literate though…I think the music business has moved in that direction and so those rappers are following in that direction too because they are trying to ensure success for themselves. It’s a bit of a shame, though, as I think the subject of “money and hos” is a lot less interesting….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think they’re less intelligent as well but I admire artists who don’t fall into that category. They’re free to do whatever they want but I want to highlight the psychological impact it has on youth. I think the music industry is being harder on today’s youth than ever so I wanted to go in that direction.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed! Today’s music industry–whether we’re talking rap, pop or rock–glorifies materialism, wealth and fame, and sends the message to young listeners that this is what they should aspire to. A very good subject to highlight and analyze.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I try my best to shine light on these types of stories because it effects my school life, friends and community. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂


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