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Is This Conclusive Proof That Rap Music Does Not Influence Crime?

The Rap Research Lab are working on a definitive, searchable database of hip-hop in an attempt to find out.

by Luke Morgan Britton
16 September 2014, 9:00am

Can art and entertainment really influence a human’s actions? The increase in apple-pie related genital injuries after the release of American Pie, and the fact I once wore a leather jacket after listening to the Sex Pistols for a few hours, suggests the media can influence our lifestyle. But do they really have as much influence as we're led to believe?

From the days of Elvis being criticised for "arousing things in teenagers that shouldn't be aroused" to Limp Bizkit convincing everyone it was okay to walk around with a wallet chain in their back pocket, music has long been seen as a driving influence on the youth. Hip-hop - despite influencing most of modern-culture as we know it - has long-faced negative schtick. It was pin-pointed by many as a driving force behind a rise in crime and violence; early news report's called rapping “self-assertive boasting” and break-dancing “ritual warfare”; and two-decades later, it's continuing to face ill-formed misconceptions, seen as a poisonous influence on society rather than the direct product of a broken one.

But are people's assumptions about hip-hop true? Do people really put on a rap record, go outside, and commit some crime?

The Rap Research Lab - founded by Tahir Hemphill - are currently working on a definitive, searchable database of hip-hop lyrics. Using the lyrics, a study by the Lab's Emmanuel Kohdra plotted the mentions of crime in rap music against actual crime rates. And what did he find? A lack of correlation, of course.

"After the persistent media coverage about rap lyrics being used as evidence in trials, I decided that it would be beneficial to map crimes mentioned in rap lyrics against crime rates across the country,” his report reads. “The data showed very little correlation between the crimes in the lyrics and their counterparts. For example, a significant crime drop between 1993 and 1995 is easily seen while crimes mentioned in rap lyrics are steadily increasing."

Will this put an end to articles like this being written? Probably not, but it’s worth a read regardless. Take a look here and check out the graph beneath. A higher-res version is available here.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @lkmrgnbrttn