Abstract: Hip Hop Music and Intimate Partner Violence: Shedding Light on the Songs That Intend to Raise Awareness (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Hip Hop Music and Intimate Partner Violence: Shedding Light on the Songs That Intend to Raise Awareness

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Maxine Davis, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington, TX
Jessica Williams, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant/ Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Arlington, TX
Chereeta Wilson, M.Ed, Co-Founder/Community Engagement Program Director, Grand Prairie Storm Youth Track and Field Club, TX
Study/Research Objective: The primary aim of this study was to explore how hip-hop/rap music sheds light on intimate partner violence and abuse (IPV).

Background: Many songs have endorsed using violent and abusive behaviors as an appropriate form conflict resolution and means of control against an intimate partner. Most notably, hip-hop/rap has been highlighted by the general public and academy as a genre in which artists feel free to create music that denigrates women. Although other genres of music also contribute to the oppression of women, they are referred to less often in these discussions. However, the messages of some hip-hop songs strongly contradict this image. Socially conscience rap/hip-hop artists have a long history of utilizing music artistry to combat and resist oppression of Black populations. Yet, no study has explored the content of hip-hop songs that condemn IPV.

Methods/Design: The first two authors (a Black woman-Assistant Professor and a white woman-PhD Student) partnered with a youth athletic association (co-founded by a Black married couple) sharing the common goal of increasing ethnic minority representation in health related research. Over the course of 3 consecutive months and 12 meetings, the university researchers met with the community researchers. The community researchers were six high school student girls who served as research interns and one adult woman co-founder of the organization. All identified as African-American/Black or Afro-Latina. The combined team met in person to identify songs that met mutually agreed upon inclusion criteria. After a systematic search and much discussion, the youth-led research team identified a number of publicly available songs (N=7) and analyzed the lyrics using descriptive content analysis.

Results: All nine members of the research team reached 80-100% consensus on the main findings. Primary themes within the lyrics centered on 1. death; 2. physical violence; 3. denial; and 4. freedom. Artists rapped about physical death and metaphorical death of the soul as a result of IPV perpetration. A number of narratives incorporated the presence of victims/survivor denial as a contributing factor of being involved in on-going abuse. Finally, obtaining freedom was highlighted as an ideal and ultimate accomplishment.

Discussion and Recommendations: The study results illuminate the healing power of hip-hop/rap music as a potential resource in discouraging and preventing IPV related abusive behaviors. With a strong following by Black-Americans (due to it’s development in the ethnic community), hip-hop music may hold particular advantages in impacting health behaviors within romantic or intimate relationships that are most vulnerable (for myriad of reasons) to IPV.