Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence


Appendix

A BRIEF HISTORY OF RAP MUSIC

    —  Rap music, sometimes referred to as hip-hop, grew out of black and Puerto Rican communities in US cities in the 1970's. Strictly, hip-hop refers to the wider culture which includes break dancing and graffiti-art in addition to rap music, but the terms are now interchangeable.

    —  In its early years, it was promoted as a positive alternative to gang culture, which encouraged participants to settle disputes through music and dance rather than guns or knives.

    —  It rapidly became the indigenous "street" black music of urban America.

    —  One of the key features of the music was the rhythmic spoken story-line that described the life, times and characters of deprived urban America.

    —  Hip-hop revolutionised contemporary music, introducing sounds, techniques and formats that are now global standards of youth culture.

    —  In the 1980's hip-hop spread across America and the World. The central figures in the genre built a multi-billion dollar industry—initially around music but also on films and clothing.

    —  In 2001, rap overtook country music to become the largest single genre in the US, accounting for 13% of music sales. Although sales have since declined—it is still a powerful international force.

    —  Eminem—a young, white, working class rapper from Detroit—is credited with taking the genre to its widest-ever mainstream audience. His four multi-million selling albums and nine Grammy awards have made him the world's most successful solo artist, and established rap at the core of global youth culture.

LANGUAGE, CULTURE AND CONTROVERSY

    —  The language of rap is often uncompromising and, depending on perspective, can be seen as poetic and "real", or aggressive and provocative.

    —  The early 1990's saw the rise of so-called "Gangsta Rap", initially from Los Angeles, with content that was criticised for apparently glorifying violence, gun culture and misogyny. "Gangsta Rap" as a sub-genre has all but disappeared, but much of the lyrical content of rap is still concerned with the sometimes grim realities of urban life.

    —  It should be stressed that only a limited proportion of rap focuses on story-lines that feature gangs or violence. More common in recent years have been lyrics boasting about the performers' extravagant lifestyle, cars, houses and clothes; although there are clear signs that the audience is tiring of these as subject matter and is looking to more restrained and "conscious" performers such as Kanye West.

    —  In addition to the music, hip-hop has had a major impact on global youth fashion. Dress styles and conventions which had their roots in US gangs and prisons (baggy, low-slung trousers; bandanas; baseball caps and basketball shoes) are now standard wear for young people around the world—although again mainstream fashion is moving away.

    —  Critics of rap point to its alleged negative influence on young people, especially young men. They highlight in particular its attitudes towards drugs, violence, women and homosexuality.

    —  In defence, supporters say that violence, drugs and criminality have long been key themes in other contemporary art forms such as film, novels and other music genres. Rap fans point out that other audiences are credited with the ability to distinguish entertainment from real life, and to separate the graphic content from the actors or performers, a distinction which they feel is not afforded to hip-hop culture.

    —  In 2005, rap singles accounted for 13.7% of all sales in the UK, rap albums for 5.9%. There is anecdotal evidence that rap sales have declined since then, though definitive figures are not yet available.

% SALES OF HIP HOP/RAP IN THE UK


2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005

Single Sales
4.8%
8.8%
10.0%
11.1%
14.1%
13.7%
Album Sales
3.9%
4.2%
5.1%
5.5%
6.5%
5.9%


    —  Most rap records are bought by young white males.

    —  In comparison, rock singles accounted for 23.5 % of sales.








 
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