Imagining A Better World: Rap Music Skepticism and the Civic Activism of Young African Americans

Lakeyta M. Bonnette-Bailey, Ray Block, Harwood K. McClerking

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Despite a recent increase in research on its sociopolitical implications, many questions regarding rap music's influence on mass-level participation remain unanswered. We consider the possibility that imagining a better world (measured here as the degree to which young African Americans are critical of the music's negative messages) can correlate with a desire to build a better world (operationalized as an individual's level of political participation). Evidence from the Black Youth Project (BYP)'s Youth Culture Survey (Cohen 2005) demonstrates that rap critique exerts a conditional impact on non-voting forms of activism. Rap critique enhances heavy consumers' civic engagement, but this relationship does not occur among Blacks who consume the music infrequently. By demonstrating rap's politicizing power and contradicting certain criticisms of Hip Hop culture, our research celebrates the possibilities of Black youth and Black music.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-385
Number of pages33
JournalDu Bois Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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