Musical Interactions: Girls Who Like and Use Rap Music for Empowerment

Travis, Raphael
Bowman, Scott
Childs, Joshua
Villanueva, Renee
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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
This paper builds upon a new era of research seeking to understand variability in how desirable outcomes result from engaging rap music as a health enhancing artifact. More specifically, the study explores the music mediated pathways to individual and community well-being. The study emphasizes female music engagement. Quantitative methods are used to examine listening habits and preferences associated with empowering rap music engagement among a female sample of 202 university students using an a priori established path analysis model. Results echo prior research that suggests the functional value of music in helping to define the self independently and articulate one’s social identity within the context of community (Dixon, Zhang, & Conrad, 2009; Hill, 2009; Travis & Bowman, 2012). Specifically, results suggest that among females in this sample, (a) their appropriation of rap music can be empowering, (b) specific factors play a significant role in determining the difference between females that feel more or less empowered from their interactions with rap music, and (c) female listeners were more likely to appropriate rap music for personal and community growth if it was their favorite music type, if they listened often, and if they tended to listen alone more often than with friends. These research findings offer promising routes for more in depth qualitative analysis to help uncover the nuances of preferred engagement strategies and to help define the subjective lived experiences that lead to feeling empowered by music to act toward positive change for oneself and others. Practical results indicate the possibility for gender-specific education, therapeutic or empowerment-based programs that utilize rap music as a rubric.
hip hop, symbolic interaction, gender, identity, youth, rap, Social Work
Travis, R., Bowman, S. W., Childs, J. & Villanueva, R. (2016). "Musical interactions: Girls who like and use rap music for empowerment", Symbolic Interactionist Takes on Music (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 47), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 119-149.