Date of Award

6-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Social Sciences

Department

Social Sciences

First Reader/Committee Chair

Mary Texiera

Abstract

Rap music has been a major force in American culture since the 1970s. It can be political, uplifting, and celebratory. It can also be misogynistic and degrading to women, the focus of the current research. This paper begins with a brief history of the importance of music in the African American community. It then provides a history of rap music and major influences on its development through the decades. A systematic comparison of Billboard’s top 5 rap videos for 2004 and 2014 follows. This section, the core analysis, compares the lyrical and visual content in terms of the representation of African American women. Findings reveal three stereotypes—Jezebel, Sapphire, and Mammy/“Baby Mama”—dominate the presentation of African American women in the videos. Based on these three stereotypes, the videos present African American women as greedy, dishonest, sex objects, with no respect for themselves or others, including the children under their care. The women in the videos are scorned by men and exist to bring pleasure to them. Differences between 2004 and 2014 with respect to misogyny and degradation of a group that has historically suffered from dual disadvantage—because of both race and gender—are minimal. This research is a call to action to pay close attention to rap songs and rap music videos and to demand change both from rap artists and the companies that back them.