Study Says Hip-Hop Listeners More Prone To Drug Use, Aggression

'We need to ask why alcohol companies use ... rappers in their commercials,' author says.

If you listen to rap music, you're more likely to use alcohol and drugs and to behave in an aggressive manner — at least according to a new study by the nonprofit Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

More than 1,200 California community-college students ages 15-25 took part in the study — titled "Music, Substance Use and Aggression" — and answered survey questions about their music-listening habits, use of alcohol and drugs and "aggressive behaviors," such as fighting or threatening people with violence.

The results found that almost 70 percent of the students who listened to music "daily or almost daily" listened to rap and hip-hop, and when that data was compared with the students' answers about alcohol, drugs and violence, the survey found that "substance use and aggressive behaviors among young people were significantly associated to certain genres of popular music," mainly rap, reggae, rock and techno.

"Before we began the survey, we were studying alcohol advertising, and we noticed rap music and rap performers were being used in promoting alcoholic beverages," said Dr. Meng-Jinn Chen, the lead author of the report. "So we were aware that young people loved rap music, so there are a lot of concerns raised about the impact of the music on them."

Chen said she wanted to make it clear that the study — which will be published in May in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol — is by no means a condemnation of rap music (she has nieces and nephews "who absolutely listen to rap," she said). But Chen did say the study should raise concerns about whether or not advertising agencies should continue using rap music and icons in their advertising.

"The survey found that young people who listen to hip-hop use alcohol and drugs and engage in violent behavior, so this raises serious questions as to whether or not rap and hip-hop should be used to market alcoholic beverages," Chen said. "Our findings suggest there is a link between rap and violence and that it's irresponsible for advertisers to continue to prey on those behaviors."

And though Chen says she's happy with the survey, she's quick to point out that it's by no means comprehensive. Though the sample group was diverse — 57 percent female, 27 percent Latino American, 5 percent black — she said she hopes to do a larger survey in the near future. She said she hopes readers will realize that the survey cannot determine whether or not rap lyrics influence people to drink alcohol or if people who drink alcohol are drawn to the music.

"We want the reader to know that we are not sure. This survey can only show the association between the behavior and listening to the music," she said. "We don't want people to misuse the information we report; we want people to read the report and talk to me. But I think that the reason we reported this is because we think we need to ask why alcohol companies use these rappers in their commercials."