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“I SEE DEATH AROUND THE CORNER”: NIHILISM IN RAP MUSIC

CHARIS E. KUBRIN
Sociological Perspectives
Vol. 48, No. 4 (Winter 2005), pp. 433-459
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
DOI: 10.1525/sop.2005.48.4.433
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/sop.2005.48.4.433
Page Count: 27
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“I SEE DEATH AROUND THE CORNER”: NIHILISM IN RAP MUSIC
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Abstract

Rap is one of the most salient music genres of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Gangsta rap, in particular, with its focus on urban street life, has become a dominant means of expression within contemporary African American adolescent culture. As such, it speaks directly to issues of identity, culture, violence, and nihilism—themes that permeate recent research on inner-city black communities. Mostly ethnographic in nature, this work describes how structural disadvantage, social isolation, and despair create a black youth culture, or street code, that influences adolescent behavior. The current work builds on the community literature by exploring how the street code is present not only on “the street” but also in rap music. It addresses two important questions: (1) To what extent does rap music contain elements of the street code—and particularly nihilism—identified by Anderson (1999) and others? (2) How do rappers experience and interpret their lives, and how do they respond to conditions in their communities? These questions are explored in a content analysis of over four hundred songs on rap albums from 1992 to 2000.

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