Chapter 5: African American English and the communities it influences

5.4.1 How Music is Used in African American Society (synthesis)

Amiri Austin

English 102, September 2020

Many of today’s youth have heard of popular rappers like Lil Baby, Lil-Wayne, or Lil Uzi Vert but have never really dived into the hip-hop background and truly seen how African American society has really progressed as a whole using this music genre. While also putting a magnifying glass on the many experiences that rappers talk about in their songs and how those experienced shaped their personal life and rap career. In this paper I will explain 4 different scholarly articles pertaining my topic, each with a different purpose but each will be used in a melting pot of sort to help me fully explain the topic. The first will be Gee’s “What is Literacy”, the second will be “Using Rap Music to Better Understand African American Experiences”, the third will be “Welcome to the Terrordome: Race, Power and the Rise of American Rap Music, 1979-1995”, and my last article will be “Connecting Black youth to critical media literacy through hip hop making in the music classroom”.

Gee’s what is literacy is an article pertaining to the many different ways on which literacy is used. He uses vocabulary like discourse which is the slang or social habits of a certain group of people. A primary discourse would be the discourse you were born with such as if English is your first language. A secondary discourse would be the discourse you’ve learned in life or a discourse you weren’t born with. The dominant discourse would be the discourse that is most widely accepted in your area or region, like for the United States the official language is English.

In my first article titled “Welcome to the Terrordome: Race, Power and the Rise of American Rap Music, 1979-1995”, The article is more on the progression of rap and how rap is used in multiple settings and how it has changed African American lives, even though it is briefly discussed. The point of this article is to discuss how rap was and is used as a cry out for help among black artists and how they spread their messages and struggles through their music. The authors of this study came to these findings by researching many books, one including Black Noise: Rap Music and Black culture in Contemporary America. He Also opens by explaining certain scenes in the movie Black Panther. The author found many findings like how Rap was created by African American youth as a way to express their struggles through poverty and feeling excluded due to being a minority. Also, how rap has been everchanging with Black Culture and how it rapidly urbanized and became popular with its audience. The meaning of these findings is to say that we must come together as a society and understand the cries out for help and instead of just letting songs go by without any action we must get out and help these people and save them from their struggles and help break this everlasting cycle of poverty and recession in black communities.

My second article is titled “Using Rap Music to Better Understand African American Experiences”. This article is similar to my last in that it is focused around rap music surrounding the wrongful manipulation people of color experience. The point of this study is to help cultural counselors better understand the problems people of color face and why they turn to rap to express themselves.  In the article they describe Hip-Hop as more than a culture and more of a dream or an emotional outlet or a way to build relationships and network their way to a career or profession to get out of the projects. The purpose of this study was also to improve the cultural understanding of counselors and to help counselors be able to assist clients of color. The authors discovered these findings by using a content analysis design (6) and chose a genre of music called conscious rap, featuring multiple artists and 10 different songs.  According to Michael Brooks in “Using Rap Music to Better Understand African American Experiences” says, Content analysis is a research method for studying documents and communication artifacts.(6) According to Michael Brooks in “Using Rap Music to better Understand African American Experiences” says, The 10 songs chosen were NWA-F**K The Police, 2Pac-rapped, Killer Mike- Don’t Die, Rage Against the Machine-Killing the Name, MainSource- Just a Friendly Game of Baseball, Dead Prez-Cop Shot, Gil Scott Heron- No Knock, Ice-T – Cop Killer, KRS-One-Sound of Da Police, and UGK-Protect and Serve.(7) Once the song list was finalized each of the researchers listened in 30 second intervals and wrote down their thoughts/decoded version of the lyrics. Time was taken to relisten and truly feel what the artist was trying to describe to its listeners. The authors found that these songs were more than just lyrics for people to memorize and recite at concerts, they were words used to help these artists get out of their struggle and help their family members out, they were words used to inspire other youth and let them know that even in the worst situations you can achieve the biggest of dreams. The authors also found that in the lyrics analyzed expressed feelings of comfort/support and justification and subtle microaggressions towards fighting social inequality and overall oppression of people of color.(8) The meaning of the findings was that using the messages within rap music can help its listeners see through the artists lens and walk a mile in their shoes and understand what they’re going through. This advancement of  understanding the lyrics and usage of certain verbiage in songs helped counselors become more culturally competent and helped them institute encouraging activities and helped bring out locked up stories from clients of color and helped them understand their social identity more and made them feel more wanted even in a world of privilege and oppression. I would say the only study needed after the authors completed this one is maybe to do more current songs and see if anything has changed from 90s rap and their hardships compared to the upcoming rap artists of this generation. This study relates to my last in that they both realize that something needs to be done and that these artists aren’t just saying these words without any context, they have meaning, and they need to be heard by any and everybody.

In my third article titled “Connecting Black youth to critical media literacy through hip hop making in the music classroom”. This article fits with more with my first article than my second one because this article pertains more to the upbringing of youth and how rap music helped and will continue to help shape and expand the youths mind. The point of this article is to describe how the hip-hop genre encouraged participants to increase their effort and maximize their ability in two urban schools. The authors came to these findings by having the Foundations of Music non-profit organization go to low-income communities and teach their curriculum to students in elementary and middle school. Foundation of Music’s program introduces students to both the process of writing lyrics of a rap song and the technology used to produce rap songs in a classroom setting. During these sessions the students were observed by the author as he took converted his notes into a narrative-based observation. He recorded things such as different concepts the kids learned each day, reactions from student-to-student and student-to-teacher, along with informal conversations between the students. After the conclusion of the curriculum the author was able to have a final assessment of the students and help give constructive criticism as to what each student was doing right and what they needed to work on to be more successful. The meaning of these findings was that the having these same group of kids come in and work on a new hobby built a sense of belonging among them that replicated what it felt like to being on a team. A common goal of bettering themselves every day and a sense of having an actual goal ahead of them. They also found that teachers in the school weren’t letting kids express they’re musical ideas whether it be raps they had written down or beats they had made at home and in this class they were finally able to receive feedback and have it mastered without being labeled as “disruptive”. Many kids were able to express their emotions and their real-life experiences with violence in the neighborhood and let their stories be heard in their communities and elsewhere. Other studies I would like to see place is maybe to compare the findings of different communities in different cities like comparing the low-income communities in Atlanta to low income communities in Chicago. This article is relevant to my interests because I’ve always been interested in helping others and letting others experience things that they usually don’t get to experience. Whether it be a big concert that they aren’t able to afford or showing people that you can follow your dreams and prove others wrong.

In conclusion I have learned a lot from this essay and am honestly intrigued with how this essay is supposed to be written. At first I had no idea what to use for my topic but I’m glad I chose the one I did because I really do enjoy rap music and the hip-hop genre in its whole so it’s fun to learn more about it and look beyond the lyrics. I have never written anything like this before so there is a bit of a learning curve, but it has been fun, and I look forward to revising this essay and fully understanding this topic of a synthesis essay.



Works Cited

Brooks, Michael. “Using Rap Music to Better Understand African American Experiences.” Taylor & Francis, 26 Feb. 2020,

D’Amico, Francesca. “Welcome to the Terrordome: Race, Power and the Rise of American Rap Music, 1979-1995.” YorkSpace Home, 11 May 2020,

Evans, Jabari. “Connecting Black Youth to Critical Media Literacy through Hip Hop Making in the Music Classroom.” Latest TOC RSS, Intellect, 1 July 2020,


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