In Hit Rap Songs, Lyrics Paint an Ever Rosier Picture of Alcohol Use

Investigators at the University of California at Berkeley, School of Public Health, conducted research on how alcohol has been portrayed in rap music and videos.

The investigators examined:

  • 343 of the most popular rap songs recorded between 1979 and 1997.
  • 112 radio and 26 television advertisements for alcoholic beverages that featured rap music.
  • 166 of the most popular rap music videos.

Key Findings

In an unpublished paper, "Changes in the Prevalence of Alcohol Use in Rap Song Lyrics, 1979–1997," the investigators reported these findings:

  • The proportion of songs containing references to alcoholic beverages increased significantly over the study period, from 8 percent of hit songs initially to 45 percent by the end.
  • Rap songs have increasingly portrayed alcohol in a positive light over the course of the study period, with positive portrayals appearing in 45 percent of songs initially, and 74 percent of songs by the end.
  • The proportion of songs mentioning distilled spirits increased significantly in the 1990s, rising from 25 percent of top songs in the late 1980s to 60 percent of songs in the late 1990s.
  • Mentions of alcohol brand names increased abruptly in the mid to late 1990s, with 68 percent of alcohol-related songs including mention of a brand name by the end of the grant period.