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IMAGINING A BETTER WORLD:: Rap Music Skepticism and the Civic Activism of Young African Americans

  • Lakeyta M. Bonnette-Bailey (a1), Ray Block (a2) and Harwood K. McClerking (a3)


Despite a recent increase in research on its sociopolitical implications, many questions regarding rap music’s influence on mass-level participation remain unanswered. We consider the possibility that “imagining a better world” (measured here as the degree to which young African Americans are critical of the music’s negative messages) can correlate with a desire to “build a better world” (operationalized as an individual’s level of political participation). Evidence from the Black Youth Project (BYP)’s Youth Culture Survey (Cohen 2005) demonstrates that rap critique exerts a conditional impact on non-voting forms of activism. Rap critique enhances heavy consumers’ civic engagement, but this relationship does not occur among Blacks who consume the music infrequently. By demonstrating rap’s politicizing power and contradicting certain criticisms of Hip Hop culture, our research celebrates the possibilities of Black youth and Black music.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Associate Professor Ray Block, Jr. African American and Africana Studies Program and Department of Political Science, 1655 Patterson Office Tower, Lexington KY 40506-0027. E-mail:


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Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
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