Dr. Lakeyta Bonnette-Bailey, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and the pre-Ph.D. faculty associate for CASA (Center for Advancement of Students and Alumni), is writing a book tentatively entitled “What’s on Your Radio? Rap Music and Racial Attitudes” that will observe the relationship between exposure to political rap music and racial attitudes.
Dr. Bonnette-Bailey’s overall research agenda is focused on understanding the impact of political rap music on attitudes and behavior.
And it started with the movie Block Party.
Block Party was a documentary of a Hip-Hop concert, organized by comedian Dave Chappelle, that featured many socially and politically conscious rappers as well as special appearance by activist leaders. One of the activist leaders featured in the film, Fred Hampton Jr., discussed issues of political prisoners and mass incarceration with the attendees of that concert. Watching that film and listening to the performances of the artists, “I saw direct connections between black nationalism, revolutionary politics and rap music and it made me interested in observing the role that music can have on attitudes,” she said.
Most people can observe the direct connections between Hip-Hop and branding or marketing by observing the ways Hip-Hop is often used in advertisements, connecting music to purchasing behaviors. These marketing relationships with Hip-Hop culture further solidified a potential connection between exposure to rap music, attitudes and behavior for Dr. Bonnette-Bailey.
“I wanted to see what impact, rap music had politically. How could it impact your attitudes politically? And so that led to my dissertation, which turned into my first book Pulse of the People: Black Politics and Political Rap Music,” she continued.
Dr. Bonnette-Bailey was writing her book during the presidential election of President Obama – the first time, a political candidate for the presidency openly acknowledged a love of and an interest in hip-hop. During this campaign, hip-hop artists such as Jay Z publicly campaigned for the former president.
In her research she found that “those who were exposed to political rap, were statistically significantly more supportive of black nationalism than those exposed to non-political rap songs. I noticed a difference between the type of Hip-Hop you listened to, and an increased acceptance of Black Nationalist and Black Feminist attitudes. I definitely think music has an impact,” Dr. Bonnette-Bailey stated.
The political sophistication of Hip-Hop music is often overlooked. The strategizing and organizing done by Hip-Hop artists and associated groups have impacted politics throughout Hip-Hop history and more prominently in our recent era with organizations such as Puff Daddy’s Vote or Die and Meek Mill’s Reform Alliance.
Through her research, Dr. Bonnette-Bailey has found that music can impact political attitudes and behavior, and in her current research she is further examining these relationships by looking at racial attitudes.
Specifically, she is asserting that, “African Americans who are exposed to political rap will develop more of a group consciousness and solidarity with other Blacks. Additionally, I expect that Whites who are exposed to political rap music where topics of racism and discrimination are discussed will also express greater empathy about racial injustices,” she stated.
As topics are repeated in songs, this will likely inspire the listener to investigate the songs’ references in more detail. This leads to the listener becoming more knowledgeable and politically engaged with these topics.
“That is why I started my research. That’s exactly what I felt when I watched Block Party, I saw these artists talking about all these issues; oppression, discrimination, alienation, marginalization, and immediately after I left the movie theater “I’m like, what can I do? How can I be impactful?”” she shared.
Dr. Bonnette-Bailey’s second book on this topic is slated to come out this year titled “For the Culture: Hip-Hop and the Fight for Social Justice” (co-edited with Adolphus G. Belk, Jr.) (Forthcoming, University of Michigan Press). In addition to this book project, she is a co-host of a podcast titled “The Intersection: Where Black Popular Culture Meets Social Justice” (with Lisa Ferrell (CMII, GSU) and Booker Edwards (CMII, GSU)).
“I would like for people to not think that all hip-hop is bad, and I would like to leave the idea that hip hop has a positive influence on society — to look at cultural forms as an expression, and outlet for those people who traditionally do not have access to the political system, and how they use culture to gain that access,” she stated.
Political rap is the voice of the voiceless and is used as a form of expression in the world. Dr. Bonnette-Bailey hopes to impact people’s views with her research and demonstrate that hip-hop has a positive influence in society and allows marginalized voices the opportunity to be heard and engaged in the political system.
—Luke Lew, Graduate Administrative Assistant, Office of the Provost