Rap Music: America’s Dangerous Export

Sean “Diddy” Combs performs on Nov. 7, 2023, in London, England.
Samir Hussein/Getty Images for Sean Diddy Combs

Rap Music: America’s Dangerous Export

As America’s most popular genre, rap music’s dangerous effects are being felt in all of America—and the rest of the world.

Last week, while walking through the parking lot of our local mall, I saw something I’ve never seen before. A young white man in his 20s drove out of the parking lot, windows rolled down, his head bobbing as he blasted rap music from his speakers. This wouldn’t have surprised me in America, but I was very surprised to see it here in Zimbabwe.

White Zimbabweans make up less than 1 percent of the population. Pretty much all of them grew up here, either as Rhodesians or Zimbabweans. Though they are minorities, they seem to have kept their culture—a tough, pioneering, Judeo-Christian heritage—intact. But as that young man drove off, rap music blaring, it became clear just how much the entire culture is shifting, as it often does, around young people.

Rap music is at the heart of it. Sean “Diddy” Combs’s arrest last month has proved to be simultaneously significant and insignificant. The man is blamed, but the medium that elevated him is escaping scrutiny. According to Lawrence “KRS-One” Parker, one of the founders and pioneers of the rap genre, “Rap is something you do; hip-hop is something you live.” If Combs’s life is any evidence, then this medium is as much to blame as the people it elevates.

Culture is shifting; not just in America but worldwide.

What Is Rap?

Although it first appeared in the 1970s, rap music is still breaking new ground. In 2017, it became the dominant genre in the United States for the first time. It has been the most popular ever since. Nearly a third of Americans listen to rap music daily, the majority of which are 16-to-34-year-olds.

The genre was born on ideas of racial grievances, family breakdown, the drug epidemic and antagonism against law enforcement. Through its catchy beats, aggressive tone and rhyming lyrics, spun predominantly by fatherless young men, it grew in popularity and scope. Record labels established hip-hop divisions before exclusively hip-hop-oriented labels sprang up. And in came Sean Combs.

Starting out as a talent director, Combs went on to found his own record label where he discovered and nurtured some of rap’s most popular artists. He soon began rapping himself, winning three Grammy Awards and producing multiple number one songs and albums.

Clothing and television deals followed, as did a deal with vodka retailer Cîroc, all of which led to his current net worth of over $1 billion. Combs successfully transitioned into the mainstream and cleaned up his public image. He didn’t seem to be living hip-hop anymore.

Combs seemed far removed from the violent, gun-toting, drug-dealing lifestyle that rap music represents. A cursory glance showed a shrewd businessman raised on the tough streets of New York. A cursory glance is all most people paid him. But last month, the Department of Homeland Security took a much closer look as they raided several properties owned by or tied to Combs. Now he faces accusations of violence, drug trafficking and prostitution.

A closer look reveals the frightening reality: Underneath the carefully created public persona, Sean Combs seems to have been living the very life of hip-hop that rap music promotes. And it’s exactly what the lyrics say.

Sex, Violence and Drugs

In a November 2023 civil suit, singer Cassandra Ventura accused Combs of physical abuse, rape and prostituting her. They settled the lawsuit just one day after it was filed. Another woman, Joi Dickerson-Neal, also filed a suit against Combs, accusing him of drugging and sexually assaulting her. Emboldened by these accusations, Liza Gardner also accused Combs of sexually assaulting her when she was 16 years old. Another unidentified woman accused Combs and his close friend Harve Pierre of gang rape and sex-trafficking. A man named Rodney Jones, who worked on Combs’s latest album, accuses him of the same and more.

According to Jones’s February lawsuit, Combs pressured him to engage in sexual acts, procuring sex workers for him even as he suffered constant sexual harassment himself. Jones says he even witnessed Combs give people drug-laced drinks at his infamous parties. Jones says that Combs is a homosexual and was trying to groom him into a sexual relationship.

Combs denies all these allegations as “pure fiction” and “reckless name-dropping.” But this is the lifestyle that rap music glorifies.

Themes of murder and violence gave birth to rap music. One study found that 65 percent of rap songs from 1987 to 1993 referenced physical violence. Today, at least four of the top five rap artists incorporate violent lyrics in their music. A 2015 study found that murder is the cause of death for over half of all hip-hop artists.

Over time, drugs and sex were incorporated into hip-hop’s foundations. It’s as common to see a news report of a rapper overdosing on drugs as it is to hear that he was killed in a gang-related shooting.

Rap is something you do; hip-hop is something you live.

Rap is the background music to the mass shootings that are common in places like inner-city Chicago. Rap is the soundtrack to gang initiation, violence and radicalization of young, fatherless men. It is played in drug-fueled sex romps in nightclubs and parties.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, exposure to rap music is associated with increase drug abuse and violent behavior. What else can one expect from a genre that glorifies guns, violence and the objectification of women?

Dangerous Export

“[America’s] message to the world is dominated by the worst pornographic filth humanity has ever seen!” writes Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in The Last Hour. “It is America’s number one worldwide business! Depraved music is our number two export!”

Rap music itself barely qualifies as music. Some rappers have tried to carve out a niche as “gospel” rappers. Others have gained popularity by refusing to use profanity in their lyrics. But the inescapable fact is that rap as a genre was born from the recesses of wild, powerful emotions, is driven by a thumping beat and loud, aggressive lyrics, while simultaneously encouraging and being encouraged by a deplorable lifestyle.

And when the lifestyle that it promotes starts bleeding out into the real world, the consequences can be devastating.

As the genre that dominates the African-American community, rap music is embedded within the high rates of drug usage, criminality, single-parent homes and the low average education levels that plague black America.

The defenders of rap music say the artists are simply chronicling their own less-than-ideal upbringings. They say that violence is a choice, regardless of whether or not a song sounds like it’s promoting it.

But music has a powerful effect on our emotions and state of mind. Music can relieve stress, enhance memory, and even help people cope with physical pain. On the other hand, a 2018 study found that 71 percent of offenders sentenced for serious crimes in London listened to rap music with violent lyrics or watched violent music videos up to an hour before committing the crime.

As America’s most popular genre, rap music’s dangerous effects are being felt in all of America. And as the sixth-most popular genre in the world, the lifestyle of hip-hop has gone global.

Rap music resonates with black America by selling an idea. Rappers present an image of pomposity inspired by an unflappable, gun-toting confidence, irrepressible sex-appeal and seemingly endless wealth. For a community shorn of education and the example of a father earning an honest living from a hard day’s work, the appeal of the hip-hop lifestyle proves all-too irresistible.

America is losing its authority and status as the world’s moral example because its cultural exports increasingly signify a lack thereof.

Through a combination of peer pressure, a catchy beat and socialization, it has become popular with the rest of America too.

These reasons are why rap music is so popular outside of America’s borders as well. No other country is as wealthy as America. Very few come close, and the majority are almost immeasurably poorer. America’s astronomical present and historical wealth have been broadcast to the world.

Few will admit it, but this means that, in a way, most people, even all the way here in Zimbabwe, want to be American. When America leads, the world follows. The world wants to dress as America does, speak how Americans speak, watch what they watch, and listen to what they listen to. This includes pornography, depraved music—which includes but certainly goes beyond rap, twisted movies and so much more.

So as America loses its Judeo-Christian values, many in the world follow its lead. On the other hand, several more are refusing to follow. America is losing its authority and status as the world’s moral example because its cultural exports increasingly signify a lack thereof. Music is a major part of that.

The Future of Music

Music has always been important to mankind. Different cultures have produced different kinds of music. But the Holy Bible reveals what God’s culture is and what He thinks about music. It reveals that music existed before man was even created (Job 38:4, 7). It even says that God Himself sings (Zephaniah 3:17).

God loves and values music—positive and uplifting music. Music is central to how and why we were created. God has a plan for mankind, one that intimately involves His positive music, with inspiring words and themes. Read How God Values Music to learn how God plans to export His culture of music throughout the whole universe.