McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

Daija Lewis

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Major and Classification

Communications Emphasis in Media, Marketing, and Culture and Minor in Music Industry

Faculty Mentor

  • Josh Kun, Ph.D.

Department

  • Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism

McNair Project

The Melodies of the Black Soul in Diverse America : Attitudes Toward R&B, Rap, and Black Life

Abstract
Popular music has a direct influence on popular culture, and it contributes to the ways in which people think and feel about the world around them. This study examines the differences between racial groups regarding their attitudes toward popular music performed by Black artists and inferences about the Black community. Utilizing a survey comparing Hip Hop to R&B based on four snippets of Hip Hop and R&B tracks that were at the top of the Summer 2010 Billboard charts, results demonstrate that Non-Black listeners understand and enjoy popular songs differently from Black listeners. Previous literature indicates that Hip Hop and R&B are deeply rooted in American history and have served as reflections of Black life. Modern forms of these two genres have audiences from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, and whether music performed by Black artists is genuinely evident of Black reality, marketed as fictional and exaggerated perpetuations of Black culture, or consisting of varying combinations, onlookers learn from what they hear and see is popular. Participants indicated their emotions toward the given songs and their belief in stereotypical ideas about Black people as suggested in the songs, and were free to elaborate on how music and artists affect their perspective towards the Black race. Music has the power to validate the common understanding of what is significant within Black culture and what it means to be Black, and these findings demand further investigation into the effect of Black American music on racially diverse audiences.