Dr. Boyce: Yes, The Music We Listen to Does Affect Our Thinking (Video)

by Dr. Boyce Watkins.

When I spoke on the problems with mass promotion of violent and misogynist hip-hop music through BET and other media, the response from the public was interesting.  On one hand, there were those who’d been waiting for someone to speak openly about the problems with BET giving awards to artists like Lil Wayne, who has publicly stated that he would shoot old women, kill little babies, and engage in all kinds of other highly destructive behavior (anyone who knows his background and the “keepin it real” mindset of hip-hop artists knows that Wayne wasn’t giving a fictional depiction of the values he promotes).

On the other hand, there were those who felt that the music has very little effect on the psyches of those who listen to it regularly.   It’s not as if anyone can argue that the worst of hip-hop music (i.e. Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, Wiz Khalifa) is actually GOOD for our kids.  The best that anyone can argue is that the music just isn’t that big of a deal.  I personally know the music of all of these artists reasonably well, and I find them to be very talented.  But when I hear Wiz Khalifa endorsing the idea of getting behind the wheel of a car after a night of heavy drinking, I think about one of our YBW Coalition members, Nicole Price, who lost her mother two weeks ago to a 22-year old man who got drunk, stole a car and drove through a red light going 80 miles an hour.  You can’t blame hip-hop for what happened to Nicole’s mother, but we are justified to be outraged that corporate America helps to promote the artists who glamorize the choices that lead to such devastation within our communities.

Anyone who has studied psychology understands that the mantras we repeat to ourselves sink into our subconscious in ways that even we ourselves don’t notice.  If every chorus we recite is built on self-destructive activities, like sexual irresponsibility or violence, we may easily find ourselves being de-sensitized to otherwise poor decisions.  Those who already lie on the margins of our society (like uneducated black men, too many of whom are an inch away from jail or prison already) are most vulnerable to the messages of artists who encourage thinking that is devoid of responsibility or productivity.

To understand these issues further, I conducted an interview with Dr. Jeff Jackson.  Jeff is an expert on the ways by which media affects our thinking.  While I stand as a man who is truly a fan of hip-hop (and even Lil Wayne to some extent), I personally argue that we should place boundaries on the messages that we allow artists (and networks) to give to our children.  Even if BET censors Lil Wayne songs when he’s on the air, they are still encouraging kids to get online and find out more about his music and providing positive reinforcement for the creation of more psychological poison.  Even good parents can’t protect their kids from the suicide mission being sold to African American youth – the stats in our community on HIV infection, homicide, financial irresponsibility, etc.  show that the messages are being absorbed loud and clear.  Those who can look beyond the quarterly statement at Viacom should be encouraged to take a second to assess the damage being done to black America.

The video is below:

[bliptv AYLIsEUC]


  • http://www.facebook.com/bkshowers Bryan Showers

    Message is true indeed, but how do we get it out to the masses of our people?  And if and when we do will they listen?  I live in south florida where recently there have been Black People accused prostituting little girls ages 12 to 17. This happened in one area but i know its probably going on all over america.  THE MUSIC has indeed promoted and even supported this promiscuous gotta have it get money Demon who lives in our world.  Babies being pimped…Just some thought..

  • Lynn

    Dr. Watkins, I commend you for continuing to speak out about this issue.  I especially appreciate your point that “the mantras we repeat to ourselves sink into our subconscious in ways that even we ourselves don’t notice.”  Both spiritually and psychologically-minded people understand that the purpose of a mantra is to reprogram the subconscious mind.  When it is used in meditation or prayer, its repetition is meant to reprogram the subconscious mind in constructive ways, i.e., to assist the individual in overcoming deeply rooted self-defeating or self-destructive patterns of thinking and feeling.  However, when we are singing a song or reciting a rhyme over and over again, we are, I believe, having the same effect on our subconscious minds as we would if we were meditating or praying.  The message is still going to be received, and it matters very much whether the message our subconscious minds receive is positive or negative.  I believe it matters even more when that mind is young and still developing, and is therefore more impressionable….

    • http://www.facebook.com/reginasparklesibert Regina Sparkle Sibert

      Very well said, Lynn! I agree 100%

  • http://www.facebook.com/twyche Terrill Wyche

    This is not a new study. If you read the book entitled, ‘A History of Western Music’ by Burkholder, et. al pages 14-20, Plato stated in his writings that not only music influences behavior but music written using certain scales influences certain kinds of behavior. I’m not endorsing one kind of thinker’s philosophy over others, but the conclusion that music influences behavior is not a new study. The problem we have is that we do not base our habits on these conclusions. Music and the tones used to create it influences our mood, and our mood influences our thoughts. Until we learn to manage what we consume that includes the music to which we listen regularly, we’ll continue to experience destructive results physically, intellectually, and psychologically.

  • Sasa

    Music is not just “entertainment” for those of us whose ancestors are African; it is a great deal more. Before electricity we had music as a pivotal means of interacting with and living life. In the beginning of the music industry we were still in a similar mode, today however popularized music, generally, does not reflect African cultural values. The music that makes its way out into the global community clearly reflects the values of Europeans, the violence, degrading of women and focus on material wealth, If we understand that many of the most visible entertainers are twist on the black face of days gone, then we will respond appropriately.
    I recall as a child when we saw on TV news certain crimes committed, we knew right away what Black people would not do, or it was extremely rare occasion, after hearing about incidents like the three year old being tortured, I am pretty clear we have incorporated into ourselves the values of the majority population, in a large part due to the TV, movies and music that promotes it.
    We still have the genius; let’s find a way to prop it up.

    • 1eyedsnake

      I remember, too, growing up and hearing about a crime and saying I hope the person responsible isn’t black or I know that wasn’t a black person. Sadly, nowadays it is becoming more and more likely for it to be a black person.

  • Taritari

    There are so many mixed messages!

    No wonder our children are confused

    First, there are guns in our communities, prostitution which stems from slavery and rape and lack of money, hatred which stems from slavery, apartheid and lack of etc.

    In the music industry, rap, hip hop, jazz, blues, be bop, ragtime, pop, soul etc. for the blacks or Africans brought to America became firstly a form of entertainment and then when the lyrics (words) became aggressive and offensive, they were still accepted as entertainment.  

    Now comes the problem when, if it had been nipped in the bud, because the caucasian community found it entertaining to see the comedy of blacks beating up on theirselves as long as it was not towards caucasions, the profound results are we are losing our children, communities, families, cultures.  We now see!

    We must take a stand.  We must educate ourselves and others.

    Take back our culture, love ourselves and our children!  As well as others.

    Unite as one.

    A Jewish child was just murdered by one of his own,, Jewish person, the family is not looking for revenge.

    There was an outpouriing of assistance from the Jewish community.  They made flyers in a heartbeat!

    We must take example and move forward.


    Love is the answer, psychologically!

    Prison, jails, DYS, DSS now DCF, Courts are  temporary measures!

    Graveyards are permanent, Life terms are permanent unless overturned

  • Mitch

    Most of the ‘rapp’ I hear as a 5th grade teacher is ‘white supremacist’ music to brainwash black people to do the klans’ job!  Homicide, gunning down black people is glorified in this trash; nevr will you hear this ‘music’ speak to the spirituality and souls of our people; it’s just entertainment $for$ white dollars / people who love blood and gore.  Our music use to have messages to keep us together instead of DIVIDED!  Have you seen some of the filthy dancing our children do in front of the elderly?  Notice how many ‘black’ record labels have gone under. Most of this junk is anti-intellectual, pathological- regressive, and anti-BLACK human. We need music with the spirit of the CIVIL RIGHTS movement to get our young people to take it to the streets, not drink cheap gin and racist champaigne. The lil waynes are exploiting us: be careful around CLOWNS!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Frances-Caldwell/1001986350 Frances Caldwell

    Thank you  Dr. Watkins for once angain keeping it 100!  These ignorant of self rappers need to listen our brother John Henry Clark, Wesley Snipes did a video of him before he passed on, and learn thy self and then rap about what they learned.  I read about the grammy’s geting rid of the categories that Black people are allowed to claim for now.  I am not surprised, when you watch these so called TALENT shows and the copies(whites) are declared better than the ORIGINATORS( African People) OF ALL POPULAR MUSIC IN THE WORLD I turn off the boop tube, I refuse to watch our people disrespected over and over again.