What happened to hip-hop music?

By Alina Zheng


Last year, Hip-hop came into the public in China because of a hot broadcast called THE RAP OF CHINA made by IQIYI.

rap of China

The musical show was popular among young people during that period, not only because of Kris Wu’s participation, but also on account of many underground rappers brought good show.

Recently, THE RAP OF CHINA season 2 is around the corner.

Let’s look at the world, hip-hop music has always been a hot topic in Europe and North America. A lot of hip hop singers have great influence in society, their personal rap songs always can cause extensive discussions on social media.

What’s Hip-hop music?

Hip-hop Music, also called as Rap Music, it is a kind of music developed in the United States by inner-city African Americans in the 1970s which accompanies in a rhythmic and rhyming speech. It commonly has a strong sense of rhythm and appealing. Many rap songs are the voices from people at the bottom of society, which can be regarded as a tool to show their demands, dissatisfaction, even the emotional vent.

2017 MTV Video Music Awards - Fixed Show

Since hip-hop is always one of the hottest music type among various music types, I chose this hot topic and try to find out some insights from the musicians or the audiences on Twitter.

Literature Review

I chose three academic articles related to hip-hop music to serve my hypothesis and the questions I wanted to discuss.

First article is about the impact of music on emotion, it compares hip-hop music with yoga music to discuss whether music type can influence people’s emotion. Second one is about the roots and commercialization of hip-hop music. The author believes that hip-hop music has gradually deviated from its essence and expressed concern about its commercialization. The last one also discuss the aggression and violent behavior, proving that the more aggressive the music content, the more likely it is to cause violence.

The commercialization of hip-hop music

Hip-hop music is now opened to the public and being heavily commercialized and expanded to encompassa much wider fan-base (Lucien J. Flores, 2012). People are increasingly embracing hip-hop music, and will also listen and buy some albums or peripheral products. Hip-hop music has also started to appear in commercial advertising, becoming a trend of music.


A commercial for Alipay

It seems that this type of music that come from underground has gained its own advocates. However, with the globalization of hip-hop there is potential for the spreading of the “Gansta Rap” ideology of black people as hyper-masculine and over-violent. While the music may no longer be entirely as politically, socially, and culturally charged, the roots remain the same and these roots can never be altered (Lucien J. Flores, 2012).

Hip-hop music’s influence on aggression

Music is highly connected with emotional processes and it has a unique influence on the human psychology. People’s emotions are different when they are in various music environments.

Aggressive music like hip-hop music led to a change in emotional aggression (assuming verbal aggression as a form of emotional aggression), rather than a change in behavioral aggression between the rap group and control (Matthew Kwong, 2016).


cause aggressive?

More seriously, aggressive music style and lyrics can lead to violent behavior. The perpetration of violent behavior can be explained using the cognitive learning theory, asserting, “individuals receive messages through society and media that shape relationship ideologies”(Bretthauer, Zimmerman, & Banning, 2006, p. 30).

This study is based on previous research and analyze the contents of the tweets to determine how twitter users’ perspectives on issues of hip-hop music and how it affects people’s moods.


Let’s discover more about hip-hop!

  1. How people on twitter talk about hip-hop music?
  2. When people want to get the latest hip-hop news, what twitter accounts or music platforms will they follow?
  3. Their attitudes towards hip-hop music, if significant, positive, negative or neutral?And whether hip-hop music affects people’s moods.


Hashtag: #hiphop

Data collection: Tags

Time period: 05:16-15:51 25thApril,2018

Sampling scale of tweets: 6,068

Sampling scale of retweets: 5,406

Data analysis: Tableau, Voyant, Gephi

This study utilizes TAGS to capture sample of tweets talking about hip-hop issues. Then took the term of “#hiphop” as the conditions of data collection.

After obtaining the sample, Voyant is used to achieve data visualization. Uploading the text of sample tweets, a cirrus provides a word cloud view of the most frequently occurring words in the document could be seen. Then some vaild words such as “https”, “t.co" and “amp” were removed to avoid interference and get the word cloud to see the words that people mentioned about when they tweet a hip-hop post.

Tableau is a good tool to find out the most active or visible users and dig out more to analyze their influence. What’s more, the location of users can also be analyze.

Then Gephi is used to look through the edges and nodes. By sorting the users according to degree or in-degree, clusters and edges can be found and the relationships and correlations between different users will be more clearly.


When people are talking about hip-hop on Twitter…

Tweets over time

Picture 1: Tweets over time from Tableau

According to the picture “Tweets over time” from Tableau, it could be clearly seen that twitter users tend to retweet from others rather than post their own tweets when using the hashtag #hiphop during this time period. (05:16-15:51 25thApril,2018)

The curves of the three types reached the peak at different points in time, and there was no obvious rule. The curve of the original tweets was the most dramatic.


What content do they mention?

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 16.37.06

Picture 2: Word cloud from Voyant

Top 5 keywords:

hiphop, music, rap, SoundCloud, video.

When talking about hip-hop, people mentioned these keywords in their tweets. The second one (music) and the third one(rap) are both about hip-hop music. In addition, some similar words like video, nowplaying, new music occurred.

What’s more, a music platform called SoundClound occurred which was highly mentioned by twitter users who are involved in the discussion of hip-hop.

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 16.18.36

I further check this platform and found that it is a music platform base in Berlin, Germany.

Many musicians including some rappers post their latest audios and videos on it.  This platform has created many rap lists. There are over hip hop connections made in 2015, which means 1.25 billion active listeners following hip hop music and creators. That includes managers, producers and promoters.

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 16.18.52

According to the word cloud, when people want to find some hip-hop music, they tend to choose SoundCloud so that when talking about hip-hop, they are most likely to mention SoundCloud instead of other music platforms.


Who were most involved in the discussion of #hiphop?

User Activity and Visibility

Picture 3: User Activity and User Visbility from Tableau

According to Tableau@MPRADIO_NET (Missing account) published most original tweets during this time period, but it was seldom retweeted, mentioned or commented on by others. So it would not be an KOL in the hip-hop field.

The top 4 accounts are retweeted most and they also formed the most significant clusters in Gephi and have huge influence among the discussion of hip-hop. They are all the most retweeted which matches the behavior of the twitter user. (retweeting from others rather than post their original tweets)

There was no account that overlap in top 5.

The most visible user @BamTheSinger is a singer from South Africa, she uploaded her latest video on Apr 24 and mentioned some famous musicians and this video was retweeted by lots of twitter users in the following days.

I guess this video made her one of the most influential users who mentioned #hiphop in the tweets on that day.

To prove the hypothesis mentioned above, I check the content in Voyant.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 17.27.43

Picture 4: Most commonly used words from Voyant

When we select the word “bamthesinger”, the most commonly used words in the same tweet were “video” and “bamtuesday”, which were largely related to her new video, proving that her activity and visibility on the day were related to the new video she posted.

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 19.24.30

Picture 5: Most significant clusters from Gephi

Also, as we can see in Gephi@BamTheSinger has highest degree among all the users because she was retweeted most by others and retweeted from others as well. However, the cluster is a little far away from other clusters and has low correlation with others.

The third and fourth significant users are @fatherama7 and @GuruPurpose, they shared the same cluster and more correlated to each other. These two users are both Rap/HipHop/R&B musicians on SoundCloud. There is more commonality between the two, so the degree of correlation is higher.


Let’s focus on the contents…

To analyze the attitude and contents that twitter users tweet, I randomly selected tweets from the overall tweets. From 6,068 tweets, 199 tweets were extracted from each 30.

In 199 tweets, 17 tweets are not written in English and 14 tweets are not that related to hip-hop music, so I removed them.

Then the sample number has been updated to 168.

Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 19.13.50


What’s their attitude towards Hip-hop music?


As we can see from the table, people are sharing links rather than posting their own comments and attitudes about hip-hop music. In 168 tweets, only 25 tweets show their attitude towards hip-hop music with 23 tweets positive and 2 tweets neutralize(Accounted for lower than 15%). On the contrary, most tweets do not mention their attitude, but simply share music and new things.


What are they sharing about Hip-hop on Twitter?


According to the coding results, almost all tweets include the link of hip-hop music (147 in 168 tweets, accounted for 87.5%) while only 17 tweets shared contents of musicians (Eg. Photos, videos, main page and so on). Some people shared some hip-hop news or events launched recently.

Only 36 tweets made their own comments on hip-hop music, and the correlation is not particularly strong. A very small percentage of people refer to the content associated with their mood, treating hip-hop music as a way to relax and release.


Further discover…

According to the findings above, it can be concluded that people do not like to publish deep thoughts about music on social media perhaps it is because people’s understanding and love of hip-hop music is only on the surface. From another perspective, it may also because of the fragmentation of social media content, long speeches are unlikely to appear on it.

Therefore, only a few people will have depth thinking towards hip-hop music. They only see it as a way of pastime and entertainment, not enthusiasm or inheritance. So the results from content analysis cannot prove the hypothesis in previous research to some extent.

Also, due to the limited sample size and time range, this study does not fully analyze what people are talking about when they talk about hip-hop. People’s discussion about hip hop is very hot and there is a rising trend, but people rarely go deeper. To understand hip-hop music, all discussions about hip hop are just a reflection of everyday life. Anyway, this result also provides a reference for future research directions.



By Matthew Kwong. (2016). The Impact of Music on Emotion: Comparing Rap and Meditative Yoga Music. Inquiries Journal, VOL. 8 NO. 05.

Lucien J. Flores. (2012). Hip-Hop is for Everybody: Examining the Roots and Growth of Hip-Hop. Inquiries Journal, VOL. 4 NO. 05.

Bretthauer, B., Zimmerman, T. S., & Banning, J. H. (2006). A feminist analysis of popular music: Power over, objectification of, and violence against women. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 18(4), 29-49.