‘Tell me what you love and I will tell you who you are’, goes an old saying. For decades now, psychologists have been trying to establish any truth to it. Can you really tell who a person is based solely on their musical preferences, for instance? Some experts believe you can, while others warn it’s not that simple. Let’s have a look at the link between music and criminal records.
Gangsta rap brought a decline in crime
Does being a rap fan make you more prone to violence? Gangsta rap appeared somewhere in the late 1980s and if you look at some of its most important artists the link between this hip hop subgenre and criminal activity is hard to miss. Look at some of the most influential musicians in this field, like Snoop Dogg or Tupak Shakur.
One of the most talented rappers of his generation, Tupak Shakur was gunned down in his driveway at the age of 25. Among the suspects in his murder was fellow musician The Notorious B.I.G., who was himself killed six months later.
As for Snoop Dogg, he was charged with murder in the 1990s, but was acquitted mostly because he was rich enough to afford a fantastic lawyer.
If the musicians are involved in criminal activity, what can we tell about their fans? Is this music responsible for the criminal behavior of its fans? The answer, according to some, is No. US statistics, where gangsta rap was born, point to a drop in crime as the music rose in popularity.
So, where is the problem? The main problem is with the audience. Before going mainstream, hip hop and gangsta rap attracted mostly listeners in urban ghettos, mostly inhabited by minority populations, areas already rife with crime. If anything, having this music to vent their anger, rap fans were less inclined to commit crimes and get a lengthy criminal record by the time they were 18.
Marilyn Manson and the Columbine massacre
Before hip hop appeared many conservative media pundits blamed heavy metal and rock for glorifying violence and corrupting the minds of the young, which if we look back to the past five decades it’s not true at all.
The only connection between this sort of music and violent crime is purely coincidental. Famous musician Marilyn Manson was vilified for his purported influence over the teenage perpetrators of the 1999 Columbine high school massacre. Only it wasn’t true. The two murderers were not dressed like Manson when they gunned down the kids at Columbine high school, as the press wrongly reported. Even if they had been, that doesn’t tell us much about the wider audience of a controversial artist like Marilyn Manson. After all, he has millions of fans and we haven’t seen them going around murdering people.
Just imagine if it were discovered that a certain murderer was crazy about a certain pizza sauce, would anyone blame hot spices in general? Not likely.
To sum it up, if one million people buy a certain album, with violent lyrics, and one of them goes and brutally kills his girlfriend can the music be blamed? It’s not that simple, a propensity for crime is determined by lots of factors, childhood trauma, upbringing, family history, social and economic status. You cannot really tell who is a criminal by their preferences alone. Many times doing a background character check like a national character check (criminal background checks used in Australia) on a person might surprise you as even the most innocent looking person can hide a long criminal past.