A content analysis of gun and gun violence references in fifty-cent lyrics

This study examined the references to guns and gun violence in fifty cent songs on his breakthrough, mainstream success, ‘Get rich or die trying’.

Altogether over eighteen tracks, there were 84 references to gun violence. 45% of songs contained 5 or more separate references. This was compared to Kanye West’s album ‘The college dropout’ which had only two references over 21 tracks. It should be noted that while 50 cents references were all very violent, the two references on Kanye West’s album had an anti-gun message, and specifically anti -gun in the hip-hop music scene where violence is increasingly becoming a problem, perhaps in part to rappers like 50 Cent. The research showed why there is so much controversy surrounding 50 Cent and that the allegations of him being an irresponsible gun-toting role-model are not totally unfounded. The research only focused on one 50 cent album, and the way I measured what was a reference and what wasn’t could be seen as vague or at least open for debate.

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However further research has been suggested.INTRODUCTIONRecent growth in gun crime, and gun culture have turned attention to reasons behind this trend. Hip hop has always been an easy target for groups who say that the music scene exerts a negative influence over those who listen to it. Nearly 350,000 people, in the US alone, were victims to murders, robberies and aggravated assaults where the perpetrator carried a firearm in 2003 (Brady et al.2004).

It was in this year that rapper 50 cent released his first studio, and breakthrough, album, ‘Get rich or die trying’. The record went to number one in the US and number 2 in the UK. The album went on to sell 11 million records worldwide. His lyrics were now reaching people overseas, white people in the suburbs as well as children. Many people soon found a problem with his violent lyrics and fifty came under fire from protest groups saying that he was glorifying gun violence. But as Jay Nordlinger, of the National Review, points out, fifty cent was certainly not the first to rap about such matters, however he does think there is a correlation between rap and guns, stating, “Many rappers sing of guns with almost lascivious glee”.

As fifty cent becomes more famous, his influence is felt further. He now has a shoe line as well as a film loosely documenting his life coming out. This film, it can be assumed, will have a fair amount of gun violence, including how fifty himself was infamously shot nine times. This film has also been accused of glamorising gun violence. Posters of fifty cent, real name Curtis Jackson, have depicted him with a microphone in one hand and a gun in the other.

Another shows him holding a baby with a gun tucked into his jeans. Najee Ali of Project Islamic HOPE states “Gun violence is one of the leading causes of death for young black males in South Central Los Angeles and across urban America, It’s irresponsible for Paramount Pictures to promote and market a movie that glorifies carrying guns. There were also numerous complaints about a Reebok advert which was said to glorify guns.Screenings of the films have also caused controversy not because of the protests but because of a shooting, which took place outside a theatre near Pittsburgh, in which one man was killed. Why is hip hop culture seemingly stalked by gun culture? Harold M. Clemens of allhiphop.com states, “violence, criminality, and delinquency too often take place in our neighbourhoods, since the perpetrators themselves are on record telling the public.” Fifty cent has taken a lot of criticism for allegedly glorifying guns, but is this because he a big star who people don’t get, or is there something behind the accusations? Accurate gun crime statistics are hard to come by because almost all who print them have an underlying motive to do so, however most sources will say the problem is getting worse.This study will help or answer that question or find out if 50 cent is partially responsible for rises in gun crime or if it is just concentrated areas of poverty that have lead to massive crime culture (Currie,1998) and an increases in gun crime.HYPOTHESISI predict that by reading the lyrics from all eighteen tracks on 50 cent’s breakthrough album ‘Get rich or die trying’ I will find a lot of gun and gun violence references proving that he is, in a way, glorifying gun violence to a massive audience, including children.METHODOLOGYI will go through the lyrics of fifty cent’s ‘Get rich or die trying’ album and note down every time there is a gun or gun violence reference on a track. Obviously this is just one album, and eighteen tracks, which in some ways may restrict the data collected, however it is his mainstream breakthrough album, which is why I am interested in it, and it’s effects.

By working out how many references there are I should be able to see how much fifty cent really does seem to glamorise guns, or if it’s all just exaggerated.Although gun references could be open for interpretation I have a set way of deciding whether it counts or not. The lyrics will have to be quite literal and obviously referring to gun violence. Words like gun, popper, nina, clip, shooter, shot, sprayed, bullets, etc will help define that reference is literal enough to be counted.To make the definition of gun violence ‘references’ unambiguous, I will be counting each reference line by line in the song. For example if a line has two references in it, to avoid the confusion of when it’s two separate references and when it’s really just one with two of the words from the above criteria, it will always be counted as just one reference.

Therefore a line cannot have more than one reference in it. Also, choruses and hooks that are repeated will only be counted the first time they are heard, every subsequent chorus or hook will be considered as the original reference.The sample size is eighteen tracks. This should be a good amount to see if guns are a recurrent theme or if they are only referred to once or twice in eighteen songs. After I have focused on ‘get rich or die trying’ I will look at another hip hop star who broke through into the mainstream the year after.

In 2004 Kanye West released “the college dropout” which was a huge mainstream success. By making this comparison I will be able to define if indeed fifty seems to be glorifying guns, if it is a characteristic across all hip-hop. I will be using the same method as above on the twenty one tracks on ‘the college dropout’.