How Derogatory Terms Are Normalized Through Music

Written by: Julie

Edited by: Chris

Visual by: Yana

Should art be censored? Where can we draw the line between artistic freedom and indecency? It is hardly uncommon to come across derogatory and offensive language in literature and music, all created in the name of artistic license. However, it goes without saying that there are exceptions to what words can be generally expressed and accepted in any given situation. The repetitive use of explicit lyrics in genres like Rap can cause it to be normalized and embraced as mere informal, colloquial expressions that hide their demeaning connotation towards specific groups of people. 

Throughout history, music has been a major driving force in the arts acting as a source of inspiration and a means of creative expression in many cultures, having a significant impact on the livelihoods of many people. These days, one can hear music in public spaces like shopping malls and streets; and listen to it in the privacy of their own homes. With advancements in technology, all kinds of music are easily accessible on any electronic device, through the use of applications such as Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, TikTok, and many more. While the spread of music has accounted towards numerous positive changes regarding the public, it is undeniably surrounded by numerous controversies, especially regarding its detrimental effects that have been highlighted in the past few decades.

Nowadays lots of popular music contains misogynistic, violent, and sexual terms, which can have harmful impacts on their listeners. Rap and hip-hop music, popular amongst younger audiences, are particularly notorious for featuring misogynistic lyrics. Given that these audiences may often be uninformed about these derogatory terms and are heavily influenced by music that contain them such as rap, they can start to feel as though using them in everyday language is normal. Although, it should be noted that rape culture, assault, and sexual abuse are often present in these genres, which not only dehumanizes the victims of these acts, but also normalizes them, while promoting concepts such as toxic masculinity. The presence of such topics has not only been a problem in music but the entertainment industry in general, which contributes to creating an unhealthy and damaging culture within it. 

There are many reasons why artists, despite knowing that the content in their lyrics can have a detrimental influence on the youth, continue to write and distribute these songs. Trends are a huge driving factor in the music industry, and there is currently a strong inclination by sales and marketing agents towards using misogynistic terminology in music. As a result, many artists are pressured to follow these trends to satisfy their producers, managers, advertisers, and the music consuming public. This is especially true for struggling, budding artists, as they rely heavily on record sales and public concerts to make their mark.  

Furthermore, people have the right to listen to what they want to listen to. They are not responsible for the criminal acts that rap artists smugly narrate, such as abuse, assault, and rape, and may just like the beat of the tune or want to live vicariously through the rappers’ lyrics. People, by nature, are curious and drawn to more provocative and controversial types of entertainment. As a result, people continue to consume their music.

In essence, it is important to be aware of the influence music has on us and our behavior, and to know that a large portion of the message behind lyrics are often distorted for business-related purposes. To ensure that these terms are less prevalent in the industry, we need to spread awareness of the dangerous effect they can have on audiences, including the youth, and show that there is a better way to create interest in music, and entertainment as a whole.

Works Cited

Asgedome, Ruby. “The Normalization of the ‘N-Word’.” The Unaffiliated Press, The Unaffiliated Press, 23 Mar. 2020,

Cairnduff, Neila. “Pop, Rap Lyrics Support a Culture Demeaning Women.” Maine Public,

Light, Alan, and Greg Tate. “Hip-Hop.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 27 July 2020,

Ochola, Elizabeth. “Gender Differences in the Perception of the Levels and Potential Effects of Violence in Popular Music: A Case of University of Nairobi Students.” International Journal for Innovation Education and Research, 2016, 

PDF file.