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October 21, 2011

The Influence of Brand Name Booze in Rap Music May Lead to Teen Drinking

Diddy With Ciroc.jpgResearchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine are starting to wonder if rap singers aren't subtly doing some free advertising for the alcohol industry.

They recently looked at 793 songs from Billboard Magazine's top 100 lists from 2005 - 2007 and discovered that 21.3% of them referred to alcohol. And almost a quarter of those songs referred to brand name alcohol. The brands that get the most mentioned were "Patrón Téquila, Grey Goose Vodka, Hennessy Cognac and Cristal Champagne."

Alcohol companies, of course, are happy to get the recognition, but it seems that many singers are also tangentially involved in the alcohol business. Jay-Z, for instance, owns a percentage of Armadale Vodka while Snoop Dogg was the face for Landy Cognac in 2008 and, not coincidentally, sang a song about it called Luv Drunk.

Now, studies are saying that US teens hear three brand names for every hour of rap music they listen to. Given that the average teen listens to 2.5 hours of music per day, your average kid is hearing 8 alcohol brand names daily.

Rapper With Alcohol.jpg

Some people say American teens are listening to a lot more than simply 2.5 hours of music, suggesting that they hear up to 34 alcohol brand names every day while they listen to music that promotes a "luxury lifestyle characterized by degrading sexual activity, wealth, partying, violence and the use of drugs."

It is no coincidence that the brand names that are most frequently mentioned are also the ones the teenage drinkers seem to prefer. This might be because the way rap stars associate good times with drinking. "The brand names were associated with wealth 63.4 percent of the time; sex, 58.5 percent; luxury objects, 51.2 percent; partying, 48.8 percent; other drugs, 43.9 percent and vehicles, 39 percent, according to the study."

This could suggest that this is a form of advertising that is inadvertently promoting drinking among teenagers. The high prevalence of brand names in rap music is "inconsistent with the alcohol industry's self-regulatory code to prevent marketing to underage drinkers."

Nobody is suggesting that the alcohol industry is part of some nefarious plot, but there is no doubt that drinking is something that musicians have glamorized for years. George Thorogood And The Destroyers sang gleefully of One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, an adaptation of a John Lee Hooker song from 1966.

The difference here, of course, is that now actual brand names are being touted.

Singing about drinking in the abstract, it seems to me, is a little bit different than singing about it and naming the actual labels on the bottles.

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Posted by William Lozito at October 21, 2011 7:43 AM
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