Are Rappers Turning to Steroids?

A spokesman for Blige, who has reputedly used the human growth hormone jentropin and ocandrolone, denied the singer had taken steroids, according to Associated Press reports. Other entertainers were not available for comment.

Hip-hop historian Canton said he is not surprised that the baggy pants set is beefing up, especially those creeping toward 40.

"I've heard rumors," he said. "The last time I saw Timbaland [in 2002], he looked overweight. But when I saw him last year on an award show, he was all muscled. A flag goes up. You put two and two together."

Today's rap -- like the rest of American culture -- deifies the perfect body. "I changed the game, I got 'em doing stomach crunches," rapped LL Cool J. His last three album covers show him shirtless.

"This reflects society's obsession with body types," said Canton. "LL Cool J always had a physique that was popular with female consumers. There is a relationship between his body type and buying albums."

Canton cites Oprah's obsession with weight loss and the popularity of shows like Tyra Banks' "America's Next Top Model."

"Hollywood looks a particular way and rap artists are just getting into that," he said.

"Mary Bilge is getting older," said Canton. "She just came out with an album, and it's hard to maintain that look. It's a full-time job staying in shape. Dr. Dre and Busta Rhymes have added muscles as well. Timbaland said he had lot of self-doubt when he started out. Going to the gym and lifting weights became an obsession."

Role Models

But, said Canton, the hip-hop culture and its role models wield great influence among the young, "without a doubt."

While rappers may not be "great respecters of the law," they do not have as much influence as is popularly imagined, according to developmental psychologist Jeffrey Arnett.

"Any time something like this gets in the news, it makes steroid use seem more acceptable because it's happening among people they admire, and it is going to make it more likely among youth," said Arnett, who teaches at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

"But I'm also a skeptic about that simple equation between media influence and adolescent behavior," he said. "They [rappers] do lots of things that kids don't end up doing."

While rap has been popular for 15 years popularizing the "gangsta" culture, there is no evidence it inspires violence, according to Arnett, who said the national crime rate among adolescents has actually gone down.

Young children may be vulnerable to media images, but teens "are not easily manipulated," according to Arnett. "They know the difference between entertainment and reality."

"You can listen to these gangster rappers talk about their gun rights and drug use and how they treat women, but maybe you just like the beat."

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