Teens Hear 34 Liquor Brands a Day in Rap, Hip-Hop Music


Music Has Powerful Influence on Teens

In 2002, when Busta Rhymes released "Pass the Courvoisier," sales of that brand of cognac surged 18.9 percent, according to researchers. After that, Allied Domecq, its parent company, carved a "lucrative promotional deal" with both Rhymes and P. Diddy, who was also featured in the song.

A 2010 report in the Atlanta Post concluded that "up-and-comers" in the music industry were increasingly allowing their names and reputations to be used for product endorsements, not only in alcohol, but in clothing lines and television shows.

Jamie Foxx's "Blame It (On the Alcohol)" was a long-running No. 1 song on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart, as he sang about Patron tequila and Grey Goose vodka. There's even a ring tone for the 2009 song.

"Blame it on the goose

Got you feeling loose

Blame it on Patron

Got you in the zone"

"In short, everyone wants to be a mogul, wrote Caletha Crawford. "Liquor companies are happy to indulge the desire to diversify. Name an artist, and he probably has a deal."

The Post's in-depth report cited a 2005 study by the School of Public Heath at the University of California showing that 8 percent of rap songs had references to alcohol in 1979, but by 1997, 44 of them had alcohol references.

Brand name-drops rose from 46 percent to 71 percent in that same time period.

The ties between the music and alcohol industries are cozy because "there's a lot of money to be made, according to Jake Jamieson, editor of the blog Liquor Snob. "In fact, the liquor industry is getting almost free advertising."

But he argued that pop stars have been singing about alcohol for decades: "What about Jim Morrison and 'the next whisky bar' [from 'Alabama Song']? -- there have been drinking songs since the beginning of time. ... What's new is the association with brand names."

Young people see the good and bad consequences of alcohol use, according to Jamieson.

"Kids are also seeing what people like Amy Winehouse go through," he said. "And just because L'il Jon is rapping about doing shots ... the media is still representing both equally."

"I think the study overstates it a bit," he said. "Kids are not the only ones listening to rap. With beer commercials during football games, they are doing the same thing."

"People in their 20s are listening, as well," said Jamieson. "I don't get the sense that it is specifically aimed at underage kids. They are just singing and rapping about my life and what is important to me, and this is what I drink and drive. It's a token of my lifestyle."

But does that lifestyle send the wrong message to teens.

"The 'gangsta' mystique is really about aggressive self-indulgence," said Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media, culture and communications at New York University.

"It's highly consumeristic and not in any way socially conscious or beneficial to anyone's health," Miller said. "It builds on an old mystique that's more infantile than that. It's really about going to the crib and buying really ostentatious goods and drinking yourself into a stupor and using drugs and stashing huge guns."

He compared the power of music lyrics to the lure of cigarettes in movies and television in an earlier generation.

"It's not that the billboards said go out and buy them," he said. "We are talking about a general atmosphere and tacit assurance that smoking is OK and it's cool to do this.

"To be perfectly honest, at this point, it's not possible to solve the problem through some stroke of policy or regulation," said Miller. "There's really not much to do except point it out and get parents and kids themselves and some musicians to notice and do something about it."

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