Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Laurel Graham, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Friedman, Ph. D.

Committee Member

William Tyson, Ph. D.


rap, music, media, signified, performance


Various forms of media penetrate our lives daily. Hip hop music has gained universal appeal and widespread success that permeates barriers of race, class, gender, age, and nationality. It is important for social service workers, parents, educators and other adults who interact with youth to understand the roles hip hop music and culture can play in the identities of those who are listening. In this study I conducted 12 open-ended interviews with adolescent hip hop fans about their music. The research presented in this thesis suggests that adolescent hip hop fans are making interpretations from the media and applying them to their understanding of themselves and the world.

The findings of this study show that these adolescent hip hop fans most saliently describe their interactions and understandings of hip hop music in terms of authenticity. This thesis builds upon Armstrong's (2004) forms of authenticity, incorporating what participants discussed about themes of realness and hoodness. These interviews also indicate that fans relate music's lyrics to their own lives and what they understand of other people's lives. Youth may understand hip hop images and messages as types of lived realities. Although further research is necessary, these findings suggest there may be a need for adolescents to refine media literacy skills to be critical of media images and messages.