Do Problem Music Subcultures
Cause Deviant Behaviour?
Chapter 1: Musicological Context 7
Chapter 2: Subcultural Context 25
Chapter 3: Sociological Context 40
“DO ‘PROBLEM MUSIC’ SUBCULTURES CAUSE DEVIANT BEHAVIOUR?”
“Genres such as heavy metal and rap have received considerable attention, being accused of
fostering violence and aggression” (Carpentier et al, 2002).
Heavy metal and rap are the two most established popular music genres in the world. They
are also the most studied and debated. Since, respectively, the 1980s and 1990s, heavy metal
and hip-hop subcultures have been subjected to rigorous research surrounding accusations of
causing deviant behaviour in individuals who listen to their music. Statements such as the
above have littered subsequent studies into a relationship between ‘problem music’ subcul-
tures and deviant behaviour.
Unfortunately, correlation is often mistaken for cause and, if the dichotomy between the
two is not clear, assumptions are made, information misinterpreted and conclusions estab-
lished which may, or may not be true. It is essential to redress the balance between correla-
tion and cause - in order to find out if there is any conclusive proof that these subcultures
cause deviant behaviour.
There is no shortage of material chronicling heavy metal and hip-hop subcultures and
deviance, to the extent that social psychologists Adrian C North and David J Hargreaves clas-
sified them, conjunctively, as ‘problem music’ subcultures in The Social & Applied Psychol-
ogy Of Music (2008). One chapter, ‘Problem Music And Subcultures’ (ps.143-236) confirms
that the roots of controversy into the influence of heavy metal were planted in the mid-1980s.
On 19th September 1985, a hearing was convened by the US Senate Committee on Com-
merce, Science and Transportation on the ‘Contents Of Music And The Lyrics Of Records’.
The focus of debate was aimed predominantly at heavy metal, whose songs were accused of
containing “basic themes such as extreme rebellion, violence, substance abuse, sexual
promiscuity, perversion, and Satanism (Stuessy, 1985)” (Took and Weiss, 1974). The same
year, US Vice President Al Gore Jr’s wife, Tipper Gore, founded the Parents Music Resource
Centre (PMRC) in reaction to the alleged “questionable lyrics” and “objectionable album
covers” of heavy metal. The PMRC accused the genre of backward masked lyrics, this aimed
directly at heavy metal band Judas Priest after two fans committed suicide, allegedly as a re-
sult of playing Judas Priest’s ‘Better By You, Better Than Me’, from their 1978 album
‘Stained Class’, in reverse. The case was successfully repudiated after evidence of the boys’
violent and abusive familial backgrounds proved reasonable doubt. However, Gore’s chapter,
‘Heavy Metal: Throbbing Chords & Violent Lyrics’, in her book, Raising PG Kids In An X-
Rated Society (1987), set the tone for widespread condemnation, ironically at a time when
heavy metal was the biggest-selling genre in the world (Epstein and Pratto, 1990, Walser,
In the 1990s, the PMRC turned its attention to hip-hop, as gangsta rap spawned such
acts as NWA, Ice-T and 2 Live Crew, all accused of encouraging gun violence against the
police. Imminent outrage resulted in the PMRC successfully legislating for ‘Parental Adviso-
ry - Explicit Lyrics’ stickers on ‘offensive’ music.
Attitudes towards ‘problem music’ subcultures may have mellowed since the turn of the
21st Century but the profusion of research over the past thirty years needs to be justified.
This dissertation, therefore, aims to ascertain whether or not they do cause deviant behaviour.
If not, alternative causes may be established as common denominators that link ‘problem mu-
sic’ with deviant behaviour through correlation, not cause.
As no topic may be discussed without first gaining knowledge of its basic facts, it is neces-
sary to trace the origins of heavy metal and hip-hop and their musical influences. Secondly,
as musical forms, they must be placed in a musicological context, vital also to ascertaining
what it is within the music and lyrics that may be a cause of deviant behaviour. The relative-
ly un-problematic genre of boy band music is used as a comparative case study throughout
Historic information has been gleaned from journalistic accounts and reputable academ-
ic sources: landmark publications such as Robert Walser’s Running With The Devil: Power,
Gender And Madness In Heavy Metal Music (1993), Tricia Rose’s Black Noise: Rap Music
& Black Culture In Contemporary America (1994) and The Hip-Hop Wars (2008) and Phillip
Vannini and Scott M Myers’ paper ‘Crazy About You: Reflections On The Meanings Of
Contemporary Teen Pop Music’ (2002). For musicological contexts, I present my own brief
analyses of carefully chosen songs from each genre, followed by overviews of musicological
research, significantly found in Andrew Cope’s Black Sabbath & The Rise Of Heavy Metal
Music (2010), Walser’s previously mentioned book, studies by Esa Lilja, ‘Theory And Analy-
sis Of Classic Heavy Metal Harmony’ (2009) and ‘Heavy Metal & Music Education’ (with
Ari Poutiainen in 2012) and by Paul Edwards, How To Rap: The Art & Science Of The Hip-
Hop MC (2009) and How To Rap 2 (2013). There is only limited research on boy band mu-
sic, this usually confined to brief comments on ‘activity schema’ in lyrical content, as in
David Machin’s analysis of Boyzone’s ‘So Good’ (1995) in Analyzing Popular Music: Im-
age, Sound, Text (2010, p.83).
Chapter 2 focuses on the subcultural capital of all three genres and the question of
membership of ‘problem music’ subcultures as a possible cause of deviant behaviour. This
necessitates researching the origins and definitions of subculture and deviance first. Formu-
lating my own definitions throughout the chapter, I finally present a conclusive definition of
‘problem music’ subcultures and the boy band subculture in order to gauge similarities and
differences between the two. Core resources include Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Mean-
ing Of Style, Keith Kahn-Harris’ Extreme Metal: Music And Culture On The Edge (2007),
Deena Weinstein’s Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology (1991), Ken Gelder’s Subcultures:
Cultural Histories & Social Practice (2007), Hjelm et al’s ‘Heavy Metal: Controversies &
Countercultures (2013), Dan Laughey’s Music & Youth Culture (2006) and John Patrick
Williams’ Subcultural Theory: Traditions & Concepts (2011).
The final chapter attempts to discover the specific types of deviant behaviour ‘problem
music’ subcultures are accused of causing through overviews and interpretations of sociolog-
ical studies. Alternative causes of deviance are discussed and the definition of ‘deviance’
revisited. Core sources are North & Hargreaves’ The Social & Applied Psychology Of Music
(2008), Rose’s Black Noise: Rap Music & Black Culture In Contemporary America (1994)
and The Hip-Hop Wars (2008), Bruce Johnson and Martin Cloonan’s Dark Side Of The Tune
(2009), Simon Frith’s The Sociology Of Rock (1978) and, again, Walser’s Running With The
My suggestion is that familial, environmental and social background may provide the
answers to both the existence and perception of ‘problem music’ subcultures, and prove to be
the common denominator between these and deviant behaviour. I also suggest that the term
‘deviant behaviour’ (and ‘deviance’) needs to be clarified.!
CHAPTER 1: MUSICOLOGICAL CONTEXT
Before researching heavy metal and hip-hop’s perceived roles as ‘problem music’ subcultures
and the extent of any contribution to deviant behaviour, it is necessary first to introduce and
define these genres. This chapter primarily presents an overall view of ‘problem music’ in
the broadest sense and, secondly, attempts to situate heavy metal and hip-hop in a musicolog-
ical environment. By way of comparison, the largely uncriticised genre of boy band music is
investigated in similar terms.
1. Heavy Metal (‘Metal’)
(a) Origins and Influences
It is generally agreed that metal surfaced in 1969 with the formation of Black Sabbath in
post-war Birmingham. Their weighty, ominous sound and Satanic image became a template
for the metal subculture. Judas Priest, also originating in Birmingham at the same time, in-
troduced a more anthemic metallic sound and an image of leather, studs and motorbikes.
Although its immediate roots lay in the UK, metal’s musical canon derived from a vari-
ety of American styles: black music, rock’n’roll and psychedelic rock in particular. The rev-
olutionary virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix, for example, became imbued in British metal after he
launched his career in London – passing on his inherent blues legacy, albeit distorted by ex-
treme guitar experimentation.
During the decade after Hendrix’s death in 1970, British bands like Motörhead, leaning
heavily on the shapes and themes of rock’n’roll and the blues, established a more primitive,
grittier form of ‘biker metal’ than the ostentatious theatricalities of Judas Priest or the dark,
occult inferences of Black Sabbath.
Other countries were also bringing their own innovative styles to the table: KISS from
the US, AC/DC from Australia and Germany’s The Scorpions substantiated metal’s global
impact. However, it was in the UK that the genre truly took off, spreading nationwide so
that, by 1980, a distinctive ‘headbanging’ movement had taken shape. Assuming a more
commercial persona, a new generation of metal bands led by Iron Maiden emerged under the
media banner the ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ (NWOBHM). Metal’s predominantly
white male fanbase swelled as songs became more infectious, but popular opinion still
viewed metal as dark, dangerous and undesirable.
Crossing to the US, metal was confronted by the PMRC. Although Gore’s initial reason
for creating the lobby revolved around the alleged effects of Prince’s ‘Darling Nicki’ on her
daughter, she soon swung her sights on to metal. The pandemic vilification of metal that fol-
lowed publication of her book is discussed in Chapters 2 and 3. Despite this, the genre thun-
dered on regardless, with American thrash bands ‘The Big Four’, Megadeth, Metallica, Slay-
er and Anthrax inciting more criticism with heavier, darker sets, and glam metallers Mötley
Crüe and Poison stirring up the genders with spandex and hairspray.
In the 1990s, metal confronted a threat to its identity for the first time. The advent of
grunge prompted aficionados and pundits to question the genre’s boundaries. Although
grunge was not metal per se, Nirvana revealed elements of metal in their punk-based, distort-
ed expurgation of youthful angst. The boundaries of the genre had blurred and, as a result,
metal split into sub-genres: industrial metal such as Ministry and White Zombie; hardcore
punk like Pantera and Machine Head; black metal, conceived in Norway but influenced by
Slayer and led by Emperor and Burzum; and the hybridal nu metal pioneered by the industri-
al/hardcore of Korn and rap metal of Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit, all became
exciting, alternative forms of metal for fans seeking more challenging fare.
Since the turn of the 21st Century, however, more technical forms of metal have materi-
alised from the muddy waters of metal classification. Since the 1990s, the mythological as-
pects have waned as less symbolic, harder-edged and more political bands have stripped
away any remaining theatrical facades, with extreme and New Socialist Black Metal
(NSBM). Extreme metal is an umbrella term that incorporates contemporary thrash, death
and doom metal, and NSBM bands such as Aryan Blood, Legion of Doom and Pantheon hold
ethics of racism, fascism and European paganism, a political derivative of black metal. Goth
or gothic metal, a sub-genre of goth rock (Fields Of The Nephilim, Sisters Of Mercy), should
also be mentioned here, as the likes of Evanescence and Nightwish have pervaded metal with
their paganistic, doom-laden and ethereal presence since the turn of the century.
(b) The Musicology Of Metal
It cannot be denied that metal is loud and aggressive - pounding drums, bottom heavy
grounded bass, frenetic, often down-tuned guitars experimenting with distortion and reverb
effects and saturated in fifth or ‘power’ chords and complicated, virtuosic solos, all fronted
by operatic or growling vocals, with sometimes vast tessituras. There is an intricacy to the
music residing beneath what may be perceived as gratuitously violent music. (Perceptions or
fears of metal may be partly explained by Howe et al’s observation in 2015 that “the large
vocal range and high notes hit by many metal singers brought simple lyrics and complex gui-
tar compositions to an intensity often found frightening by parents and mainstream society”.)
Certainly, metal’s intricacies have often been acknowledged, for example by Wallach
et al in Heavy Metal Rules The Globe (2011) when denoting a “musical complexity and eso-
tericism” (Wallach et al, 2011, p.4) to the genre.
It is a fact that metal’s sub-genres are legion, and even more splinter genres have been
conceived from these, such as NSBM from black metal, and melodic death metal, which
speaks for itself. However, I will focus on just some of the main sub-genres and ascertain
how each one veers from its ‘mother’ genre, metal. The label of each sub-genre provides the
first clue to its sound. The word ‘thrash’ conjures up a rapid, aggressive beating action:
evinced in thrash metal as fast guitar and bass picking and frantic strumming based on the
root of pedal notes, full velocity drums and screaming vocals.
‘Black’ suggests Satanic elements, and black metal’s punk or thrash-derived sound,
overlaid with power chords, depicts this with guttural rasps and Satanic lyrics. This is a de-
velopment from Black Sabbath’s Satanic image play and doom-laden sound but with more
serious intent on projecting a tangible darkness of sound.
Hardcore originates from British hardcore punk, an influence NWOBHM bands had
already acknowledged in the early 1980s. This is punk played at full throttle with the benefit
of technically clean metal power chords and a much denser, bassier texture than the looser
punk archetype. Death metal focusses on power, usually in the form of double-bass drums
and growling vocals, whilst doom has a slow, sludgy quality.
With Black Sabbath acknowledged as progenitors of all the above, it seems appropriate
to briefly analyse their early standout track, ‘Paranoid’ (1970). Although much of their mate-
rial to this point had been slower and bluesier, ‘Paranoid’ was as brisk and short (2:53 min-
utes) as the relative time it took to compose (two days). The title itself warns of its intent,
and the intro instantly lends credence to the lyrical content: guitarist Tony Iommi revs up
with an 8-bar intro of E-minor hammer-ons, with Bill Ward’s drums laying down a weighty
4/4 foundation in the second four bars, before Ozzy Osbourne’s reverb-laden vocals emerge
to dance around the E-minor tonic (leaning on the seventh in G-major on ‘me’ to create ten-
sion). The morbidity of the sound is a result of Iommi downtuning his guitar to make playing
easier after his fingertips were cut off in an accident and replaced by metal prosthetics.
Downtuning is now widespread in metal, so it could be said Iommi's accident was responsi-
ble for the sound of metal guitar. ‘Paranoid’ is not the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure
archetypal of popular music but, rather, 112 bars split into five 8-bar verses separated by 8-
bar bridges, with a brief 8-bar chorus appearing only once.
Considering now a more up-to-date track from pioneers of nu-metal Korn, we can see
how far metal has developed. ‘Prey For Me’, from ‘The Paradigm Shift’ (2013), extolls the
virtues of hardcore and industrial, its colossal texture aided by boosted amps and floor pedals
and a plethora of effects and dynamics added to vocals. The track is in 4/4 tempo and B-mi-
nor pitch, revolving predominantly around the tonic, with subtle modulations into G major
(sliding down from C-sharp to C), effectively creating instability at the end of phrases. The
harmonic momentum does not modulate except in the bridge when it decelerates to open up
more space before the rush and density of texture and volume returns.
Metal’s capacity to infuse power and weight into simple musical themes has resulted in
the genre splintering into multiple sub-genres and co-mingling with seemingly adverse styles,
so that “musical complexity” (Wallach et al, 2011, p.4) seems an appropriate description.
The genre’s extensive influences are also responsible for permeating other popular music
styles, and some of these have merged with metal.
The breadth of metal’s musical canon was not acknowledged until Robert Walser’s
Running With The Devil: Power, Gender And Madness In Heavy Metal Music in 1993. Until
this time, metal hardly existed on the academic radar. The genre was still obscure and
seemed to pose a threat to society with its aggressive sound, disturbing lyrics and intimidat-
ing, non-conformist fashion.
In the 1980s, the political climate was not on metal’s side, with Maggie Thatcher’s
Conservative UK government consorting with Ronald Reagan’s Republican US government.
With the founding of the PMRC, there was even less reason to explore metal’s musicological
virtues. Even the title of Gore’s chapter on metal, ‘Heavy Metal: Throbbing Chords & Vio-
lent Lyrics’, suggested a careless disregard for objectivity, or even descriptive accuracy. How
do chords ‘throb’? This was a typical example of the kind of vague, inappropriate and dis-
missive criticism that would dog metal for decades.
Books on the genre generally focused on specific bands and were predominantly jour-
nalistic - until the early 1990s when a trio of academic books was published, Deena Wein-
stein’s Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology (1991), Arnett’s Metal Heads: Heavy Metal And
Adolescent Alienation (1996) and Walser’s book. The former are irrelevant here for their so-
ciological emphases but Walser’s book is significant.
The book was not purely a reaction to the PMRC. It also convincingly illuminates met-
al’s musicality with intense examination of its classical virtues. Highlighting metal’s reliance
on the pentatonic scales of African-American blues in its harmonic progressions, vocal lines
and guitar improvisations, Walser then painstakingly demonstrates the similarities between a
number of well-known rock and metal guitarists and classical composers (including Ritchie
Blackmore and Vivaldi, Randy Rhoads and Bach).
These comparisons with classical significantly provided a familiar benchmark, of a
“culturally more prestigious music” (Walser, 1993, p.59), for classical theorists to use when
contemplating metal, albeit these comparisons are more often found in rock repertoires. Vir-
tuosity is not metal’s main strength but, rather, as is evidenced by ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Prey For
Me’, weight, volume and texture.
Prior to the publication of Running With The Devil, Walser had written an essay with
Susan McClary in 1988 entitled ‘Start Making Sense! Musicology Wrestles With Rock’, in
which they suggest scholars have problems negotiating “the space between conventional mu-
sicology and the study of popular music” (Walser and McClary, cited in Cook and Everist,
1999, p.456). However, as Running With The Devil later emphasises the correlation between
classical and metal, it would seem Walser had discovered a method of mediating this space,
at least between the studies of these two genres.
Running With The Devil remains the academic ‘bible’ of metal, although another, equal-
ly comprehensive book has since been published by Andrew Cope, which will be discussed
shortly. Prior to this, another duo of academic books on metal was published – Glenn Pills-
bury’s Damage Incorporated: Metallica & The Production Of Musical Identity (2006) and
Keith Kahn-Harris’ Extreme Metal: Music And Culture On The Edge (2007). These books
are a landmark in metal studies, highlighting the effectiveness of interdisciplinary research,
and illustrating problems studying metal exclusively from a musicological point of view.
Black Sabbath’s roots in Birmingham, for example, were becoming vital to understanding the
In 2005, Finnish scholar Esa Lilja did, however, attempt an entirely musicological ap-
proach to his thesis, Characteristics Of Heavy Metal Chord Structures - Their Acoustic &
Modal Construction & Relation To Modal & Tonal Context. In 2009, Lilja’s paper, Theory &
Analysis Of Classic Heavy Metal Harmony, continued his attempt to tackle an issue musicol-
ogists appeared to have little time for, that is even “basic work with musical structures” (Lil-
ja, 2009). Three years later, Lilja collaborated with Ari Poutiainen to publish Heavy Metal &
Music Education (2012) highlighting metal’s affiliation with a Western tonal music tradition,
this fact used to qualify their claim that “using heavy metal repertoire provides a ground for
constructive pedagogy” (Lilja and Poutiainen, 2012). Since Lilja and Poutiainen’s paper,
metal has joined the syllabus at a number of universities in the US and the UK.
Andrew Cope’s Black Sabbath & The Rise of Heavy Metal Music was published in
2010. The book with a “balanced consideration of the aesthetics which drive, and the social
conditions which favour the creation of the music” (Cope, 2010, p.3). He names his mentor
as Franco Fabbri, referencing the latter’s A Theory Of Music Genres: Two Applications
(1981) as a template for investigating “the mechanics of metal” (ibid, p.44). Cope interprets
Fabbri’s definition of musical genre - “a set of musical events…whose course is governed by
a definite set of socially acceptable rules” (Fabbri, 1981, p.55, cited in Cope, 2010, p.1) - as a
union of compositional, performative, social and aesthetic codes. These codes, however, do
not appear from nowhere. The “set of musical events” (ibid) to which Fabbri refers indicate
previous and existing genres from which new genres emerge, distinguishing themselves by
transgressing against the old during the natural infusion of social and aesthetic environment.
Cope explains metal’s musical codes, as conceived by Black Sabbath. These codes can be
found in the music of Pantera, Slayer and Cradle of Filth, for example, and Cope highlights
key elements resulting from down-tuned and seven-string guitars, that is “specific textural
and timbral elements” (Cope, 2010, p.44). He continues: “crucial key intervals, such as the
tritone and flat 2nd, are combined with the privileging of monotonic and power-chord
riffs” (ibid). Comparisons with classical music are inevitable.
Between Walser’s and Cope’s books, much has been achieved by other scholars, in ef-
fect placing stepping stones to enable easier navigation of the complex waters of popular mu-
sicology today. As a culmination of studies up to 2010, Cope’s book presents the most ap-
propriate stance from which to study metal today.
(a) Origins and Influences
Hip-hop’s direct origins lie in the working-class housing projects of what was called New
York’s ‘Boogie Down Bronx’ district in the early 1970s (Lipsitz, 1994, p.26). This was an
era of urban regeneration and, with the black population swelling cities in the north, having
migrated from the oppressive south over the past few decades, it was necessary to construct
new housing. Whilst the white, more affluent folk remained on the outskirts, the housing
projects were built within the heart of New York (Watkins, 2005, p.9).
Hip-hop rose from the Bronx as a vehicle for alternative identity construction amongst
predominantly black youth. Frustrated by lack of resources and ignored by society, the sub-
culture created its own language, street names and ‘posses’ within self-styled neighbour-
hoods. The reality of living within a self-governed subculture resulted in battles for social
status. Within this dog eat dog existence, hip-hop’s voice had ample ammunition for its street
The collective memory of the black American population is well-known, borne from the
deprivation, marginalisation and slavery of African people, but also further back to South
African tsotsis gangs and to Jamaica. The musical roots of hip-hop’s vocal expression, rap,
lie principally in gospel and blues and, more poignantly, slave ‘spirituals’, coded communica-
tions that slave masters could not understand. Pioneer of hip-hop research Tricia Rose makes
a clear connection between spirituals and rap in her book Black Noise (1994) when she writes
of “public and hidden transcripts” (p.99) as a means of rising from ‘underclass’ status through
creative guile so that, over the past half century, hip-hop has become a “politically and social-
ly significant music genre” (Schneider, 2010). (More discussions on rap will follow in sec-
To term hip-hop a music genre, however, is not strictly accurate. Hip-hop is the subcul-
ture, the movement, of an oppressed people. The subculture - as all popular music subcul-
tures - creates a space within which creative expression can exist, embodying a lifestyle of its
own: in this case, breakdancing, graffiti, rapping (or MC-ing) and DJ-ing. Gang member DJ
Afrika Bambaataa is credited as the first to describe hip-hop as a ‘subculture’, forming Zulu
Nation in an attempt to “channel the anger of young people in the South Bronx away from
gang fighting and into music, dance and graffiti” (Bennett, 2001, p.89).
With local schools too poor to afford musical instruments, those intent on expressing
themselves adapted what scant resources they had. This resourcefulness manifested itself in
the forms we have seen above: manipulating the body through breakdancing, using artistic
talent for graffitti, rap (the music genre), the vocal manifestation of the subculture’s identity,
and DJ-ing, the manipulation of technology for the purposes of sampling and mixing ‘break-
beats’ for the MC. Afro-American DJ Grandmaster Flash, one of hip-hop’s pioneers, exploit-
ed his flair for repairing electronic equipment for the benefit of his DJ-ing prowess, he and
other DJs using portable stereos or ‘ghetto blasters’ as substitutes for instruments, cutting and
editing tapes of existing recordings from eclectic sources to create their own sounds, blasting
them through the streets at high volume. Rapping or MC-ing began as accompaniment to the
beats of these DJs, and collaborations developed into organised street ‘jams’ involving break-
dancing and graffitti contests and competitive rapping duels.
From The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’ (1979), the first successful commercial
breakthrough for rap, the hip-hop subculture has risen to unprecedented heights, permeating
society with its fashion, language and ideals, the old pioneers now – on the face of it – estab-
lished members of society.
The subculture has been through what Chuck D of Public Enemy terms ‘eras’: the
defining old school era (mid-1970s to mid-1980s), refining golden era (mid-1980s to early
1990s), nu school era (1991 to 1998), during which sub-genres emerged, and future school
(1998 to the present) when hip-hop touched the mainstream. Now, worldwide hip-hop com-
munities are glocalised concerns which adapt the original subculture’s modes of expression to
rally against their own societal demons. (The term ‘glocalised’ derives from the Japanese
business convolution of ‘globalised’ and ‘localised’ in the 1970s - referring to products
adapted for specific global localities - popularised and interpreted in sociological terms by
Roland Robertson in the mid-1980s (Robertson, 1995).)
It is to the hip-hop subculture’s vocal expression, rap, that I now turn to discuss this vo-
cal phenomenon as a musical form.
(b) The Musicology Of Rap
Rap is a vocal form of music, street poetry spoken by MCs in rhythm to ‘backbeats’ engi-
neered predominantly in recording studios by DJs from samples and loops cut and spliced
from an eclectic range of pre-existing music. The MC’s ‘flow’ (the rhythms and rhymes
within a hip-hop song) is based on these strident, bottom-heavy beats which provide a
weighty rhythmic foundation for the MC’s (usually) confrontational first-person observations
of life in the inner cities. Unlike metal, rap does not revolve around groups of musicians - the
MC is invariably perceived as a lone artist, albeit in conjunction with a DJ.
Rap’s sub-genres are not as manifold as metal’s but their very existence is a testament
to its flexibility. These sub-genres emerged during the nu school era when gangsta rap came
to the fore and caused a dichotomy between the original reality rappers who did not subscribe
to its commerciality or violence, and those eager to be a part of it.
From the original reality rap born strictly from first-hand experience, the less ghetto-
centric knowledge rap has grown; there are also rap fusions: jazz rap, gospel rap and, as seen
in the section on metal, rap metal. It is a style of expression that can, and has been incorpo-
rated into a plethora of global genres.
The most notorious rap is the gang-related and most exploited form, gangsta rap - “tak-
ing the ‘keeping it real’ mantra…to the extreme” (Watkins, 2005, p.103). One of the most
infamous gangsta/hardcore rap albums is ‘Straight Outta Compton’ by NWA (1988), one of
the first albums to receive a ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker, and the title track is no exception to
its antagonistic rule, a prime example of gangsta rap. A straight 4/4 marching beat gives the
track an almost military-style purpose boosted by confrontational lyrics split into three 32-bar
verses, each spoken by a different NWA member. A monotonous two-chord piano riff in C-
sharp maintains the beat behind the MCs, with a funky groove that injects a swing into the
rhythm. Between verses, scratching and blasts of sampled brass break up incendiary lyrics
such as ‘Squeeze the trigger, and bodies are hauled off/You too, boy, if ya fuck with me/The
police are gonna hafta come and get me’. The vocals are on a trajectory of their own, domi-
nating the entire track, so that the backing acts as little more than basic accompaniment.
The initial presumption that rap speaks purely from a black point of view has been con-
tradicted by the existence of glocalised hip-hop communities - and one particular white rap-
per by the name of Eminem (aka Marshall Mathers), whose ‘The Real Slim Shady’ (2000)
catapulted him to rap stardom. The young Marshall grew up as a white boy in an Afro-Amer-
ican neighbourhood in Detroit, frequently suffering racism, both verbal and physical. How-
ever, his skilful flow bought him a ticket to the hip-hop community - a turning point in rap
history - and, after coming second in a major rap competition, he was signed by NWA’s Dr
Dre to his label in 1998.
‘The Real Slim Shady’ derived from a Dr Dre drum track, which bassist and keyboard-
player improvised with until the distinctive C-minor motif emerged amidst a 4/4 tempo. Em-
inem experimented with alliteration and the theme of Eminem copycats, rapping to the sim-
ple, repetitive backing track with lyrics like ‘I’m sick of you, little girl and boy groups/All
you do is annoy me, so I have been sent here to destroy you’. In the chorus, his flow drops
neatly into the groove of the dominant riff, syncopating more faithfully with the melodic line
of the keyboard but, at the same time, increasing the tempo to 4/8 with a more rapid, spitting
vocal, enabling the chorus to play a more prominent part, despite the lack of harmonic
change. This kind of simple, unwavering backing track is prevalent in most rap - understand-
ably, given that vocals are core to the genre and, by default, must be the most arresting ele-
Where, then, did the vocal tradition of rap originate? Rap’s history stretches back to the
latter part of the 19th Century when West African griots (travelling singers and poets who car-
ried their traditions on to slave ships) and Caribbean folk artists told stories in rhyme to the
accompaniment of a single drum. This rhythmic vocal tradition permeated the spirituals re-
ferred to above, the voice of the black collective memory singing its spiritual cipher, or innu-
endo, to hide the “content of their everyday actions from the dominant society” (Williams, p.
53). One of the most famous spirituals was ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ (1909), which refers
to the underground railroad, the route to freedom via the Mississippi River, coded in the song
as the ‘River Jordan’. Imbuing itself in blues and gospel as ‘call and response’, this inge-
nious method of encrypted communication has travelled down the generations to rap as a
“living record of a people’s journey” (Hebdige, p.31).
Rose points out that “rap is fundamentally literate” (Rose, 1994, p.95), qualifying this
by explaining that the lyrical texts in rap are a “dynamic hybrid of oral traditions…(and)…
postliterate orality”, and that rap lyrics are a “critical part of a rapper’s identity” (ibid). How-
ever, this literacy goes hand-in-hand with the “deeply technological” origins of rap, and Rose
stresses that its primary force is sonic. Rap owes a huge debt of gratitude to technology, and
the DJs who have commandeered its basic tools to create the backdrop for rap’s artful litera-
cy. In 1996, Les Back assimilated the rap DJ to a skilled “craftsperson”, paying tribute to
‘him’ by making comparisons with what Lévi-Strauss (1976) called a ‘bricoleur’ or craftsper-
Here a beat or passage is identified by the DJ and, using two copies of the record,
it is intermixed, enabling the seamless repetition of a percussive section of a par-
ticular record (Back, 1996, p.192)
In 2001, Adam Krims published Rap Music & The Poetics Of Identity which, amidst a
cavalcade of cultural comment, comprises a chapter entitled ‘Music Analysis & Rap Music’.
In this, Krims urges musicologists to amend the term ‘music theory’ to ‘music poetics’ and
incorporate audience studies in the equation. His own analysis is commendably detailed – a
tripartite dissection of flow-styles and semantics. Walser, too, contributes to Moore’s book,
analysing Ice Cube’s 1992-released ‘When Will They Shoot?’, stating that “much could be
said about the rhythmic and linguistic virtuosity of his rapping” (Walser, cited in Moore, p.
32) but making the following significant statement:
Sociological information is often taken to be quite distant from the concerns of
musical analysis…knowledge of these conditions of poverty and injustice is abso-
lutely essential, because without it, the analyst cannot possibly understand why
this music has taken the form it has (ibid, p.33)
In 2007, Krims published his Music & Urban Geography, in which he emphasised that reality
rap had “shifted its urban ethos from a depiction of the impacted ghetto to a celebration of
material wealth in the late 1990s” meaning knowledge rap, implemented by those whose so-
cial circumstances had changed and, with them, the content of their songs. In the late 1990s,
rap, like metal, was splitting into sub-genres.
Despite its versatility in the face of change, however, rap, like metal, has been dis-
missed as musically singular. Rose recalls the reaction of an ethnomusicologist professor on
submitting the idea of a University project on rap as dismissive, regarding the music as
“nothing” because of its apparent “simplicity” and “repetitiveness” (Rose, 1994, p.63).
During the first decade of the 21st Century, Paul Edwards published two books on rap:
How To Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC, published in 2009, and How To Rap 2
in 2013. Edwards develops Krims’ interpretation of rap in a language that can be understood
outside popular musicology, although his theoretical instruction of vocal techniques is as
complex as any traditional music theory lesson. He discusses the fundamental facets of all
music theory: pitch, rhythm, tempo, structure, phrasing, etc., before explaining the different
rapping techniques - battling, and its many different modes, content forms and how to
achieve song structures with content tools; freestyle and studio rap, rhythm and flow, beat
structures, rhyme schemes, stuttering and repetition, layering, delivery and how to punctuate
the offbeat and manipulate pitch. Edwards has picked the basic musicological tools he needs
and moulded them into a language rap students can relate to.
In light of these ground-breaking books and bearing in mind Rose’s experience above,
it is pertinent to note here that hip-hop courses are now among the biggest growth areas in
American academia. Studies on Public Enemy and KRS-One are now more popular than
those on Baldwin and Wright. This is an extraordinary development in popular musicology’s
understanding of rap, and the reasons may lie in music scholar Adam Bradley’s following ac-
Rap rhymes so much and with such variety that it is now the largest and richest
contemporary archive of rhymed words. It has done more than any other art form
in recent history to expand rhyme’s formal range and expressive possibilities.
3. Boy Band Music
(a) Origins and Influences
Arguably, any band comprising solely young males is a boy band - even metal and hip-hop
bands. However, it appears the title of ‘boy band’ is predetermined by a combination of age,
looks, some vocal talent, and a willingness to be shaped by the music industry. The rewards
for this package of attributes are chart success and teen adulation.
Although the term ‘boy band’ did not exist until the 1990s, its history may be traced
back to the 1960s, to The Beatles and The Monkees. The former, although the first all-male
band to trigger unbridled teen hysteria, were, of course, a self-styled band, but actor/musi-
cians The Monkees became the first ‘manufactured’ group with their own TV show, an un-
precedented phenomenon of music industry manipulation. Although they endeavoured to
become a ‘real band’, even Monkee Micky Dolenz admitted: “The Monkees really becoming
a band was like the equivalent of Leonard Nimoy [Star Trek’s Mr Spock] really becoming a
Vulcan” (Kennedy, 2004).
In the late 1960s and 1970s, it was ‘family bands’, brothers The Jackson 5 and The Os-
monds, who were in vogue, gathering an unprecedented number of teenage fans whose ambi-
tions were to marry a Jackson or an Osmond or, failing that, acquire their autographs, attend
every gig possible, own every album and single, join their fan clubs and buy their merchan-
dise. In 1966, Scotland’s The Bay City Rollers provoked hysterical reactions, their ‘Tartan
Army’ mimicking their idols by dressing in short tartan trousers and platform boots.
In the 1980s, the presence of formulaically assembled all-boy groups harmonising to
carefully styled compositions and professionally played backing tracks became common-
place, this following in the ‘tradition’ of The Monkees. The first of these manufactured bands
was Boston’s New Edition, credited as initiating the idea of hanging on to the musical coat
tails of successful genres. New Kids On The Block, formed in 1984, carried the boy band
baton to the next level, their mentor Maurice Starr furthering New Edition’s ethos by success-
fully nurturing them into a pop version of an R’n’B group.
By the late 1990s and 2000s, the elevation of boy bands into global multi-million sell-
ing products had increased dramatically, with the UK’s East 17 and Take That, Ireland’s
Westlife and Boyzone and, from the US, Boyz II Men, N’Sync and Backstreet Boys all dom-
inating the charts.
Since then, it has continued to be the ambition of many teenage boys (of any class or
colour) to form a boy band and become the teenage girl’s poster boy; and the dream of many
teenage girls to meet these handsome boys. Some of the latter form their own bands to im-
press the panels of such reality TV programmes as Simon Cowell’s X-Factor; others are still
compiled from a formulaic image of good looks, basic musical and dancing talent, and ma-
nipulated by the music industry - managers, songwriters and producers - into pleasing pack-
ages. The latest of these is One Direction, manoeuvred into such a position by Simon Cowell
himself, who forged the band from a combination of five solo X-Factor contestants.
Although most boy bands fall by the wayside when they become too old to appeal to
teenage audiences, there are those who have survived: as complete bands who have continu-
ously stayed together (Backstreet Boys, still existing after twenty years, and Westlife, who
survived fourteen years); reformed (Take That and Boyzone); or individually (Robbie
Williams and Gary Barlow, the latter a success story of boy band member turned prolific
songwriter and music industry mogul). Those bands who have remained intact could, in es-
sence, be termed ‘man bands’, maturing from boyhood, taking their fans with them and ap-
pealing to new, older audiences.
The boy band phenomenon has become an established part of the music industry, re-
garded perhaps as a necessary sweetener for life’s realities. Their presence has become a ac-
cepted part of a teenage girl’s transition through puberty, providing a distracting ‘idol’ for
them to dream about when real-life relationships are not so fruitful.
Finally, as pointed out at the beginning of this section, any band of young males is a
boy band, whatever the genre. Unlocking The Truth, a black trio from Brooklyn, New York,
were only thirteen years old when they formed in 2007. So far, so ‘boy band’. However, Un-
locking The Truth play vigorous metal with no vocals, and perhaps it is this that has driven
them away from the clutches of ‘boy band’ moguls and into the hands of Sony Music for a
five-album record deal. Whether this proves to be fruitful for them in the long run remains to
be seen, but they have already supported the likes of Metallica and Guns N’Roses and con-
tinue to cause a stir in metal circles. It is interesting that they derive from the home of rap
and yet, despite rampant bullying at school, have resolutely stuck to their guns and main-
tained their love of metal. It is to their credit that they have removed themselves from all
stereotypes - rap, metal (to a degree) and, of course, boy band music.
(b) The Musicology Of Boy Band Music
Boy band music cannot be defined as a single musical form, as it does not adhere to one mu-
sical canon. This may be true of metal and rap, particularly in the 21st Century when both
have merged with other musical styles - but boy band music is intentionally contrived to shift
its style according to current trends and, as such, is a transient and dominant presence in pop
music. As Phillip Vannini and Scott M Myers explain:
Boy band music or ‘teen pop’ is a subcategory of pop music and therefore incor-
porates a diversity of genres, including rock, R’n’B, rap, dance and even country
– indeed, whatever genre is commercially successful enough to be featured on the
Billboard Top 200 charts at the time and, therefore, currently popular (Vannini and
To attempt a musicological debate on boy band music is to attempt analyses of a heteroge-
neous array of musical styles. However, there are core attributes despite its diverse canon.
Although it adapts existing styles into pleasing pop tunes, the emphasis of all boy band music
is on perfect resolutions, dynamic textures and cyclical structures. Of course, within this
model alterations may be made - parallel movements, dominant modulations for the sake of a
rousing chorus and minor adaptations to a motif’s basic form (such as more or less texture,
faster or slower harmonic change). The motif itself, or ‘hook’, is contrived to uplift listeners
and take them on a journey through tension to resolution, in both music and lyrics. The latter
lean heavily on love and romance, themes of world peace, words that, like the music, resolve
to please and excite, but not without a bit of teasing (i.e. tension) on the way.
Taking two of the most successful boy bands, East 17 and One Direction, this activity
schema can be seen in the former’s ‘Let It Rain’ (1995) and the latter’s ‘Best Song
East 17’s ‘Let It Rain’ is one of the most interesting boy band anthems, a multi-layered
production in E major based around a 4/4 tempo, lyrical content proclaiming that love can
solve the problems of the world, or at least provide a distraction. Split into four strict 8-bar
phrases repeated cyclically, each time varying in texture, it is a lesson in pop dynamics. The
song opens with the sound of spinning helicopter blades to create suspense before a dramatic
16-bar spoken intro, backed by swirling synth aching to resolve, this building up to the lively
8-bar chorus - ‘let it rain’ - followed by a frantic 8-bar disco infusion with dabs of rhythmic
synth. After this, an 8-bar rap is followed by an 8-bar bridge (with only the word ‘love’ sung)
before the chorus and disco parts. This process is repeated, this time with minimal chorus tex-
ture to create a lull before the disco phrase and a final chorus before the song fades out to the
sound of thunder. As with many popular music songs which use 4/4 tempo, there is the am-
biguous suggestion of increasing to 4/8 in the chorus when vocal melody speeds up, appear-
ing to increase harmonic change.
One Direction’s ‘Best Song Ever’ (in C-sharp major) is faithful to this rousing, an-
themic schema. Opening with four bars of tinkling keyboard and a 4-bar, three-chord burst
of synth, the song comprises a 12-bar verse, 12-bar chorus cycle (the last four bars particular-
ly infectious: ‘I think it went oh, oh, oh/I think it went yeah, yeah, yeah’). This cycle is re-
peated before a lull for the 12-bar bridge, followed by an extended 20-bar chorus (including
the 4-bar vocal hook), and finally the track fades into an 8-bar outro, mirroring the intro.
Dynamically, the song sounds like it is played by a full band at times (a proficient backing
band, of course), used in boy band music for effective dynamics, and suggesting a nod to the
revival in popularity of guitar music, either solo or in a group setting.
This does not, however, seem to include the kind of guitar music espoused in metal, as
virtuosic guitar solos and crunching chords are not seen as marketable in terms of singles
chart success. Unlocking The Truth, therefore, need have no fear of competition, nor do they
need to retain their youth or looks as they quietly hone their talents behind the glare of the
boy band spotlight.
The aim of this chapter was to introduce and define metal and hip-hop. Whilst it is possible
to trace their origins and influences, establishing these genres in musicological terms is not so
straightforward. Judging by inconclusive attempts by scholars to gain better understanding of
‘problem music’ purely from a musicological point of view, it appears there is more to metal
and hip-hop than music. The latter is also true of boy band music and yet there is no ‘prob-
lem’ attached to it. Why?
Even when boy bands adopt the images and sounds of ‘problem music’ - East 17’s rap
and Unlocking The Truth’s metal, for example - they are not perceived as problems. Perhaps
it is because any threat suggested by the image and style of ‘problem music’ is eradicated by
sanitisation, lyrics manipulated into less confrontational prose, music toned down into less
aggressive ‘boy band’ pop. This would appear to answer the question, “what is the problem
with ‘problem music’?” and yet image, music and lyrics are the mere tip of the iceberg.
To this end, the focus should not solely be on what is conveyed and how it is conveyed,
but why and by whom. After all, when East 17 strut about onstage dressed as MCs, any moral
panic the sight of baseball caps and low-slung pants may cause is tampered by their looks, the
uplifting quality and easy hooks of music and lyrics, and the response is a different kind of
hysteria. Boy bands are seen as harmless, the effects on ‘teenyboppers’ no worse than the
teenage crushes they may have on boys at school - part of the ‘normal’ process of growing
up. Perhaps, also, parents feel a sense of trust in the music industry watchdogs who control
and monitor these acts.
The audience and its reaction are an important part of any act, so ‘to whom’ a message
is conveyed should also be considered - that is, the subculture. It is, therefore, the whole
‘problem music’ package - not just the image, music and lyrics, but the origins of these and
the subculture - that needs to be considered when studying metal and hip-hop as negative in-
As these genres are two of the most established music genres in popular music, it is
necessary to contextualise their music in light of subcultural circumstance and social envi-
ronment to explore the reasons for their existence before considering any deviant influence.
Boy band music needs no such contextualisation as it is not perceived as a ‘problem music’
subculture, but comparisons must still be made in order to gauge any differences between this
subculture and the subcultures of metal and hip-hop.
This chapter cannot end without noting that popular musicology’s key researcher, Si-
mon Frith, is a sociologist, whose career is based around the sociological implications of
popular music. It is hardly surprising, then, that for popular musicology to focus solely on
the music of ‘problem music’ genres is akin to reading half a book: one cannot understand
the plot or the characters without all the facts. It is thanks to the work of Walser, Cope, Rose,
Lilja, Krims, Edwards et al that interdisciplinary research to create a framework for analyses
of metal and rap is increasing, to better understand ‘problem music’ in terms of creative and
academic value. This will also aid musicological research, as by adapting traditional forms of
music analysis with the benefit of sociological and subcultural disciplines, the gap between
musicology and popular music (incorporating ‘problem music’) may be bridged.
CHAPTER 2: SUBCULTURAL CONTEXT
In order to discuss metal and hip-hop as subcultures, it is first necessary to study the origins
of ‘subculture’ itself.
‘Subculture’ has evolved from its sociological origins into a discipline that evokes con-
tinuous academic debate. The concept emerged in the 1920s and 1930s from the Chicago
School’s sociological studies of groups of people who existed ‘below culture’. This strand of
research was a reaction to the criminological view (espoused, in particular, by American
criminologist Albert K Cohen) that the delinquent behaviour of the “urban underclass” (Co-
hen, 1955) was “symptomatic of individual disorder” (Bennett, 2001, p.18). The School ar-
gued that such behaviour “could be seen as ‘normalized’ responses” (ibid) to social problems
within subcultures themselves.
This idea was first mooted in the 1800s by London journalist Henry Mayhew, who
questioned the criminological attitude to “sub-human” groups by undertaking ethnographical
studies (Williams, 2011, p.5). Although Mayhew’s intention was to personalise group indi-
viduals, his subsequent published profiles were interpreted as tools to police groups outside
the dominant culture.
After the Chicago School’s sociological investigations, the term ‘deviant’ began its
widespread use as a method of characterising these groups. The word ‘deviance’ originates
from the Latin verb deviare, to “turn out of the way” (which, in my view, means ‘to be differ-
ent’) but its definition has developed into the more complex and pejorative “the fact or state
of diverging from usual or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual behaviour” (ox-
I would suggest that criminology’s connection between subculture and criminality con-
tributed to the current definition. Subculture and deviance have become inextricably linked,
but use of the word ‘deviance’ itself deviates from one discipline to another, from simply
‘different’ to ‘delinquent’. The latter, in my opinion, should be used with caution.
Thirty years after the Chicago School’s campaign for deeper understanding of the sub-
cultural context of deviance and its definition, the concept of ‘counterculture’ emerged in di-
rect reference to groups who represented opposition to the Vietnam War. At the forefront of
this 1960s counterculture was the hippie movement, its voice the anti-war music and lyrics of
artists such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pete Seeger, Marvin Gaye and Woody Guthrie.
Although the conscience-provoking political objections within these ‘battle hymns’ were ex-
pressed with clear and driven outrage, the hippie counterculture’s core ethos of ‘love and
peace’ became blurred, demonstrated more by promiscuousness and drug-taking than con-
structive manifesto. However, the songs of 1960s generation artists have retained seminal
significance as the Marxist voice of the anti-war lobby, so that the hippie counterculture may
be regarded as responsible for revealing the strength of artistic methods of expression within
It was in the wake of this climate of political conflict that cultural studies grasped the
reins of subcultural research. In the 1970s, Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural
Studies (CCCS) used the Chicago School’s sociological concept of deviance as normal within
subcultures as a template for their own subcultural model. However, the cultural discipline
construed this normalisation as resistance, subculture its ritualistic vehicle against the domi-
nant culture, i.e. groups assembled specifically to resist, rather than the School’s more sympa-
thetic view of subcultures as marginalised groups trying to survive. Exploiting not only the
School’s concept but Marxist theory, Barthian semiotics (Laughey, 2006, p.2) and Genet’s
idea of symbols as “tokens of self-imposed exile” (Genet, 1966, cited in Hebdige, 1979, p.18)
the CCCS constructed their hypothesis of “heroic and subversive” (Laughey, 2006, p.23)
post-war working-class youth groups symbolically resisting a dominant culture through style.
This patchwork principle was no better extolled than in the CCCS’ own Resistance Through
Rituals (Hall & Jefferson, 1965), Stanley Cohen’s Folk Devils & Moral Panics (1972), Paul
Willis’ Profane Culture (1978) and, most famously, Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Mean-
ing Of Style (1979), in which he used the punk movement as the flagship for a semiotic revo-
lution against society.
However, the CCCS’ paradigm was almost immediately questioned, even by its own
researchers, Gary Clarke and Hebdige, so that by the 1990s, post-subcultural thinking had
gathered momentum. Major criticisms levelled at the CCCS were that they ignored “the
meanings and intentions of young people themselves” (Bennett, 2000, p.22), they concentrat-
ed on a white, male audience and placed emphasis on a hegemonic mainstream against which
subcultures allegedly resist. Bearing in mind the Vietnam/hippie era within which this model
was conceived, perhaps the tangible presence of a Government/counterculture dichotomy had
ignited a similar relationship within the CCCS model: presumptions of countercultural activ-
ity within subculture.
J Patrick Williams has stated poignantly that “instead of discussing the nature of the
relationship between subcultures and mainstream culture, the very existence of such a rela-
tionship has been called into question” (Williams, 2011, p.9). I would suggest that there is a
mainstream, comprising “the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are shared by most people and
regarded as normal or conventional” (oxforddictionary.com), but that its presence is only ap-
parent in the context of its relationships with those who deviate from these norms. As subcul-
tures are regarded as such, a relationship must exist. I believe it is the significance of the re-
lationship between mainstream and subculture, rather than its existence, that is the more per-
The CCCS’ creation of a culturally informed theoretical model did inspire cross-disci-
pline debate, for the first time provoking subcultural discussions within the cultural field.
Further, those who have levelled criticism at the CCCS for formulating a rigid paradigm
should perhaps have applied more flexibility to their own restrictive view of the CCCS. The
model may, after all, reflect some subcultural climates, even if it does not reflect all.
Accordingly, in the 21st century, as subcultures become more heterogenous and hybri-
dal, so post-subcultural studies adopt more fluid systems of research which may adapt to al-
ternative forms of subculture. The situational interactionist model (combining individual and
situational variables to explain the behaviour of individuals within groups), for example, pays
“greater attention to the eve ryday, h eterogeno us practi ces of yo uth music
subcultures” (Laughey, 2006, ps.206, 219).
Flexibility is key to understanding subculture. In Popular Music Culture, The Key
Concepts (2012), subcultures are “broadly considered to be social groups organised around
shared interests and practices” (Gelder & Thornton (1997: Part 2), cited in Shuker, 2012).
Such an ambiguous definition is necessarily vague and confirms that post-subcultural theori-
sation is erring on the side of caution in defining subculture.
At this stage, my working definition of subculture is similarly cautious:
“Groups of people who interact socially through their shared interests, practices or
The Definition(s) Of ‘Deviance’
As seen above, subculture and deviance have become almost synonymous over the past
eighty years or so. That the original definition of deviance is ‘difference’ does not assuage
popular imagination from prescribing to the more pejorative “fact or state of diverging from
usual or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual behaviour” (oxforddictionary.com)
which is, I believe, a conglomeration of definitions from criminological, sociological and
subcultural disciplines. The latest, as manifested by the CCCS’ perpetuation of a link be-
tween subculture and resistance is, I have suggested, partly due to the close chronological
proximity of the 1960s counterculture.
At this stage, my working definition of deviance is a more concise version of the Ox-
ford Dictionary definition:
“Fact or state of diverging from what are regarded as society’s ‘norms’.”
Combining this with my working definition of subcultures, my definition of deviance in rela-
tion to subculture is, at this stage:
“Fact or state of expressing the shared ideologies of a socially interactive group in
ways regarded as diverging from society’s ‘norms’.”
I will continue to apply caution to my definitions until the core of this debate, ‘problem mu-
sic’ subcultures, has been discussed.
How Do Subculture And Deviance Relate To Popular Music?
If we consider my subcultural definition first, it is clear that certain types of popular music
are the objects of shared interests in socially interactive groups. However, what role does
music play within the context of subculture, apart from unifying people who all happen to like
a particular sound, be it an overused guitar riff, beat or rhythm, unusual method of playing or
recognisable ‘motif’, that distinguishes it from other types of popular music?
Music can play various roles in popular music subcultures: a powerful expression of
the subculture’s shared ideology, a byproduct of the subculture or the reason for its existence.
Its qualities are manifold: rhythm as expression has long been regarded as a tribal, unifying
force, the magnetism of chant a compelling tempter. Volume and intensity is a tool of
strength, with the capacity to unify purely through the power of sound. Words delivered
through the potent media of music can achieve more than via the spoken word of a political
platform. Music raises heated discussions within its subculture that can border on obsession
but may be a form of bonding. Comparing the guitar riff in this song to the riff in that song,
comparing record collections, dressing in the appropriate attire of their subculture, attending
concerts together, making friends through music.
When popular music subcultures gathered momentum in the late 1970s, it became clear
the CCCS model was totally unprepared. Steve Redhead maintained in 1990 that subcultural
theory was “not capable of capturing the changes in youth culture and rock culture from at
least the late 1970s onwards” (Redhead, 1990, p.41)
Popular music as a form of expression could not universally be declared ‘resistant’, and
yet its power as music, social commentary, fashion statement and cultural giant was unprece-
dented, and it paved the way for post-subcultural thinking (During, 1993, p.125). In the case
of ‘problem music’, subcultures are lifestyles, the wearing of band t-shirts and accoutrements
a visible celebration of their favourite music. However, such overt individuality is seen as
provocative, interpreted, from the CCCS point of view, as resistance through style. It must be
remembered, though, that its model was initiated at the birth of popular music subcultures, in
the wake of the hippie movement, perceived as much for its countercultural qualities and
loosely-based ‘style’ as its heterogenous styles of music. Similarly, the punk movement was
perceived as much for its radicalism and style as for its music. The CCCS had no way of
predicting that popular music would yield new forms of subculture in which music is para-
mount, yet its emphasis on deviance as resistance has imbued subcultural studies, including
research into popular music subcultures. Subsequently, statements such as “music choices
can create a social space that encourages criminal behaviour” (Ferrell, 1995) do not, by de-
fault, encourage positive attitudes towards metal and hip-hop.
This negative stance leans heavily on the Parsonian Systems Theory of the 1950s in
which Talcott Parsons maintained that “deviance embodies a resistance to conformity” and
“such a process might occur within the environment provided by a subculture” (Jenks, 2005,
Now I can provide a general definition of the role of popular music in subcultures:
“The creative expression of a socially interactive group of people.”
If we combine my working definitions of subculture, deviance and popular music, the begin-
nings of a definition of ‘problem music’ subcultures emerges:
“Socially interactive groups who express themselves through music, shared prac-
tices and ideologies regarded as diverging from society’s ‘norms’.”
This is still a working definition and necessarily ambiguous. Once we have discussed metal
and hip-hop subcultures and studied the differences between their types and means of musical
expression, use of music, ideologies and subcultural capital, we may discover a dichotomy in
definitions of each. In contrast, the un-problematic phenomenon of boy band music is dis-
cussed to determine, by process of elimination, what it is about metal and hip-hop that is re-
garded as ‘deviant’ or anti-social.
Heavy Metal (‘Metal’) As ‘Deviant Subculture’?
It is interesting to note the quandary within subcultural studies as to whether ‘metal’ qualifies
as a subculture at all. Dick Hebdige’s appended note to his 1979 book reflects the CCCS’
dismissal of metal from its inception. Here, he describes headbanging as “idiot dancing” and
appears to have little grasp of the genre (Brown, 2007, p.209).
Subcultural studies marginalised metal until 1980 and the advent of the NWOBHM,
when headbanging was seen as a potential cause of moral panic. Various reasons have been
put forward for the genre being subculturally invisible: it “does not represent a ‘crime
against the natural order’” because it already existed before showing signs of ‘resistance’; it
allegedly has “self-evident consumer origins”, “no authentic moment of stylistic creation”,
“lack of style” and, conversely, “the style of heavy metal culture is rooted in contradictions of
class, gender and ethnicity”. Andy Brown states that the CCCS would not yield their “over-
bearing political ‘theoreticism’” (Brown, 2007, ps.210-213), an issue discussed above.
Although metal does not tick all the CCCS boxes, it is clearly a subculture in that it is a
social group “organised around shared interests and practices” (Gelder and Thornton, 1997,
cited in Shuker, 2012). Perhaps, however, it was to avoid fanning any subcultural flames that
in Heavy Metal: Controversies & Countercultures (2013), Titus Hjelm et al avoided the
word ‘subculture’ altogether, choosing instead to describe metal as a ‘counterculture’, first
used in reference to the hippie movement. Hjelm et al state their reasons for using the term
as metal’s transgressive nature (“breaking taboos, the practice of questioning established val-
ues”) and because “controversy is an integral part of heavy metal culture”. Controversy, they
explain, is displayed “not so much by political rallying but in metal’s imagery and explo-
ration of the dark side of humanity” (Hjelm et al, 2013, p.3).
Whereas the hippie movement had a readymade nemesis in the Vietnam War, metal
does not have a single political or social event to rail against. The ‘peace’ sign of the hippie
counterculture did not need to be contrived, its slogans of ‘love and peace’ and ‘peace not
war’ focused directly on the War. Lilja, however, suggests that metal is an extension of the
1960s counterculture, where the “theme of love” is interpreted in metal as “explicitly
sexual” (Lilja, 2009, p.26). He implies that the peace and love ethos is translated in metal as
“unmasked frustration and depression about mankind’s evil deeds” (p.27), and the Eastern-
derived “New Age religions” transform into metal’s “mystical and oriental references” (p.28).
Wherever its references lie, metal is undeniably angry with the world in general. In
order to convey that anger effectively, the genre has manufactured recognisable signposts,
and this is where pieces of the CCCS model come into play. Metal imagery suggests the
wearing of ‘badges’ as semiotic. However, popular imagination frequently misunderstands
metal’s motives and interprets these ‘objects’ literally. “Metal’s reinterpretation of these
symbols is lost on the cultural conservatives” (Weinstein, 2000, p.238) so that, for example,
Satanic imagery is seen as proof of Satanism.
The metal subculture is one of the most visible so it is easy to denigrate. If, as Hjelm et
al maintain, metal thrives on controversy, it must be borne in mind that an act is not contro-
versial until it is publicly objected to. When the now-defunct PMRC took Judas Priest and
Ozzy Osbourne to Court in the US in the 1980s for their so-called suicidogenic music, this
was a controversy over a moral panic that never was (see Chapter 3). (Walser, 1993, p.138,
Kotarba et al, 2013, Weinstein, 2000 (2), Johnson & Cloonan, 2009). In Weinstein’s view,
“there could have been no heavy metal music if there had been no incipient subculture ready
to guide and embrace it” (Weinstein, 2000, p.102). This shifts the weight of responsibility for
any deviant influence off the music and onto the shoulders of a (pre-existing) subculture
searching for an outlet for expression, separates music from subculture and emphasises metal
as a subculture of choice.
The music is a function of the lifestyles and mythologies of a youth group, and must be
consistent with those lifestyles and mythologies in order to be appropriated by the group (We-
instein, 2000, p.99).
The CCCS’ model may be apposite here. Although “lifestyles and mythologies” does
not suggest resistance per se, Weinstein’s description of music as a “function” implies appro-
priation of metal as a symbolic vehicle conveying these ideologies - but what are they? As
we know, symbology is prevalent in metal lyrics, and Howe et al’s recent study (2015) uses
the words of the poet Charles Baudelaire in 1861 (‘It is the Devil who holds the strings by
which we’re moved/In revolting objects we find charm’) not only to compare them analo-
gously to the semiotic quality of metal’s lyrics and musical forms of expression, but to ex-
plain why it is that some young people, when searching for identity, frequently find it in
groups that are regarded as dark or outside the mainstream. This youth group is presumably
the “incipient subculture” Weinstein refers to, metal being Baudelaire’s “revolting object”.
However, if metal music is not consistent with the group’s “lifestyles and mythologies”,
the group will reject the music and search elsewhere. It appears, then, that the emergence of
more radical forms of metal are an indication that at least part of the subculture no longer
identifies with symbolic means of expression but, rather, something more direct. As men-
tioned in Chapter 1, NSBM is one of the most recent metal sub-genres, extreme metal a col-
lective term for newer subgenres and mooted as a “powerful vehicle for fans and musicians to
critique the politics and social dynamics more broadly across their societies” (Helm et al,
2000), NSBM more radically right wing. Neither convey the “darkness of humanity”
through the mythological semiotics of original metal but from a more confrontational, politi-
cal platform. Deviance, in metal’s case, may, after all, be defined as more visibly resistant
than before via NSBM and extreme metal, rather than simply different, as it sheds the sym-
bolic imagery of original metal.
In conclusion, however, my general definition of deviant subculture must be adapted in
metal’s case in light of the symbolic imagery that has been the main reason for its categoriza-
tion as a ‘problem music’ subculture (prior to NSBM and extreme):
“A socially interactive group with a shared ideology expressed through music and
symbolic imagery regarded as diverging from, or offensive to society’s ‘norms’.”
As previously suggested, the CCCS model is not totally redundant.
Hip-Hop As ‘Deviant Subculture’?
As an expression of style-based working-class resistance, hip-hop appears to tick all the
CCCS boxes. When J Patrick Williams describes subcultures as emerging “when
groups that are somehow limited in their access to dominant cultural resources try to
collectively solve their problems” (Williams, 2000, p.7), there could be no better appro-
priation of the Chicago School model. Chapter 1 describes hip-hop’s determination to
rise from marginalized ‘underclass’ to become “a politically and socially significant
music genre” (Schneider, 2010).
As we know, rap is the voice of the hip-hop subculture. It articulates “the chasm be-
tween black urban lived experience and dominant…ideology” (Rose, 1994, p.102). The
voice of the black collective memory sang its spiritual ‘code’ to disguise conversations in in-
nuendo. It imbued itself in blues and gospel as ‘call and response’ and is now manifested in
rap’s “hidden and public transcripts” (Rose, 1994, p.99).
As established in Chapter 1, hip-hop’s immediate origins lie in the Bronx in the early
1970s (Lipsitz, 1994, p.26). Borrowing musically from their parent culture, the subculture
semiotically adopted the flamboyant symbols of Africa, just as the rock’n’roll ‘teddy boys’
adopted the Edwardian fashion of their forefathers: “Even the heavy gold cabled chains pop-
ularized by many rap artists became metaphors for a glorious African past” (Lang, 2000).
There are various opinions as to who started hip-hop per se but, street gang member DJ
Afrika Bambaataa is credited as the first to describe hip-hop as a subculture, forming the
Zulu Nation to try and “channel the anger of young people…into music, dance and
graffiti” (Bennett, 2001).
However, there are those who took this means of expression to extremes by venting
their anger through more incendiary means than the original reality rappers. NWA, Ice-T and
2 Live Crew were all accused of inciting violence against the police in the late 1980s/early
1990s and, as a result, the PMRC took them to task, campaigning successfully for ‘Parental
Guidance’ stickers on all alleged offensive recordings, of any genre. Ironically, all three
artists became more infamous for the attention. The question is, however: did these lyrics
cause violence against the police, or was this prevalent in any case, or both? Were these rap-
pers merely trying to draw attention to police brutality?
Hostility was not only rampant between black and white and black and authority but
also within the hip-hop subculture itself. When Tupac Shakur was murdered in 1996, it was
during a war between LA and New York gangs, and it was at this point that a dichotomy ap-
peared between gangsta rappers like NWA, Ice-T and 2 Live Crew and those who chose to
distance themselves from them. Reality rap was still linked to the street subculture of hip-
hop, whereas gangsta rappers were affiliated with the hip-hop music industry, running record
companies and fighting for supremacy by means of gun-related battles. As Taylor and Taylor
(2005) confirmed, “With the emergence of commercial and crime-related rap during the early
1990s…an emphasis on violence was incorporated, with many rappers boasting about drugs,
weapons, misogyny, and violence”.
The ‘bling’ and car insignias grew bigger and gaudier as the music industry exploited
gangsta rap, tainting the hip-hop subculture’s reputation by focussing purely on its threaten-
ing, gangster-related image. Commercialisation did, however, glocalise hip-hop – expanding
its influence beyond the black community, so that “it is no longer viable to speak in terms of
rap and hip-hop as being exclusively ‘black’ cultural forms” (Bennett, 2001, p.93).
In fact, hip-hop was never exclusively black. The Bronx has always been multi-cultur-
al, comprising Latino and Puerto Rican people as well as blacks. Seventy-five percent of
rap’s audience is now white, this statistic indisputably boosted by Eminem’s success, a prime
example of ‘white trailer trash’ adopting the hip-hop ethos - to rise out of oppression - for his
own ends. There are hip-hop subcultures in England, France, The Netherlands, Italy, Aus-
tralia, Japan, and beyond, who “seem to be rebelling against the traditional collectives of their
specific countries and dominant cultures, whilst simultaneously seeking membership and
identification with both the global hip-hop culture and their local hip-hop subcultures” (Hui
and Triandis, 1986; Bennett, 1999). Glocalised subcultures suffer “deflected racism” in their
“celebration of blackness in the absence of blackness” (Hui and Triandis, 1986). However, it
is ironic that glocalisation, a result of the gangsta rap commercialisation that sullied hip-hop’s
reputation, has proved positive for the subculture; but it should be remembered, when hip-
hop is accused of inciting deviant behaviour, that this commercialisation was at the hands of
those who benefit most, music industry and media.
Whilst gangsta rap is now a global phenomenon - “images of black people around the
world are now dominated by hip-hop figures or symbols associated with it” (George, 2005) -
reality rap still maintains its foothold within the hip-hop subculture of the street. As Ken
Gelder points out, “hip-hop is not cosmopolitan” (Gelder, 2007, p.115). Citing novelist Nel-
son George’s Hip Hop America (1999), Gelder recounts that hip-hop is “tied too much to the
‘hood’, as ‘ghettocentric’ or parochial, inward-looking rather than engaged with the wider
world” (ibid). The specific problems reality rap brings to the fore are, it seems, still suffered
by the hip-hop subculture.
Now we can see slight differences between the metal and hip-hop subcultures and, as
such, they may be defined as follows:
Definition of the metal subculture:
“A socially interactive group that expresses its shared ideology through music and
symbolic imagery regarded as deviating from society’s ‘norms’.”
Definition of the hip-hop subculture:
“A socially interactive group that expresses its shared ideology through music re-
garded as encouraging deviance from society’s ‘norms’.”
Boy Band (Or Teenybopper) Music As ‘Deviant Subculture’
If boy band music were to be discussed as a subculture, the first aspect to consider would be
its demographic: predominantly teenage girls living in the parental home. Boy band music is
a popular music genre of choice, its fans considered a social group “organised around shared
interests and practices” (Shuker, 2012) appealing to a core audience who wear its badges, t-
shirts, etc. It has even caused moral panic if we revert to the 1960s when parents were con-
cerned about their daughters’ predilection for The Beatles and their unusual way of respond-
ing to them by “actively asserting and expressing their sexuality in public places” (Gelder,
2007, p.98). That this still happens today without censure is a reflection of the changing pa-
rameters of moral panic.
The hub of boy band ‘subcultural activity’ is within the poster-swathed bedrooms in
which ‘subcultural individuals’ play music by the likes of One Direction, N’Sync or Take
That and discuss which member they ‘fancy’ most. There are even elements of resistance.
Although Fiske writes of ‘the Madonna fan’ in Laughey’s Music & Youth Culture (2006) his
hypothesis of the collective experience can readily be translated to boy band fans: “When the
teenage girl fan…meets others who share her fantasies and freedom there is the beginning of
a sense of solidarity, of a shared resistance…”, which Laughey then attributes to “empower-
ing their status in relations with boys in actual social contexts” (Laughey, 2006, p.29).
McRobbie & Gruber maintained in 1975 when discussing the lack of studies on girls in
subcultures, “one of the most significant forms of an alternative ‘subculture’ among girls is
the culture of the Teeny Bopper”. However, they confessed to be grasping at straws and, in
1978, Simon Frith supported the burgeoning view that teen pop was much less countercultur-
al or subcultural than other genres of the era (Vannini and Myers, 2002). As Gelder remarks
caustically on the futility of McRobbie and Garber’s attempts at subculturalising teenybop-
pers, “the girls’ bedrooms are sites of uncomplicated consumption: no bricolage or ‘semiotic
guerrilla warfare’ here…no deviance from the sanctuary of the home and the safety of the
bedroom…the enclosed world…offers ‘few personal risks’ because it remains so close to the
parent culture” (Gelder, 2007).
This may exclude boy band music from the CCCS model of resistance against society
(as any resistance is purely in relation to boys and burgeoning sexuality) but it does not ex-
clude it from subcultural activity per se. It is, to loosely quote my own definition of subcul-
ture, a “group of people who interact socially through their shared interests” and it is a popu-
lar music subculture in that it is “a socially interactive group with a shared ideology ex-
pressed through music”, that ideology being to express newfound sexuality through interest
in a (member of a) boy band (or bands). It does not, however, deviate from, offend or en-
courage deviation from society’s ‘norms’. Clearly, boy band music aids the difficult but
normal journey through puberty - fantastical projections of love towards members of their
favourite boy bands a romanticised version of their personal lives. The empowerment and
solidarity Laughey refers to is a normal part of this process, the bond between boy band fans
an essential survival tool for any pubescent girl. In fact, considering recent statistics by Spo-
tify (published in Metal Hammer magazine) which show that metal fans are more loyal than
any other popular music fans, it could be suggested that the genre - and perhaps by default,
hip-hop - may also be regarded as essential survival tools in terms of bonding activity. This
may be a rather vague interpretation, but I would still hold it up as a possibility.
In conclusion, boy band music fans are not regarded as a deviant subculture of any
kind. Boy bands are manufactured by those intent on making money, not waves, who strictly
adhere to guidelines laid down by music industry watchdogs. It is safe to say that any de-
viance associated with boy bands is no more dangerous than Justin Bieber’s spit. Deriving
from the Adorno-condemned commercial philosophy of the music industry, boy bands are
and will continue to be sanitised parodies of popular genres, even those regarded as ‘problem
music’, this knowledge no doubt aiding parents’ confidence in the lack of harm their off-
spring will experience following these kind of bands.
My definition of the boy band subculture:
“A socially interactive group that expresses its shared interest in music through
practices regarded as acceptable to society.”
That these basic practices - gathering together as a group to buy music, attend concerts, wear
t-shirts, collect posters, badges and other merchandise - are no different to those of metal and
hip-hop is a moot point, and the reason for boy bands being included in this dissertation.
Perhaps ‘problem music’s badges, etc., are more visibly different to those of the boy band
subculture, but the reasons for wearing them are the same. If there is little difference between
‘problem music’ subcultures and the boy band subculture, why are the former regarded as
causing deviant behaviour, and what types of deviant behaviour are they accused of causing?
Should the definition(s) of ‘deviance’ be revisited?
In Chapter 1, I concluded that to clearly understand the reasons for metal and hip-hop’s cate-
gorisation as ‘problem music’ subcultures and allegations of causing deviant behaviour, it is
essential for subcultural and sociological investigations to take place for purposes of contex-
In this chapter, the subcultural aspects of metal and hip-hop genres have been compared
to boy band music to discover why the former are perceived as ‘problem music’ subcultures,
and the latter are not. By a process of elimination, a clearer view of the attributes of ‘prob-
lem music’ subcultures has been gained.
As established, each of the three subcultures shares its own ideology, practice or inter-
est, representing a lifestyle for both musicians and fans that extends beyond the music. How-
ever, ‘problem music’ rails against social realities, whereas the boy band subculture promotes
escapism from reality. Any ‘problem’ associated with boy bands revolves around such harm-
less issues as infatuation for a particular boy band member, no worse than obsession for a boy
at school which, as established, is part of the accepted trauma of puberty. However, is obses-
sion for a metal or hip-hop band any worse? Apart from their ideologies and, in metal’s case,
symbolic imagery, there is, indeed, little difference between ‘problem music’ subcultures and
the boy band subculture. Are metal and hip-hop accused of causing deviant (as anti-social)
behaviour simply because they are different in the eyes of society?
CHAPTER 3: SOCIOLOGICAL CONTEXT
Through comparisons with boy bands and the boy band subculture, it appears that neither
music nor practices or interests are conclusive reasons for ‘problem music’ subcultures to
cause deviant (as anti-social) behaviour (on the understanding that boy bands are not accused
of this), and yet correlative links continue to be found. This can only mean ‘problem music’
and deviant behaviour are connected through an exterior common denominator. We have
discovered the origins of their music and subcultures, but only touched on social circum-
stances. Through investigations into sociological research into ‘problem music’ subcultures
and the boy band subculture within the context of social environment, it should be possible to
determine, conclusively, if there is any causal evidence of deviant influence. If not, then it is
important both to find the link between ‘problem music’ subcultures and deviance as an al-
ternative cause of deviance, and to re-establish the definition(s) of deviance in relation to
metal and hip-hop. Are they anti-social or just different? This is presented in Part I.
Following this sociological overview is an interpretation of this information in Part II.
Introduction To Sociological Research Into Subcultures & Deviant Behaviour
As discussed in Chapter 2, sociological research into deviant subcultures began in the 1920s
and 1930s when the Chicago School undertook their landmark studies into the causal factors
of deviance in subcultures. The route of research can be traced from that time through the
emergence of popular music subcultures to ‘problem music’, metal and hip-hop, as defined
by the collaborative discipline of sociology and psychology in studies of musical preference
and behaviour (North & Hargreaves, 2008).
Twenty years after the School’s research, following the end of World War II, social sci-
entist David Riesman from the University Of Chicago made the following statement:
The rebelliousness of a minority group might be indicated in some of the follow-
ing attitudes to popular music: an insistence on rigorous standards of judgement
and taste in a relativist culture; a preference for the uncommercialised, unadver-
tised small bands rather than name bands; the development of a private language
and then a flight from it when the private language…is taken over by the majority
Riesman’s observations were ahead of their time. Not only was he alluding to a popular mu-
sic market (by reference to the word ‘uncommercialised’) before the global commercialisa-
tion of popular music, but directly equating groups of popular music listeners with minority
groups (or ‘subcultures’). Riesman’s idea was not dissimilar to Social Identity Theory (SIT),
developed more than a quarter century later. SIT expounded the theory of groups “discrimi-
nating in favour of the in group and against the out group” to provide a sense of self. As soon
as membership of a group becomes apparent, the individual automatically discriminates
against members of other groups and favours those of the in-group, this process aiding self-
esteem. (Tajfel, 1978; Tajfel & Turner, 1986, Ashmore, Deaux & McLaughlin-Volpe, 2004,
cited in North & Hargreaves, 2008, p.219).
In 1963, sociologist Howard Becker, also from the University Of Chicago, published a
study on social groups and behaviour. In Outsiders: Studies In The Sociology Of Deviance,
Becker made the connection between marijuana use and types of popular music, within the
context of group behaviour and deviance as anti-social. He concluded that “social groups
create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance”, suggesting that
deviance - as rule-breaking - cannot exist without rule makers:
Deviance is not a property of behaviour; it is an outcome of the interaction be-
tween someone who is thought to have violated the rules of the group and others
who call him to account for that delinquency (Becker, 1963)
The chasm between Riesman’s and Becker’s points of view is vast. Riesman talks of the re-
belliousness of minority groups in terms of normal lifestyles within these groups, inferring
‘difference’, with their own rules outside society’s norms, similar to the Chicago School tra-
dition. Becker’s presumption is one of deviance as anti-social. Throughout the following
overview, however, deviance is undeniably meant as ‘anti-social’, and the types of deviance
associated with each subculture will become clear.
Sociological Overview Of ‘Problem Music’ Subcultures Heavy Metal & Hip-Hop And
It is difficult to separate sociological research on metal and hip-hop as there are more con-
junctive studies on both as ‘problem music’ subcultures than there are on the individual sub-
cultures. Therefore, the two are discussed in tandem.
The Chicago School studies play an important part in the sociological history of hip-
hop’s original dominant demographic as a precursor to the subculture’s inception in the late
1970s. At the time of the School’s research, Chicago had become the destination for a het-
erogeneous population of immigrants, including a rural black population migrating from the
oppressive south up the Mississippi River to the ‘freer’ northern states (Longhurst, 2007).
The School, therefore, did not have to look far for their ‘petri dish’.
In 1955, not long after Riesman’s study, the Civil Rights Movement was founded but,
despite its presence, blacks were still treated as an ethnic minority. Even their music was re-
garded as suspicious, the Delta Blues labelled as ‘The Devil’s Music’, jazz and be-bop criti-
cised for a relationship with drug-taking. It was this connection that piqued Becker’s interest
in writing Outsiders: Studies In The Sociology Of Deviance (1963). Whilst the Civil Rights
Movement urged racial tolerance and the hippie counterculture waged its ‘peace and love’
ethos in protest of the Vietnam War, metal emerged in the UK as a dark and densely-textured
counter movement in 1969. As the metal subculture multiplied, providing a means of expres-
sion rarely presented to young people, sociological research on teenage alienation and delin-
quency gathered momentum. In 1973, Taylor et al described delinquent behaviour as “an ex-
pression of alienation brought about by social forces upon the young. This alienation is a re-
sult of adolescents’ relative powerlessness towards an external situation of inequality” (Tay-
lor et al, 1973, cited in Epstein and Pratto, 1990). Some young people, including metal fans,
were expressing themselves by adopting fashions associated with their music preferences, but
such individuality was perceived as delinquent by adults and society (Frith, 1981).
At the beginning of the 1980s, having firmly established itself in the new post-war
teenage generation with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), metal crossed
the Atlantic to the US, where it was “quite literally delivered it into the hands of its most vo-
ciferous opponents, the neo-conservative right” (Wright, 2000). Ronald Reagan’s famous
speech, calling individuals who “prey on the innocent” (wikipedia.com) to account, gave sub-
tle carte blanche to his government to use their own discretion in ridding America of all sus-
picious groups or individuals. The ensuing hearing on the ‘Contents Of Music And The
Lyrics Of Records’ and formation of the PMRC in 1985, publication of Tipper Gore’s 1987
book and subsequent Judas Priest trial prompted urgent research into the suicidogenic conno-
tations of listening to certain types of music. Hip-hop, still in its infancy, had not yet attract-
ed the attention of the parental lobby.
Amidst a cavalcade of studies on metal, Garland & Zigler reported a “threefold increase
in adolescent suicide over the past few decades” in 1993. “The music preferences of adoles-
cents have come under scrutiny in this regard”. In 1999, Scheel and Westefeld revisited the
Gore manifesto by presenting the paper, ‘Heavy Metal Music & Adolescent Suicidality’, con-
cluding that adolescent preference for metal may indicate a “red flag for increased suicidal
vulnerability”. This conclusion was based on a study of 121 tenth to twelfth grade students,
40% of whom were metal fans, using the ‘Reasons For Living Inventory’ (1983) and the
‘Suicidal Risk Questionnaire’. In particular, it was discovered that adolescent metal fans are
more vulnerable to suicide, but mirrored many studies when concluding that the “source of
the problem may lie more in personal and familial characteristics than in any direct effects of
the music” (Scheel and Westefeld, 1999).
Bearing in mind the abundance of inconclusive results even as early as the late 1980s,
some academics urged separation between correlation and cause. Epstein and Pratto, in their
lively debate of Heavy Metal Rock Music Juvenile Delinquency & Satanic Identification in
Popular Music & Society (1990), vehemently objected to allegations of Satanic influence,
and called for indepth academic studies into metal to help society gain better understanding
of this demonised genre. Their request was answered in the form of Robert Walser’s Running
With The Devil (1993), discussed in Chapter 1.
Epstein and Pratto were not the only sociologists to read between the lines. Although
interpreted negatively at the time, a study in 1988 by Dr Paul King - adolescent psychiatrist
and, ironically, PMRC member - claiming that many “chemically dependent” adolescents
with psychiatric problems enjoy metal, and “young people who do not identify with tradi-
tional values may find simple but unconventional answers to complex problems in the lyrics
of this type of music” was questioned by Took and Weiss in 1994. They commented that al-
though King had found correlation between metal and deviance, he had not found any causal
links, nor did he elucidate on other factors of his subjects’ lives. Indeed, the insinuation was
that perhaps finding “simple but unconventional answers to complex problems” could be a
positive effect of listening to metal.
Studies on metal continued unabated throughout the 1990s and into the new century,
but after rap drew the attention of the PMRC in the early 1990s, research on the combined
topic of ‘problem music’ subcultures began to appear. This fact is revelatory in itself, indi-
cating a rather cloistered attitude towards these two completely different genres.
Almost as soon as rap joined the debate on ‘problem music’, the PMRC successfully
campaigned for ‘Parental Advisory’ stickers. This was during the Bush era when racial ten-
sion in the US was high. NWA’s ‘Fuck Tha Police’ had already caused concern in 1988 and,
unfortunately, allegedly the most offensive rap song, ‘Cop Killer’ (classed, in fact, as ‘rap
metal’) by Ice-T’s Body Count, although originally written in 1990, was released on the
band’s eponymous debut album in 1992, whilst tensions surrounding the Rodney King riots
were still running high. The song was hastily censored from the album. Rap had taken on a
more political, aggressive identity with gangsta rap. As Rose pointed out, “Members of the
Hip-Hop Generation not only rediscovered Africa during the late 1980s and early 1990s; they
also discovered the Black Power Movement”.
Initial studies on rap focused on the effects of this politicism. In 1995, a paper entitled
Radical Rap: Does It Further Ethnic Division? (Love et al) made a timely appearance at a
time when gangsta record labels were flourishing, developed from homegrown businesses set
up by the gangsta artists and producers themselves within the hip-hop community into more
global concerns involving licensing deals with major record companies.
Hip-hop sustained a foothold in sociological research alongside metal, with implica-
tions of sexual, homicidal and psychological influence being made in relation to both, as well
as accusations of encouraging drug abuse, low school grades and, indeed, most types of anti-
social behaviour. Examples of these are as follows:
In 1994, Tapper, Thornton and Black’s research, Variations In Music Videos As A Func-
tion Of Their Musical Genre discovered sexual imagery in 46% of rap videos, but also in
50% of soul videos and 45% of pop videos, and only 8% of metal (Tapper & Thornton,
Took and Weiss’ study, Heavy Metal And Rap Music And Adolescent Turmoil: Real Or
Artefact?, published the same year, distributed 88 questionnaires to parents and adolescents,
the latter between 12 and 18 years of age and all in some kind of adolescent substance abuse
or psychiatric programme, although all were volunteers. They concluded that “adolescents
who preferred heavy metal and rap had a higher incidence of below-average school grades,
school behaviour problems, sexual activity, drug and alcohol use, and arrests”, although ad-
missions were made that the selection of subjects may have produced results prone to be in
“turmoil” (Took and Weiss, 1974).
Concern with the effects of ‘problem music’ on school performance had been discussed
as early as 1987 with Roe’s Swedish study of 11- to 15-year olds, which recorded a reversal
of the “traditional cause and effect theories about academic achievement and music” (Roe,
1987). Findings suggested that poor academic achievement leads to rejection of the school
culture and more involvement with peers, this resulting in increased preference for socially
In 1995, Ballard and Coates conducted a survey for Youth & Society on the topic, ‘The
Immediate Effects Of Homicidal, Suicidal And Non-Violent Heavy Metal And Rap Songs On
The Moods Of College Students’. Eighty-two male and 93 female undergraduates completed
a memory task and several mood inventories. Results revealed no effects of song content or
music type on suicidal ideation, anxiety or self-esteem: “Participants felt relatively good
about their own lives after listening to the violent and depressing rap songs”. This concurs
with Zillmann, Aust et al’s research on hip-hop the same year which studied the effects of
cultural and political rap on African-American and white school pupils. Results showed that
whilst the music did not affect black pupils, white pupils became more sympathetic towards
black oppression. This appears to answer Love et al’s question above.
Studies such as the above were themselves scrutinised from time to time by other acad-
emics. For example, Rawlings and Leow’s ‘Investigating The Role Of Psychoticism And
Sensation Seeking In Predicting Emotional Reactions To Music’ (2008) provides an overview
of ‘problem music’ and deviant behaviour from the 1990s and into the 21st century. Signifi-
cantly, this explored common assumptions of causal links between both types of music. After
presenting 65 female and 27 male undergraduates with a questionnaire measuring psychoti-
cism and sensation seeking after listening to four excerpts of music:
The results provided general support to previous studies relating psychoticism to
liking for music sometimes characterized as ‘problem’ or ‘deviant’…. To varying
degrees, a liking for music such as rap, hip-hop and heavy rock has been shown in
persons who enjoy risky and reckless behaviours such as drug use and vandalism
(Arnett, 1991; Rentfrow and Gosling, 2003) (Rawlings & Leow, 2008)
The idea that there may be alternative causes of deviant behaviour drifted into some studies,
as did acknowledgement of the part music industry and media play in the image construction
of metal and hip-hop. In 1997, Kelley pointed out that:
Major record companies…have exacted their pound of flesh mass marketing im-
ages of the ghetto as ‘a place of adventure, unbridled violence, erotic fantasy, or
an imaginary alternative to suburban boredom’ (Kelley, 1997, cited in Lang, 2000
Specific studies were undertaken on the media’s participation in controversy, for example
Binder’s Constructing Racial Rhetoric: Media Depictions Of Harm In Heavy Metal & Rap
Music in 1993; and, even as late as 2009, Reyna and Brandt’s Hip-Hop: Anti-Rap Attitudes As
A Proxy For Prejudice found that “negative stereotypes about rap are pervasive and have
powerful consequences”. Even now, ‘problem music’ stereotypes and their effects on sub-
jects’ opinions of metal and hip-hop are still discussed. In 2014, in Negut and Sarbescu’s
Problem Music Or Problem Stereotypes? The Dynamics Of Stereotype Activation In Rock &
Hip-Hop Music, early studies on the effects of negative stereotypes were revisited in new re-
search, in which songs from both genres were played to 72 individuals who were asked to
evaluate lyrics to gauge whether or not negative stereotypes affected their attitudes towards
metal and hip-hop. Conclusions suggested that many negative results in relation to ‘problem
music’ may have more to do with stereotypes than to the actual music.
Whilst some continued to focus on the ‘anti-social’ effects of ‘problem music’ during
the 1990s, encouraged by media and music industry stereotyping, others delved more deeply.
In the case of hip-hop, some research concentrated on rap itself, its origins, the hip-hop
movement, its politics and its very existence, suggesting a broader minded school of thought.
In 1990, Simpson pointed out the importance of rap lyrics in highlighting the “problems
of urban life” (Simpson, 1990, cited in Ballard, 1995), this view championed by Rose:
From its origins, hip-hop culture…has expressed the joys, cynicism, political
visions, grim self-reflection, and creativity of Black and Latino youth cast
aside in urban post-industrial America (Rose, 1994)
With this in mind, some studies began to focus on the benefits of ‘problem music’. As early
as 1991, Kotarba, Williams and Johnson, and Stephens, Braithwaite and Taylor in 1998 had
discussed the use of both rap and hard rock as communicative tools in AIDS intervention and
prevention programmes, and this role of ‘problem music’ as mediator remained a consistent
concept until the turn of the century when idea turned to strategy.
In 2004, ‘Rap Therapy: A Practical Guide for Communicating With Youth & Young
Adults Through Rap Music’ (Elligan, 2004) was published and, in 2005, McNair & Powles
reflected a growing field of study into the benefits of rap in promoting collective well-being
amongst African-Americans. In 2011, Therapeutic Uses Of Rap And Hip-Hop, too, suggest-
ed more widespread research into individuals who listen to ‘problem music’.
Finally, North & Hargreaves’ chapter on ‘problem music’ subcultures in The Social &
Applied Psychology Of Music (2008) encapsulates all previous research, presenting statistics
of more indepth characteristics, consumer choices and familial backgrounds of those who lis-
ten to ‘problem music’ (North & Hargreaves, 2008). This provides an excellent starting point
in discussing alternative reasons for deviant behaviour.
Sociological Overview Of Boy Bands
The lack of research into any connection between boy band music and deviant behaviour
speaks volumes. Perhaps the only noteworthy point of social significance is that the first
‘boy band’, The Beatles, caused parental palpitations when they emerged in 1960 out of the
British Beat Generation. Indeed, attempts were made to ban them from America. Bringing
with them a charisma hitherto unheard of, ‘The Fab Four’ created the phenomenon of teen
hysteria, unwittingly giving birth to the subculture of boy bands. The presence of boy bands
fulfils a need in its subculture, dictated by society, according to Dubrow-Eichel:
If young teenagers are highly sensitive to the value of love, it is perhaps because
our cultural belief system emphasises in so many ways that the idea of romantic
love is somewhat necessary to give life meaning (Dubrow-Eichel, 1993)#
Vannini and Myers supported this view in 2002. Highlighting the untainted reputation of boy
band music from a parental/societal point of view in Reflections On The Meanings Of Con-
temporary Teen Pop Music, they explained how the subculture exists as an essential panacea
to ward off/cope with real-life boys whilst fantasising about a ‘perfect’ boy band member.
Recalling sociologist Frith’s studies of 1978, Vannini and Myers describe the appeal of boy
bands to female teenagers as deriving from the musicians’ looks which, as a result, help girls
create fantasies of romance with their idols, in the process helping to manage their newfound
sexual awareness and heightened emotions, just as “pop and film stars did for their mothers
and grandmothers” (Frith, 1978, p.67, cited in Vannini, 2002).
Is this so different to the effects of metal and hip-hop bands: the worshipping of idols
and clinging to heroes as a panacea for puberty?
Part II: Interpretation of Sociological Data
There is an unbreakable thread running through sociological studies on ‘problem music’ sub-
cultures and deviant behaviour, that is the inconclusiveness of them. This points to another
cause of deviant behaviour, one that is not connected to the boy band subculture, as no com-
parative studies have been undertaken between this and deviant behaviour. So, what is the
connection - the common denominator - between ‘problem music’ and deviance as anti-so-
cial? Perhaps it is society itself that causes social problems (as Becker suggested), this lead-
ing to deviant behaviour, and also (but separately) inspiring metal and hip-hop, that is their
music, style, their subcultures. This is not to suggest that ‘problem music’ subcultures are
only inspired by social problems but, as the crux of metal and hip-hop is that they rail against
social injustice in their respective ways, it is fair to say social problems play a large part in
the existence of both. If there were no social problems, would they exist? That we will never
Having established the lack of causal links in Part I, the question should be: why have
metal and hip-hop been maligned for so long despite this fact? Is it simply because they stick
their necks out, they speak loudly and they are different?
Walser raised the issue of discrimination against metal during the aftermath of the Judas
Priest court case, writing that “those who condemn heavy metal often posit conspiracies in
order to scapegoat musicians and fans, avoiding questions of social responsibility for the de-
structive behaviour of people such as Vance and Belknap (the suicide victims - see Chapter
2).” (Walser, 1993, p.147)
Whilst discrimination cannot be proved, it may be suggested. As discovered from the
the majority of studies that correlation is frequently mistaken for cause, the question should
be asked: mistaken by whom? Certainly not by the researchers themselves but by those who
choose to interpret them. For the media, creating moral panics by engineering sensationalist
versions of the truth has made for lucrative headlines, and some studies have acknowledged
the influence of media and music industry. They have collaborated since the post-punk crisis
of the 1980s in order to sell papers and music, so it is in both their interests to prolong the
stereotypes of ‘problem music’ as cause (Binder, 1993; Kelley, 1997; Reyna & Brandt, 2009;
Negut & Sarbescu, 2014). Moral panic leads to the formation of parental lobbies, these in
turn leading to calls for urgent research into the ‘problem’.
Epstein and Pratto’s view was more fundamental:
The recent censoring efforts of Tipper Gore's Parents Music Resource Center and
the attempts to link Rock music to Satanism can be understood as an extension of
adult attempts to blame teenage rebellion on a musical form that is expressly for
the younger generation (Epstein and Pratto, 1990)
We must remember the inevitable misunderstandings between parent and child, and note that
this is mirrored in the relationship between society and ‘problem music’ subcultures. The
significance of parental concern in formulating the “social construction of evil in popular mu-
sic” (Kotarba et al, 2013, ps.60, 61) cannot be underestimated. It may take only one or two
parents calling a radio station or newspaper or using social media to express alarm over a
song, video, event or phenomenon to prompt a sociological study. Kotarba himself was
asked to undertake research into rave music and drugs after just one parent called a local
newspaper in 1993. Bearing in mind the PMRC comprised not only Tipper Gore but other
senators’ wives, it is no wonder it became a lobby powerful enough to force the labelling of
‘Parental Advisory’ stickers.
As Howe et al, in their 2015 study of 1980s metal fans thirty years later, pointed out in
a display of empathy towards worried parents, adolescence is a trying time for the both parent
When the search for identity results in an affiliation with fringe or edgy groups,
such as hip-hop culture, Emo…Goth, or heavy metal circles, parents often fear the
worst (Howe et al, p.4)
However, parents should be heartened by their conclusion that metal fans are more well ad-
justed than fans of any other kind of popular music, and that:
Some researchers have suggested that identification with rebellious music may
actually aid in the development and solidification of a cohesive sense of identity
(Schwartz & Fouts, 2003, cited in Howe et al, p.4)
The study by Took & Weiss in 1994, assimilating their findings (based on clinical studies)
with those of Erickson (1963) and Roe (1987), supported this by specifically naming metal
and rap as presenting a cohesive identity for young people, particularly those who are failing
at school or other areas of their lives:
One of the things they seem to grasp at is heavy metal and rap music because
these types of music offer them several things. They supply them with an identity,
complete with clothes and hairstyle. They also offer a peer group that has few re-
quirements for entry. They do not need to be scholars or athletes, or even have
musical talent. Finally, the image of the music gives these adolescents a sense of
power, something they may not have anywhere else in their lives (Took and
It is unlikely that a young person who is failing at school will seek support from his or her
parents (who, if we apply SIT Theory here, are not in their ‘in-group’) so it is hardly surpris-
ing that a chasm of misunderstanding opens up between parent and child - if there is discrim-
ination at play then perhaps it is unintentional. However, parents should realise that if their
child has found identity within a ‘problem music’ subculture then it is no worse than being a
part of the boy band subculture. They must make their own judgement calls about their chil-
dren and ignore the machinations of media and music industry.
They should also bear in mind that it has been proved beyond doubt from studies that
there are benefits to be reaped from both subcultures. Because of the sheer volume of re-
search into negative effects, it is hardly surprising positive effects have been unearthed - an
unexpected discovery in this dissertation. ‘Problem music’ as a “red flag” (Scheel and West-
efeld, 1999) for vulnerability is now being put into practice. Judging by Howe et al’s 2015
study, it is becoming increasingly evident that metal and hip-hop’s part in social problems is
non-existent and that, conversely, they can even aid the journey toward a better society.
Finally, we must revert to that dichotomy between definitions of deviance, as evinced
by Riesman and Becker’s observations. As suggested in Chapter 2, the dichotomy between
‘different’ and ‘anti-social’ needs to be carefully considered before the term ‘deviant be-
haviour’ (or ‘deviance’) is used. As there is no proof that either ‘problem music’ subculture
causes anti-social behaviour then, by default, any deviance associated with them can only
In Chapter 2, it was concluded that metal and hip-hop are categorised as ‘problem music’
subcultures because of their shared ideologies - the sharing of truths about social problems -
and the manner in which they convey these, in a confrontational and aggressive manner. Not
only that, but the idea of group resistance littered cultural studies and convened the subcul-
tural discipline. It became clear that, as subcultures, they may appear more threatening, more
In this chapter, the social background of these subcultures has been discussed to find
out what types of deviance they are associated with. However, as no studies have proved
conclusive, it is clear there are alternative causes for deviant behaviour, of any type. Rea-
sons, then, for ‘problem music’s demonisation may be simple discrimination against those
who are ‘different’, exacerbated by outside influences.
It is ironic that this demonisation, by drawing attention to ‘problem music’, has re-
vealed its benefits, from academic and musicological to social and psychological. Not only
that, but society has drawn attention to its own shortcomings in the process (as depicted by
metal and hip-hop). If it is not ‘problem music’ that causes deviance, what is it?
The question posed in this dissertation is: ‘Do ‘problem music’ subcultures cause deviant
In order to fully answer this question, it has been necessary to, firstly, define ‘problem
music’ subcultures, known to be metal and hip-hop, in terms of origins and influences. Sec-
ondly, as they are popular music genres, it was essential to investigate them as musical forms.
This led to the discovery that neither can be efficiently defined purely in musical terms
so that, in Chapter 1, it was concluded that both genres must be contextualised in terms of
subcultural and sociological disciplines to gain a full picture of both before any discussion as
to deviant influence may begin. As metal and hip-hop are subcultures, the subcultural con-
texts of each subculture were researched next, in Chapter 2.
Throughout the dissertation, I have used the subculture of boy band music as a compar-
ative study in order to discover, by process of elimination, why metal and hip-hop are regard-
ed as ‘problem music’ subcultures and boy band music is not.
I discovered in Chapter 2 that each of the three subcultures comprises a group of people
who share a common ideology, practice or interest, and the subculture represents a lifestyle
that extends beyond the music. These ideologies, however, are where the differences lie:
‘problem music’ subcultures rail against social realities - and this is where the realisation
dawned that this may be the reason for accusations of their contributions to deviant be-
haviour. The ideology of the boy band subculture is to promote escapism from reality, a far
more palatable ethos for society, and the public, to swallow.
It was also noted that boy bands are transient, fantasies of love and romance fleeting,
whilst metal and hip-hop are established popular music subcultures who have lasted for over
forty years, despite continued malignment. At this point, I surmised that perhaps it is their
longevity that is seen as a threat to society. But why? What exactly have metal and hip-hop
(directly or indirectly) been railing against, and is the answer to this the reason for society’s
denigration of these subcultures?
This question led to Chapter 3, the final chapter, which necessarily investigated the so-
ciological backgrounds of ‘problem music’ subcultures. After a review of sociological litera-
ture on metal and hip-hop, from before their respective conceptions to the present day, it be-
came evident that there is no causal evidence between ‘problem music’ subcultures and de-
viant behaviour, only correlative. Also, as a result of multiple studies into the alleged con-
nection between the two, positive attributes of metal and hip-hop unexpectedly emerged.
This led to the final question: if metal and hip-hop are not responsible for social prob-
lems, who or what is? Despite the fact that both subcultures have been shouting about social
injustice for over forty years, it appears that only by reverting to statements by the likes of
sociologist Howard Becker in 1963 (“society causes social problems”) is the answer accept-
able to both academia and the public in general. On the contrary, as discovered in Howe et
al’s 2015 research into the current lives of 1980s metal fans, it appears they have matured
into well-adjusted adults, more so than fans of other music. As for the hip-hop subculture,
rap has been lauded as being the “largest and richest contemporary archive of rhymed
words”, achieving more for rhyme than “any other art form in recent history” (Bradley,
Both subcultures are now acknowledged by both academia and society as valuable con-
tributors to sociology, culture, education, music and psychology in the wider world. Ironical-
ly, these attributes may, hopefully, help to counter social injustice in future.
The question was: do problem music subcultures cause deviant behaviour? If deviant
means ‘anti-social’, the answer is ‘no’. If it means ‘different’ then the answer is ‘yes’.
A FINAL NOTE:
Today, the idea of self-contained groups - including ‘problem music’ subcultures - no longer
causes moral panics. Perhaps this is due to the inevitable changes in society’s structure after
World War II in the UK and the Vietnam War in the US. In 1996, when Martin Cloonan used
rock’n’roll to declare that contemporary music no longer reflected societal values but glamor-
ised rebelliousness, perhaps this ‘rebelliousness’ was a reflection of post-War society in gen-
eral. As Frith pointed out:
Conventional thinking isolates certain socio-economic-cultural developments
since WWII to construct an explanation for the historically integrated, co-evolu-
tion of teenagers and rock and pop (Frith, 1981, cited in Kotarba, p.47)
Society did not foresee the impact of World War II or the Vietnam War on those whose voices
were continually quashed. For the two most striking popular music subcultures to grow from
these peoples cannot have been predicted. ‘Problem music’ subcultures are now firmly es-
tablished not just as popular music genres of choice but as a phenomenal presence within so-
ciety’s contemporary structure.
Perhaps it is the case that metal and hip-hop, as prevailing as they are, should be studied
in terms of a chronology of society since, respectively, World War II and the Vietnam War:
detailing changes in society’s attitudes towards youth, race, etc., personified in the changing
demographics of both subcultures, and gradual changes in attitudes towards metal and hip-
hop, from alleged ‘problem music’ subcultures to be feared for their effects on deviant be-
haviour to narrators of society who should be heard, and who have proven their worth psy-
chologically, educationally, culturally, musically and sociologically.