Gangsta Rap Music, Blood Pressure, and Stress Hormones

January 12, 2015 at 9:32 pm | Posted in Practical tips | 1 Comment
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Ice-T during the Body Count concert. Prague, August 2006, photographed by Mohylek.

Ice-T during the Body Count concert. Prague, August 2006, photographed by Mohylek.

Rap music features intense rhythm and rhyme. It is a contemporary form of poetry.

The popularity of rap shows that some forms of poetry have not lost their power to move us.

Rythm and rhyme. In poetry, the words are dancing. And you are dancing with the words.

Contra dance sets, seen from the balcony of the town house of Peterborough, New Hampshire. Courtesy of J. Peidle. The original source page is http://www.neffa.org/invite.shtml

Contra dance sets, seen from the balcony of the town house of Peterborough, New Hampshire. Courtesy of J. Peidle. The original source page is http://www.neffa.org/invite.shtml

That is why poetry can affect us so strongly.

But rap music, especially gangsta rap, possesses two distinctive features that other poetry does not.

The first distinctive feature is that in all rap the words are uttered as rapidly as possible. Rap becomes two simultaneous athletic games of skill, one for the rapper, and one for the listener. The rapper is challenged to utter the words as rapidly as possible, and the listener is challenged to understand them as they whiz by. Both the rapper and the listener experience stress from this. But they also derive a glow of elation when they rise to their respective challenges.

The second distinctive feature is that gangsta rap is aggressive and aggrieved, in both tone and topic.

Both of these distinctive features probably raise the blood pressure of both the listeners and the performers. More generally, these distinctive features probably make stress hormones more abundant in the blood.

Automatic brachial sphygmomanometer showing grade 2 arterial hypertension (systolic blood pressure 158 mmHg, diastolic blood pressure 99 mmHg). Heart rate shown is 80 beats per minute.  Photographed 4 February 2009 by Steven Fruitsmaak.

Automatic brachial sphygmomanometer showing grade 2 arterial hypertension (systolic blood pressure 158 mmHg, diastolic blood pressure 99 mmHg). Heart rate shown is 80 beats per minute. Photographed 4 February 2009 by Steven Fruitsmaak.

Prolonged high blood pressure does damage. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones does damage (see here, herehere, and here). Performing or listening to rap for an hour would increase both blood pressure and the production of stress chemicals for at least an hour.

We may be facing a deluge of excess strokes, heart attacks and other severe health problems, beginning about 30 years from now. That would produce enormous unnecessary personal, social and economic pain.

The effect of gangsta rap on the blood pressure and blood chemistry can be tested, and should be, for both listeners and performers. How large are the changes, and how long do they last?

Doctors and researchers in physiology could make the maesurements. But the measurements would also make an enjoyable and useful science fair project.

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  1. […] previous post showed why performing gangsta rap, or listening to it, might raise blood pressure, and might boost […]


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