This study focuses on the interpretations of sexual messages in hip hop music videos released in the 2010s based on both the artists and the listeners’ racial and gender identity. Centered at a liberal arts college in central New York, 10 participants were interviewed individually and asked (a) how they interpret sexual messages in hip hop, (b) whether there were any positive or negative consequences from having sexual messages in hip hop, and (c) if they ever felt they needed to engage in the gender performance demonstrated in hip hop music videos. Participants watched music videos by Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida, and Rae Sremmurd and then shared their thoughts in response to the themes mentioned above. In doing so, participants were able to think critically about how to answer questions with specific examples. Learning from respondents’ answers, we can determine whether the idea of controlling images surrounding Black sexuality and masculinity are reproduced in hip hop music videos. From this study, we as sociologists learn how sexual messages in hip hop influence individuals to engage in gender performance based on having (or not having) a cultural connection with the genre. Mainstream hip hop can reproduce racialized and gendered controlling images through individuals who consume the music. Interpretations to the music can vary based on the individual’s race and gender as to whether they feel pressured to enact the gender performance presented in the music videos. With the association to Black culture, hip hop influences Black and Brown folks to participate in gender performances and reproduction of controlling images as most respondents in the study believe them to be the target audience of the genre; in comparison to white folks who feel disassociated to the genre due to a lack of understanding and connection to the cultural aspect of the music. The purpose of the study is to understand how race and gender impacts how an individual understands and/or reproduces controlling images through the gender performance presented in sexual messages in hip hop.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Alex Manning

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.