Young Males In Gangs Listen To Criminology Essay

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The first theme that will be discussed is drug dealing, some young males engage in drug dealing as a means of making money so they are able to attain the status and lifestyle that is portrayed by hip hop artists. This theme will be discussed further with relevance to Carnish and Clarkes (1986) rationale choice theory, followed by Cohen (1955), Merton (1983), Cloward and Ohline (1961) Sub cultural strain theories. And the theory of differential association (Sutherland and Cresseys, 1970). The second theme that will be discussed is 'street credibility'. This theme is believed to be the most prominent in literature concerning gangs and the use of violent weapons. Young males have a desire for street credibility in order to gain power, status and respect. Street credibility will be discussed further in relation to Tafijal and Turners (1985) Social identity theory, alongside the masculinity theory. Finally the concept of postcode wars will be discussed through Akers (1998) social learning theory and Bourdieu (1986) social capital theory. Also Maslow hierarchy of needs theory will be discussed in relation to the themes and why young people engage in the activities. Majority of these theories discussed in this chapter originated from America. This research only uses theories that have been accepted and applicable in the UK.

Analysis of song lyric

In order to establish if the hip hop culture has an influence on the behaviour of young males in gangs, a qualitative content analysis has been conducted on the type of hip hop music youth gang members might listen to. Out of the four songs that have been analysed two represent how hip hop cultured can glamorise gangs and violence (Appendix ii & ii), while the other two songs acknowledge social exclusion as a reason for delinquency (Appendix iii & iv).

Two prominent themes have been established through the thematic analysis of the song lyrics. These themes are 'weapons' and the violent use of them and 'drug dealing and drug use'. These themes have been mentioned both separately and in connection with one another in the song lyrics from Skepta and Giggs. These two artists glamorise the fact that they are able to profit from drugs and buy expensive items and that they are able to be in possession and use violent weapons. Whereas Professor Green (Appendix iii) describes the challenges of living and growing up in a lower class community like Hackney, east London. He describes hackney as a "jungle", he also states that "kids with sticks and knives, troubles what you find. Professor Green lyrics show that crime is normalised and engaging in criminal activities is how the majority of young people have grown up.

Skepta and Giggs have devoted majority of their lyrics to using drug dealing as a means to acquire expensive items and the use possession and use of violent weapons. The glamorisation of weapons is clearly seen in Skepta and Giggs lyrics. Giggs states that if he arrested for a murder then 2it could have been the man that had the weapon before me". Also Skepta states that he "switches clips, like hollowman switches chicks", meaning that he switches his guns like 'hollowman' which is Giggs stage name, switches females. This statement by Skepta clarifies ACPO's (2007: 16) findings that firearms have been circulated through gangs for many years. Both artists make reference to a particular weapon 'gun' in their lyrics, for example Skepta states a "Mac" and Giggs states a "4.5". Both artists have made references to being prepared to kill in order to protect their territory from rival gang members and if they have been disrespected. Another theme that has developed through the analysis of song lyrics was the need for 'social identity'. Giggs citied in his lyrics "black gang" which is a name associated with Peckham boys an area where Giggs is well known and grew up. The need for social identity is also noted in Skepta lyrics, he mentions "SN1" which is an abbreviation for 'Spare No One'. It is believed that some gangs avoid the use of the name gang within their group, organisation, crew and brotherhood, because of the negative links with the term (Katz, 1998:115). The final song lyric that have been analysed is from 'K. Koke - Turn back' (appendix iv). Exposure to violent weapons and drugs is also highlighted in this song. However this song represents for the people who live in poverty as a result of being socially excluded from society. There is reference to drug dealing in the lyrics, and in the music video it clearly shows a scene where drug dealing is taking place in order to acquire money and provide for family.

Analysis of Images

Semiotics is referred to as the science of signs. Semiotic analysis is an approach used to analyse symbols in everyday life (Bryman, 2008:531). Ferdinand Desaussure (citied in David Chandler, Semiotics for Beginners) is considered to be the creator of semiotics; he argued that language inheres not in the 'material substance of the words', but in the abstract 'system of signs'. Semiotics is concerned with the denotation, the signifier and the signified. This research will conduct a semiotic analysis on two images of hip hop artists. The first image is of 50 Cent (appendix v) and the second image is of NAS (appendix vi).

In order to analysis the semiotics of the images a brief discussion about what is visibly in the image 'signifier' will be discussed then what the suggested means of the image are which is known as 'signified'. The first image (appendix v) is filled with different signs, a gun, tattoos, muscles, a necklace and a designer holster. The signifier in this image is the Gun, what are signified in this image is aggression, anger and power. The signifier and the signified both equal to violence. The second image (appendix vi) is filled with a black male, calm colours, tattoos, jewellery and bold lettering saying 'Gods Son'. The signifier in this image is the lettering 'Gods Son' and what are signified in this image is authority, peace, calmness and respect. The signifier and the signified both equal to Power. Both images portray status, power and respect that young males look for in order to gain a social identity. %o cent (appendix v) portrays a violent and aggressive image, young people may look at this image and feel that in order to gain status like the artist they must imitate the signs within this image. The Daily Mail (2010) reported findings on gang members posing in pictures and video with machine guns in Bromley, south London. This finding shows that young males are imitating hip hop artist images in order to gain the power and respect that the image portrays. Whereas NAS (appendix vi) portrays an image of peace with religious views. This image can encourage young males to obtain the power, respect and status they require in a positive way.

The three themes that became apparent during the systematic review of the literature will now be discussed. Each theme will be discussed with examples from the lyrics analysed and also in relation to theory.

Drug Dealing

As stated in the street credibility paragraph, young males engage in drug dealing to acquire quick wealth and power. Lammy (2008) suggests that young males are at risk of developing terrible attitudes towards violence, money and sex during their adolescence and this will be blamed on the hip hop artists, especially by the media. The media do have a point in blaming the hip hop artists for influencing young males, for example Giggs (appendix 2) brags about "sporting Armani" in his lyrics, also making reference to having a variety of women and being able to choose from a variety of weapons. Even though young people in the United Kingdom have a range of positive role model that they can look up to, some young individuals feel like they can only relate to individuals from a similar background to theirs, for example hip hop artists.

Selling drugs is seen amongst gang members as the easiest option so they can live a glamorous life. It is also believed that in order for young males to start selling drugs they must become a member of a gang. Due to there not being much literature to support the link between drug dealing and gangs, Bellair and Mcnulty (2009) have argued that it may not be the gang members who sell drugs that cause a connection between gang members and the use of violent weapons. In addition some gang members who have no intentions of selling drugs may be recruited by older gang members to become drug mules and they may also be forced into keeping weapons at their homes (NASUWT Teachers Union, 2009: 15).From analysing the song lyrics, references were made to drug dealing and the amount of drugs they glamorous items they could buy from the money they had made and also sharing the money amongst the gang members (Skepta and Giggs).

The main question that researchers could ask is whether or not hip hop influences drug dealing and the violence associated with it. This concept is possible to believe because young gang members may be influenced by hip hop artists, flaunting about how much money they make by drug dealing in their song lyrics, also this could encourage gang members to use drug dealing as a way to obtain the glamorous lifestyle that is being portrayed by the artists. Kintrea et al (2008) suggests that young people engage in drug dealing because it is seen as a better and easier way to earn money, rather than the usual way through employment. Kintrea (2008) also found that young people carry weapons to protect themselves whilst they are drug dealing on the streets and the most common weapon they would carry is a knife.

Rational choice theory from Cornish and Clarke (1986) suggests that offenders base their actions on two decisions. These decisions are the readiness to act in order to satisfy a need and the decision of whether they should actually go ahead with the specific action. The benefits of drug dealing must outweigh the cost of getting caught or even worse being attacked. Therefore according to the choice theory the individual is most likely aware that he is putting himself at risk and could be attacked by another gang member so therefore the individual makes the decision to carry the weapons as a means of protection. And if the individual does find himself in apposition where he could be attacked, then he will consider his readiness to use the weapon. Giggs makes reference to the possibility of getting attacked, "getting jumped in the vehicle" (appendix 2), and this could be the reason why Giggs and his gang members carry weapons. The rational choice theory is an excellent theory for explain why young people may be in possession of violent weapons when dealing drugs. But this research wishes to determine if such behaviour is influenced by external sources.

Subculture theories and strain theory can be used to explain how hip hop lifestyle may influence young male's attitudes and behaviour. According to Cohen (1995), Merton (1938), Cloward and Ohlin (1961) individuals who are unable to acquire wealth and material good through legitimate actions such as employment will find alternative routes which usually involve criminal behaviour. This suggests that individuals view selling drugs as a way to afford luxuries that hip hop artists boast about. K.Koke (appendix 4) makes reference to individuals that are jobless and have to sell drug in order to make money and survive. Majority of the lyrics from hip hop artists on drug dealing are not aimed at young people, but it is clear that young people may listen and use drug dealing as a way to make their money especially if they are from a lower social background.

Even though strain theory has been successful in explaining why some young people may view drug dealing as a way of making money. It has been criticised for being unable to explain delinquency from middle class individuals and those who may be strained but avoid delinquency (Agnew, 1992: 45). Theory of 'differential association' by Sutherland and Cressey (1970) accept that criminal behaviour is evident in all social classes and that criminal behaviours are learnt through influential gangs. This theory could therefore imply that young gang members learn that selling drugs is a quick way to acquire wealth and in order to avoid being attacked and being unsuccessful in their drug dealing, the possession and willingness to use violent weapons is essential. However Sutherland and Cressey also suggest that the 'Interpersonal agencies of communication' such as music, play a relatively important part in the 'genesis of criminal behaviour'. (Sutherland and Cressey, 1978: 75). From the 'differential association' theory it would then be suggested that it is the influence of young males and not the hip hop that influence young male to be in possession and use violent weapons.

Street Credibility

Extensive study into gangs from the NASUWT Teachers Union (2009) found that the most reasons for young people joining gangs is to obtain status, power, street credibility and respect. This evidence has been supported by numerous amounts of research on gang membership from different literature, for example Kubrin (2005), Wood and Alleyne (2009) and Curry (2004). Also research on violent use of weapons has been conducted by ACOP (2007), Squires (2009), Kinsella (2011) and Lemos (2004).

In Deuchers (2008) study of marginalised youths and gangs in Glasgow, evidence suggested that some of the interviewed gang members had a desire to join gangs so they could acquire respect from other members within the gang. Also during the interviews some of the gang members acknowledged that carrying a weapon would enhance their power. The ACPO (2007:41) research supported this by stating that the perception amongst peers for carrying violent weapons is associated with gaining respect from gang members. It is believed that gang members feel that carrying a weapon gives them the respect that they need to become a gangster and live that lifestyle. This portrayal of a gangster lifestyle is normally seen in films, magazines and most importantly music. It has been reported that young males in gangs tend to imitate the American hip hop lifestyle and this is evident in literature by Deucher (2008) and Hallsworth and Silverstone (2009). The desire for respect and status is not demonstrated through the gang members being in possession of violent weapons, but through their willingness to use violence in order to protect themselves and their gang (Bellair and Mcnulty, 2009). This concept is noticeable in the song lyrics that have been analysed.

The social identity theory by Tajifal and Turner (1986) looks at the identity of the gangs as opposed to the individual member within the gang. According to Hogg and Abram (1988) this method of examining the social identity of the gangs provides a shared representation of how the members within it should behave and this will therefore show the identity that the group portrays to others. According to the social identity theory, the individuals within a powerful gang will be viewed by society as tough, so therefore they would need to keep up their tough image by acting violently. Sanchev and Bourhis (1985) found that individuals who are not members of a gang tend to be discriminated against by the powerful gangs. This notion is highlighted in Skepta (appendix 1) and Giggs (appendix 2) lyrics where it is often stated that other gang members should not mess with them. These threats are then enforced with reference to violence and weapons (Sanchev and Bourhis, 1985: 1991).

The willingness to use violence as a 'self - image promoting' technique has been described by Toch (1995). Toch believes that this technique is aimed to manufacture a 'formidable and fearless' masculine image, where violence is used as a means of expressing a self image where males use violence to defend any attacks made on their masculinity. Deuchar (2008) also suggested that recreational violence can be used by young males in order to obtain a sense of empowerment with a society where they are socially excluded. This suggestion was supported by findings from Bennett and Brookman (2009) study on violent offenders. This study interviewed young people who admitted to engaging in street assaults so they could maintain a reputation for toughness, gain respect from their peers and to avoid being victimised by other gang members. Gramsci (1978) explained young males need to portray an image of 'hegemonic masculinity', he believed that it was the way in which dominant gang member's act throughout society. Previously the use of violence was seen to be a masculine trait, but recently research has found that there has been an increase in the use of violence amongst females. It is believed that this increase has lead males to re-evaluate their masculinity (Cobbina et all, 2010: 596). Also it may be that because females are engaging in violence, young males have turned to the use of violent weapons in the UK.

Barker (2005) suggests that the characteristics of worldwide gang members is reflected in their willingness to use armed violence as a way to achieve their goal and to also protect themselves during minor altercations, if they feel their masculinity has been disrespected (Barker, 2005: 71). The majority of gang violence may occur because protecting your male honour is an important characteristic within gang memberships. Pickles (2009) 'Dying to belong' report on gangs in Britain, describes gang violence as a cycle where those individuals who desire respect are most likely to target those who seek reputation and respect. If this cycle would be seen as an insult of honour, which is could possibly result in revenge attacks between gangs. If gang members are disrespected in any form then the likelihood of violence may occur. This is mention in the songs that glamorise gangs and violence, for example Giggs (appendix 2) states that, "Bitch niggas wanna beef so they can tell a story". He then concludes with "be easy I'll put your mans in a box" box referring to a coffin.

Employment is another area where young males feel the need to maintain and protect their masculinity. Instead of acquiring wealth and status through hard work, young males are engaging in drug dealing as a means to acquire quick wealth and money.

Territory 'Post Code' Wars

The final theme that was prominent in the literature and song lyrics analysis is the protection of territory. Gang related research found that territory which is usually the post code or town they live in is one of the most defining factors associated with gangs. Crerar (2011) believes that this factor emerged when the government introduced budget cuts. Also pickle (2009) believes that territoriality is one of the main factors that trigger violence amongst gangs. She also believes that gang members defend their own territory, post code or town in order to gain respect. However it is important to remember that although territory is often linked with gang membership, it is not exclusive to gangs and not all gangs engage in territorial wars (Kintrea et al, 2008: 9). for the gangs that do engage in territorial wars, the ownership of their territory is viewed by Robinson (2000) who suggests that it is an important aspect in the construction of the gang members identity as well as the environment where they are able to bond and socially develop with other individuals. Robinson (2000) empirical study into the 'organization of space by street - frequenting youth' found that young people organised their territory based on where they felt safe and affirming. They would mark this space my excluding others from it.

Using social capital theory an explanation as to why gangs protect their territory can be given. Putnam (2000) explains that individuals connect through common values and this provides social capital in the form of emotional support and identity. However critical means may be used in order to acquire emotional support and identity if role models, positive norms and networks are absent within the young males life. Young males acquire social capital in the form of identity and they do so by using violence and weapons to protect their territory. Field (2008) believes that the more individuals in the gang, the more identity each individual desires and the richer they will be in social capital. However young people do not gain from just the identity, but also being part of a gang, having safety and a sense of belonging (Holligan and Deuchar, 2009:...). Akers (1998) social learning theory can attributed to territoriality and the possession and use of violent weapons. Social learning theory suggests that criminal and deviant behaviour is learned from others who commit and support violations of social and legal norms. By being part of a gang young people learn to engage in territorial wars through witnessing other gangs engage in that behaviour. They may also witness the use of violent weapons in order to protect their territory and gain power. The social learning theory can therefore account for behaviour learnt by other gang member and most importantly hip hop artists (Akers, 1998: 136).

It is obvious that territory is a prominent theme within the literature and it seems that young people engage in territorial wars in order to secure their membership within a gang that they are a member of so that their masculine identity is maintained. This is supported by Bradshaw (2005) study of gangs in Edinburgh. Bradshaw suggests that conflict between gangs was often carried out so that the gangs could sustain their reputation of being tough as opposed to protecting their territory. By being part of the toughest gang a foundation is provided for young males to express their masculinity through aggression and power (Deuchar, 2008:...). With this is mind it is obvious that intention of being in a gang is to maintain social identity and street credibility.

for self esteem, and the need to feel that one has potential to reach specific, self-actualization. Maslow (1998) basically indicated they all want security of being able to be identified with a group and find unity through the gang membership (prentice- Dunn & Rogers, 1989: 11).