Sounds Interesting

Bad rap for rap

Chris Pratt with his wife actress Anna Faris for the World Premiere of Marvel’s ‘Guardian of the Galaxy’, 2014. EPA/ Nina Prommer

Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt can currently be found battling in multiplexes around the world, but as the recent viral video of him shows, he also has a magnificent ability to rap. (Just don’t hold me responsible for anything offensive in there).

Guardian’s Chris Pratt Rap’s Eminem’s “Forgot About Dre” w/ DJ Whoo Kid.

Of course Hollywood actors are hardly famed for being shrinking violets or an inability to sing, and so Pratt’s expertise should not be a massive surprise: when watching the video I found myself wondering if it would have gained so much attention had Pratt been so good in performing a musical style less subject to negative stereotyping.

This is particularly interesting because the evidence shows that rap fans are in reality some distance from being the dangerous gangstas of their stereotype, and in many ways are remarkable for being so unremarkable. A few years ago I ran a survey of around 30,000 people, looking at the extent to which liking for 104 music styles related to a range of personality traits.

Fans of rap scored relatively highly on measures of being outgoing and also self-esteem. Both of these of course are traits absolutely essential to having the courage to take on Hollywood, and so again Pratt’s rapping proficiency should not surprise us.

However, given that similar scores on self-esteem and being outgoing were recorded among fans of Latino, samba, blues, funk, jazz, easy listening, reggae, disco, chart pop, and soul, it is clear that these personality dispositions are anything but unique to rap fans. (And I wonder if the Hollywood glitterati are also more likely than most to like these other musical styles too.)

Similarly, fans of rap score relatively high for a trait called sensation-seeking, which is a desire to seek out new and exciting experiences and a willingness to take risks in order to obtain these. Again, however, fans of rap appear to be anything but unique in this, since heavy rock fans also tend to score higher than most for sensation-seeking, and so it is not surprising that they are more likely to engage in risky driving or risky sexual behaviours.

Similarly, my research on lifestyle correlating musical taste shows that many aspects of rap fans’ day-to-day lives do not appear to be particularly distinctive. For instance, a relatively high proportion of rap fans were raised outside two-parent families, but this is no different to fans of country or soul. Similarly, rap fans live with a greater number of people than do others, but probably only because they are also more likely than most to live in a detached home. And despite being stereotypically radical, rap fans are not much in favour of increasing taxes to support public services or of supporting greener energy sources.

So next time we see that a Hollywood star can rap we should certainly enjoy it, but perhaps not be quite so surprised.