Alcohol is everywhere you turn in urban culture, from mentions in rap songs to advertisements featuring movie stars. A recent study suggests that alcohol companies are specifically targeting black youth. According to a report conducted by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, African-Americans ages 12 to 20 see more alcohol ads on television and in magazines than other youth.
Research shows that black teens are often exposed to booze ads in magazines and on public transit. TV and radio ad exposure is also higher among black youth. Young African-Americans saw 32 percent more alcohol ads in magazines, 17 percent more on television, 20 percent more ads for hard liquor than youth overall and 32 percent more radio ads on radio.
While the study can’t make the claim that alcohol companies are specifically targeting black youth (because they can’t prove intent), it does show that these corporations aren’t living up to their own voluntary standards, such as avoiding running ads during TV shows with audiences including 28.4 percent or more underage watchers. It seems for these companies the bottom line is selling their product and they know that underage drinkers have spending power.
The alcohol companies aren’t the only ones to blame, however. Hip hop culture encourages drinking and young people of color are exposed to it. According to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley: “An analysis of rap lyrics showed 64 percent of the most popular songs released from 2002 to 2005 referenced alcohol. This marked a steep rise; an earlier analysis of rap songs from 1994 to 1997 showed 44 percent contained alcohol references.”
Drinking is often referenced and glorified in rap music and some rappers have even signed on as spokespeople for liquor companies, including Diddy, Jay-Z and Pharrell.