Sex and the
hip hop generation:
A facilitator’s guide for
viewing and discussing
The Jeff Johnson Chronicles
Hip Hop is a fast-growing, fast-paced
popular culture that has permeated the conscience
of today’s youth. But the popularity of Hip Hop youth culture for all
young people—urban and rural; youth of color and white youth—raises
questions about social responsibility, especially about sex and gender
roles. In its recent series “Sex and Hip Hop,” The Jeff Johnson Chronicles explores Hip Hop
culture and its influence on today’s younger generation—fertile ground for frank and powerful
discussions about gender, sexuality, and sexual health issues.
These materials will focus on Hip Hop products that young people consume, such as music,
television, fashion, and movies, and the way young people interpret and apply the messages they
encounter. This guide has been developed for parents and adult facilitators to provide practical
methods and strategies for discussing the themes presented in “Sex and Hip Hop” with youth
between the ages of 15-24. By examining important issues such as sexual identity, role models,
sexual decision-making, and gender stereotypes—and how they are represented in Hip Hop—
youth leaders can foster open dialogue among youth peers and between youth and their parents,
and help them develop life-long media literacy skills that engage youth as active viewers and
interpreters of messages, not just passive recipients.
The activities presented here can be used in a group setting in conjunction with viewing Parts I
and II of “Sex and Hip Hop,” or can be modified so that viewing of the episodes is not required,
as indicated in the Tips section. Because of the sensitivity of the issues addressed, it is especially
important to ensure that a trusting atmosphere of openness and respect is maintained by the
group at all times. Setting common ground rules such as one person speaking at a time, the right
to “pass,” confidentiality, and respecting other people’s values and opinions is essential. You may
consider dividing your group by gender to facilitate a sense of trust and common experiences for
Funding for this discussion guide
was provided by the
Content and design for this guide
was produced by Topics Education.
© 2006 Black Entertainment Television
TOPIC 1: Hip Hop Culture and its effects
on self-esteem and role expectations
Concept: Hip Hop music, videos, and artists influence how young people feel about themselves, their self-
esteem, their peers, and their role expectations.
While Hip Hop music and videos are seen and heard around the world, the Hip Hop culture itself began as
means for impoverished youth in inner city neighborhoods in the 1970s and 1980s to express themselves,
to communicate how they felt about their environment and the difficulties they experienced related to
racism, poverty, drugs, and lack of employment, among other social issues. As a result, Hip Hop culture
has its own values, beliefs, symbols, and language. There is a brewing debate on whether Hip Hop has
become a way of life or a way to escape it. Regardless of the debate, Hip Hop plays a critical role in
establishing norms in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, particularly among youth.
While many factors influence self-esteem and role expectations in young people, this generation is the
first to experience its formative years under the constant influence of Hip Hop music and videos. With the
expansions of the Internet, cell phones, and iPods, music and images are pervasive, accessible any time
and practically everywhere. The prevalence of Hip Hop music combined with society’s reliance upon sex
appeal to influence behavior has created a complicated environment in which young people develop, grow,
Producers and artists tell us they sell fantasies about gender, power, and sexuality as entertainment.
Yet young consumers may see and internalize much more. Many young men and women recognize
that Hip Hop is a sexualized culture and feel an intense pressure to conform to the roles it represents.
They internalize these hyped notions about what makes young men and women successful in life and
relationships—if you’re male, being a dangerous (violent), mega-rich “playa”; if you’re a female, being
well endowed, flawless, and open to sexual advances.
Many young teens measure themselves against these stylized role models day after day. The outcomes
can be feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, and superficiality. Young women may emulate the video
girls to get young men’s attention—wearing provocative clothes,
dancing suggestively, and accepting labels such as “bitch” and
“ho.” Young men may consider selling drugs, joining gangs,
acquiring trappings of wealth such as cars, grills, diamond
necklaces, and watches, and keeping a “stable of women” to
establish their status. By aspiring to attain the lifestyles portrayed
by video vixens and male rap artists, they may embrace some of
the ideas that the culture celebrates: the need for women to find
a man because they cannot be independent; the need for men to
have many female partners to establish masculinity. These gender
roles and perspectives on relationships can result in risky sexual
behavior and serious long-term consequences.
TOPIC 1, continued
What youth leaders can do:
To connect with young people on these topics, adults need to understand the history of Hip Hop
culture and its prevalence in the world of today’s youth. Adults can plan activities to help young people
(1) understand how Hip Hop music and videos influence self-perception and behavior, (2) identify and
describe traits of healthy role models, (3) understand that what they see in videos may not be reality, (4)
discuss whether videos and music are influencing behavior or affecting their behavior negatively, and (5)
discuss ways they can become master builders of their own realities as opposed to living vicariously in a
fantasy world that can pose real harm.
Panel of Experts: Assign youth into four groups to watch The Jeff Johnson Chronicles: “Sex
and Hip Hop,” each group with an eye to one of the following questions:
What are the motives of artists and producers as they create music and videos?
What are the main messages presented in Hip Hop videos and their lyrics?
What messages/images are presented about how males and females interact in videos
and lyrics, and what are your feelings when you hear and see them?
How do images created by artists make you feel about yourself? About your peers?
After watching the video, have four to five volunteers from the first group sit up front and
become the “panel of experts” on their topic. They should discuss their thoughts on their
question and respond to follow-ups from the larger group and leader. Repeat the panel with a
new group for each of the questions. Record major points and review points of agreement and
disagreement at the end.
Stir It Up: Have participants brainstorm all the influences on self-esteem, both negative and
positive, they can think of and write each on a scrap of paper. Stir the scraps up and pull
them out individually, asking the group to discuss whether each is a positive, neutral, or
negative influence on self-esteem, including why.
30,000 Mile Check Up: Have young people complete a 30,000-mile “self-esteem” check-up.
They divide a page into two columns and identify aspects in their own life that either support
their self-esteem or diminish it. Ask them to plan one change they can make to improve how
they feel about themselves.
TOPIC 2: Hip Hop and Media influence
on sexual decision making
Concept: In a culture that is reluctant to talk openly about sexuality and sexual behavior, media has a profound
influence on sexual behavior and decision-making among young people.
Sexual behavior is a nearly universal human experience. Yet Americans are among the most reluctant
people in the world to talk about sex except in the context of humor and entertainment. When it comes to
parents talking with their children about sexual activity, there is even more reluctance. That leaves many
youth dependent on peers and the media for their information.
Given that among the top 20 most-watched shows by teens 70% include some kind of sexual content and
nearly half (45%) include sexual behavior (yet only 1% of all television shows with sex have a primary
thematic emphasis on sexual risks or responsibilities throughout the episode), it is important to address
the messages about sex and sexuality that young people are consuming. 1
Young people generally adopt one of three sexual lifestyles—a soul mate (looking for a complete
relationship and a long-term partner), a player (seeking sex for recreation and pleasure), or a user (using
sex as a weapon or power tool to exploit others). Hip Hop culture typically places emphasis on the latter
two lifestyles in its music and videos. Misogyny (negative feelings toward women) and homophobia are two
additional threads often woven into Hip Hop music. These multiple and sustained messages send signals
to youth about what their own attitudes and sexual relationships with others could or should be like.
To their credit, some artists and media leaders have used Hip Hop television, music, events, and
commercials to convey messages about some of these issues, like testing, communication, decision-
making, and condom use to prevent the spread of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and HIV/AIDS.
Results of a survey conducted by the CDC indicate that recent condom use among African American
males in grades 9-12 is higher (81.2%) than among white males (69%), which is a significant change
from a generation ago.2 Yet HIV/AIDS still affects African American and Latino communities more than
the general population, adding a huge burden to many who are already
What Youth Leaders Can Do:
Adults working with teens can help point out family members,
community leaders, athletes, and stars who have high quality
relationships and explore the ways these relationships have benefited
the individuals, institutions, and communities in our society. Young
people can then use these benchmarks to evaluate the messages
1 Kunkel, Dale, et al. Sex on TV 2005: A Kaiser Family Foundation Report. Kaiser
Family Foundation, November 2005.
2 Centers for Disease Control. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Youth Risk
Behavior Surveillance. Vol. 53 / No. SS-2. May 21, 2004.
TOPIC 2, continued
presented in media, projecting the outcomes of living life as seen through these images. Together, adults
and youth can explore the characters presented in music and videos, substituting themselves or their
own sisters/mothers/daughters or brothers/fathers/sons to see if the behavior and attitudes represented
are credible within their personal context. Young people can rehearse their “moves” (including use of
condoms and HIV testing) with an eye to their real goals and aspirations in life, as well as role-play those
presented in Hip Hop images in order to better understand the difference between fun/fantasy and reality.
Watch with a Question: Ask three groups of viewers to each pick a lifestyle type and then
watch the “Sex and Hip Hop” episodes looking for evidence of people being soul mates,
players, or users. Have students profile each type, examining dress, language, attitudes
between men and women, whether they exhibit love or lust, and any other characteristics
identified by the group. (Note: Young people might have difficulty differentiating between
players and users.) Discuss the profiles each group has created.
Too Strong for Too Long: Ask youth to work together in pairs to identify people they know of
(from family members to rap stars and athletes) who have their relationship act together and
what characteristics they observe that lead them to this conclusion. Have pairs report and list
their findings, both people and characteristics. Ask: who benefits from good relationships?
Probe for a discussion of the people themselves, their children, families, neighborhoods,
countries, and ultimately the world.
Should Love Hurt? Discuss the following statement made by Lil Scrappy: “Love hurts. Sex
feels good.” Help young people process the differences between love and lust, leading them to
discuss when love doesn’t hurt and when sex is more than a physical experience.
STDs: Protection and Testing: Reshow the segment where Jeff Johnson discusses the
statistics on youth and unprotected sex. Ask young people to consider what they want from
sex and what they don’t want. Ask them how they can get what they want while avoiding what
they don’t want (focus on STDs and HIV). If the group is comfortable doing so, have them
create scripts to role-play prevention strategies that include saying “no”; discussing, getting,
and using a condom with a partner; and getting themselves and potential partners tested.
TOPIC 3: Empowerment
through Media literacy
Concept: Young people with media literacy skills can interpret Hip Hop and other entertainment using techniques
that help them make informed choices about their own health and relationships.
Let’s face facts. Media’s purpose is to make money by selling a product. It uses every method at its
disposal to draw the largest possible audience for selling material goods, services, lifestyles, and ideas.
Young people are media’s most prized target. If they can be won over, they will be lifetime consumers
worth billions of future dollars.
Producers and artists are under intense pressure to find ways to break ahead of the pack and
draw massive audiences to their product. When Hip Hop culture was pulled from urban streets into
entertainment media, it scored an unprecedented success with youth not seen since the advent of rock
and roll. Hip Hop often integrates sex, violence, rebellion, music, and images, and then goes for the
entertainment jugular—outrageousness and shock effect. And while it can be seen as fantasy for many in
the entertainment and media world, young people who consume Hip Hop without media literacy skills and
some skepticism may not understand the motives and strategies behind the messages.
What youth leaders can do:
An effective antidote for the problem is helping youth acquire media literacy. It enables young people to
look critically at the media they consume rather than taking it at face value. Specifically, viewers with
these skills are able to identify who created the messages and why. They observe what creative techniques
are used to grab their attention and understand why these techniques are so effective. They can describe
what values, lifestyles, and points of view are both represented and omitted from the messages, and how
other people might understand these messages differently.
Youth can practice media literacy by deconstructing their favorite music to identify the scenarios
presented, confirming what is realistic to their lives and what is farce and fantasy. They can then analyze
the tone or pitch of the message, identifying its use of humor, sexuality, violence, opulence, or other
strategies. With practice at the first level, teens become “critical
viewers,” able to question the legitimacy of what they hear and see.
At a more advanced level, they are able reconstruct and substitute
messages around the central truths and values they hold while still
enjoying the music or video’s entertainment value.
TOPIC 3, continued
The Message: Have participants bring in their favorite videos, music, or song lyrics. Ask the
group to pick three for analysis (one of each kind, if possible.) In small groups, have them
identify: What is the main message(s)? Who (artist, company, media holding company) created
this message? Why did they put the song or video out? What techniques were used to grab and
hold my attention? What values, lifestyles, and points of view are presented, and which ones
are not? Who might understand this information differently than me and in what other ways
might these messages be interpreted? Look for common threads among all three media.
Is it REAL? Examine the same three media pieces again, asking participants to watch or listen
closely and consider whether what is being portrayed is “Tru to Life” (very real to their own
life), “Half-and-Half” (real in some ways but not others) or “Hype” (pure fantasy/exaggeration.)
As the group discusses, identify the components and write them on a flip chart or board in one
of the three categories: Tru to Life, Half-and-Half, or Hype. Ask “why” often while processing
this activity, and ask the group to summarize at the end what they discovered.
TOPIC 4: Delving deeper into
Fantasy, Farce, and reality
Concept: Differentiating between fantasy and reality in entertainment media helps people form more mature
decision-making and relationship skills.
Most people in the entertainment business, from the megastar icons to stagehands, have real lives that
are nothing like the music or videos they make. The posturing (language, dress, behavior, and implied
sexual activity) is as unreal for them off camera as it is for the fans who watch them perform. But as
“Sex and Hip Hop” points out, “sex sells.” Often, the dress and language used in videos and music
is specifically for this pop effect, and would be unrealistic and even offensive if used in real life with
partners, families, employers, and friends.
Young people need to understand that in their real lives, artists and musicians struggle in their
relationships and in decision-making, just like everyday people do. How they approach their own
relationships and how they treat sex off camera may be more like everyday people as well. Contrary to
what some Hip Hop media might portray, men with negative attitudes toward women and who treat them
badly are often rejected by women with high self-esteem. The negative scripts about interactions with the
opposite sex, as portrayed in many Hip Hop and rap lyrics, can result in strained relationships between
the sexes. Offensive terms used to refer to women are difficult to make positive under any realistic
conditions. Conversely, in real life “gold digging” women usually end up working one or two jobs to keep
themselves up and are rarely supported financially in ways that videos suggest. In reality, few people live
out the outrageous fantasies presented in entertainment media, and many who do soon find them boring
What Youth Leaders Can Do:
When it comes to music and videos, young people may be “tunies” (hear only the music) or “wordies”
(active listeners who hear and understand the words.) They need
experience in dissecting popular music and media for attitude and
behavior cues. They should speculate what it would be like living in a
world where such attitudes and behaviors were the norm, and then think
about what the future might be like in such a world. (A note of caution: for
some young people, some of the behaviors and images depicted in videos
are the real world for them, and youth leaders need to be cognizant and
sensitive to that.) Young people can enjoy the challenge of reconstructing
lyrics to the same music using more positive themes and messages.
Fashion-conscious youth might enjoy modifying attractive styles seen
in videos into clothing they would be comfortable wearing to their own
special occasions. To further explore healthy behaviors, young people
should also role-play more empathic relationships between the sexes,
demonstrating more positive long-term outcomes.
TOPIC 4, continued
Video Biopsy: Have the group select another favorite Hip Hop music video. Participants
divide into six groups according to their interests—behavior, language, dress, attitude, set/
environment, and relationships (how to treat people, how to approach potential partners, how
to handle conflicts, etc.) After watching the video, each group deconstructs the component
they chose and examines it under a microscope, comparing what the video presents against
their own realities, values, and culture. Each group should then do a two-minute presentation
of their findings with time for Q&A. The activity can also be conducted with groups comparing
what most consider to be a positive, generally uplifting Hip Hop video against a more negative,
sexually exploitive one.
Video Reconstruction: In the same groups, have participants decide if their component could
be/is worth trying to change. If it cannot, have them join other groups. If it can, have them
work on a new script, language, dress, etc. using their own skills to reconstruct it to their
standards and realities. To further extend the activity, re-cast and film participants playing
roles in more realistic plots and healthy relationships.