N is for Ninety-Nine Problems

| April 8, 2014

I have been thinking a lot recently about the images that listening to a song can produce. Rap and hip-hop are genres of music that provoke sensory imagery due to the emotions and feelings they include. I am especially interested in music and sociology, and I thought this blog post was a great opportunity to analyze rap and music’s relation to aesthetic culture. As stated in Criminological Theory: A Brief Introduction, strain theories “generally make the case that if people get frustrated in their desires, or experience stress, they will be more likely to commit crime” (143). Strain theory argues that people, despite being inherently good, are pushed to commit crime as a result of the obstacles they encounter or their inability to satisfy their desires. Crime evolves out of the frustration people feel from not having their wants and needs fulfilled. As Emile Durkheim believed, “people naturally thrive in societies where their desires and wants are socially well regulated” (144). Therefore, people will fail to prosper and flourish when they become unable to gratify their desires. In the second and third verses of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”, it is apparent that the character in the song has succumbed to committing crime as a way to cope with the strain he experiences as part of a society in which he is viewed as insignificant due to his race. It seems as if race plays a major part in strain theory as one’s race will necessarily affect how easy or how difficult it is for him to be able to satisfy his needs as part of a given community. According to “99 Problems”, African-Americans are given a negative standardized image from the police and the justice system, which may lead them to commit crime as a way to cope with the harassment and condemnation they experience from their surrounding community.