How Music Empowers: Listening to Modern Rap and Metal

Mar 30, 2021 | Publication

We’re pleased to announce the publication of How Music Empowers, a new book by CIPHER team member Dr. Steven Gamble. Steve’s research for this book, mostly undertaken prior to the CIPHER project, is impactful and important for hip hop audiences, especially people who are into contemporary rap. Artists including Little Simz, Drake, Missy Elliott, Brockhampton, and Chance the Rapper are discussed – and a bunch of metal artists too! The book is great reading for anyone excited by how the listening process works (what happens in the mind and body), and how music affects emotions, alters behaviour, and incites action.

Here’s the blurb:

How Music Empowers argues that empowerment is the key to unlocking the long-standing mystery of how music moves us. Drawing upon cutting-edge research in embodied cognitive science, psychology, and cultural studies, the book provides a new way of understanding how music affects listeners. The argument develops from our latest conceptions of what it is to be human, investigating experiences of listening to popular music in everyday life. Through listening, individuals have the potential to redefine themselves, gain resilience, connect with other people, and make a difference in society.


Applying a groundbreaking theoretical framework to postmillennial rap and metal, the book uncovers why vast numbers of listeners engage with music typically regarded as ‘social problems’ or dismissed as ‘extreme’. In the first ever comparative analytical treatment of rap and metal music, twenty songs are analysed as case studies that reveal the empowering potential of listening. The book details how individuals interact with rap and metal communities in a self-perpetuating process which keeps these thriving music cultures – and the listeners themselves – alive and well. Can music really change the world? How Music Empowers answers: yes, because it changes us.


How Music Empowers will interest scholars and researchers of popular music, ethnomusicology, music psychology, music therapy, and music education.

The book’s pricing with academic publisher Routledge is very steep, but Steve is happy to receive requests for free review copies: just get in touch here. A cheaper paperback will be available down the line. For more info, head to!

© Routledge