The History of Rap Music

Rap music has its roots in Africa. Even before hip-hop or rap originated, the Griots (village story tellers) of West Africa narrated stories in a rhythmic way with drum beats. Rap music is also closely related to the songs that were sung by the African-American slaves, while they worked in the fields and did other manual labor. These songs were about the hardships and suffering that the slaves were forced to endure at the hands of their masters. The ‘call and answer’ emceeing technique is believed to have originated from such songs, wherein, one of the slaves would lead the song by calling out a part, while the others answered the call by singing the next few lines of the song. According to Blues guitarist and historian, Elijah Wald, people were rapping blues lyrics in 1920s. The call and answer technique was incorporated in gospel music as well, and sung by the church minister while making sermons.

Apart from rap pioneers such as Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham and Gil” Scott-Heron, a group of African-American poets in 1969, The Last Poets were making rap music about politics, society, race, and discrimination. Their song “Wake Up, Niggers” (1970) and among other songs contained spoken words, poetry, and jazz. The soul album ‘Black Moses’ by Isaac Hayes, had songs that were titled “Ike’s Rap” and “Ike’s Rap II”. The first big rap single that took America by storm was “Rapper’s Delight”, by Sugarhill Gang in 1979. This song revolutionized the genre. The single was a great commercial success and producers were finally ready to produce rap records. Many new rap bands like, Run-DMC and Kool Herc came up and found numerous fans.

The Myth

During the seventies and eighties, there was a myth among people that, this genre was for the Blacks. Bob Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ (1965) was a try on rap, too. In 1981, a new-wave white band, Blondie, tried it in the song called ‘Rapture’. In 1982, Afrika Bambaataa released ‘Planet Rock’, which was a huge success. He was the first Black Muslim making rap music. In 1986, this form of music reached the top of the charts with singles like, ‘Fight For Your Right’ by Beastie Boys and ‘Walk This Way’ by Run-DMC. Soon, Run-DMC became the first rap band to feature regularly on MTV (Music Television). In the mid 1980s, the first female band, Salt-n-Pepa, released their single, “The Show Stoppa”, which was a success, and henceforth, there was no looking back for this band.

Rap through the Years

Rap is “food for the soul” as many describe it. Rap is a lifestyle; it means different things to different people. The beauty of rap is the fact of relating it with oneself. People often wonder as to why rap sounds aggressive and revolves around miserable circumstances. Well, that’s because, there were and are troubled times in people’s lives. The music is what inspires people through venting and how! Similarly, rapping about champagne, cars and partying is very much a lifestyle too. It’s a feel-good factor in this case. There is no right and wrong when it comes to music. What we need to understand is that music is not esoteric and is there for the taking.