Music to my ears!
Nowadays if you ask most people to give a definition of "rap", they're likely to state that it's the reciting of rhymes to the best of music. It's a form of expression that finds its roots imbedded deep within ancient African culture and oral tradition.
Throughout history here in America there has always been some form of verbal acrobatics or jousting involving rhymes within the Afro-American community. Signifying, testifying, Shining of the Titanic, the Dozens, school yard rhymes, prison 'jail house' rhymes and double Dutch jump rope' rhymes are some of the names and ways that various forms of rap have manifested.
Modern day rap music finds its immediate roots in the toasting and dub talk over elements of reggae
music. In the early 70's, a Jamaican dj known as Kool Herc moved from Kingston to NY's West Bronx. Here, he attempted to incorporate his Jamaican style of dj which involved reciting improvised rhymes over the dub versions of his reggae records. Unfortunately, New Yorkers weren't into reggae at the time. Thus Kool
Herc adapted his style by chanting over the instrumental or percussion sections of the day's popular songs. Because these breaks were relatively short, he learned to extend them indefinitely by using an audio mixer and two identical records in which he continuously replaced the desired
In those early days, young party goers initially recited popular phrases and used the slang of the day. For example, it was fashionable for dj to acknowledge people who were in
attendance at a party. These early raps featured someone such as Herc shouting over the instrumental break; 'Yo this is Kool Herc in the joint-ski saying my mellow-ski Marky D is in the house'. This would usually evoke a response from the crowd, who began to call out their own names and
As this phenomenon evolved, the party shouts became more elaborate as dj in an effort to be different, began to incorporate little rhymes-'Davey D is in the house/An he'll
turn it out without a doubt.' It wasn't long before people began drawing upon outdated dozens and school yard rhymes. Many would add a little twist and customize these rhymes to make them suitable for the party environment. At that time rap was
not yet known as 'rap' but called 'emceeing'. With regards to Kool
Herc, as he progressed, he eventually turned his attention to the complexities of djaying and let two friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent (not Dana Dane's dj) handle the microphone duties. This was rap music first emcee team. They became known as Kool Herc and
Rap caught on because it offered young urban New Yorkers a chance to freely express themselves. This was basically the same reason why any of the aforementioned verbal/rhyme games manifested themselves in the past. More importantly, it was an art form accessible to anyone. One didn't need a lot of money or expensive
resources to rhyme. One didn't have to invest in lessons, or anything like that. Rapping was a verbal skill that could be practiced and honed to perfection at almost anytime.
Rap also became popular because it offered unlimited challenges. There were no real set rules, except to be original and to rhyme on time to the beat of music. Anything was possible. One could make up a rap about the man in the moon or how
good his dj was. The ultimate goal was to be perceived as being 'def (good) by one's peers. The fact that the praises and positive affirmations a rapper received were on par with any other urban hero (sports star, tough guy, comedian, etc.) was another drawing card.
Finally, rap, because of its inclusive aspects, allowed one to accurately and efficiently inject their personality. If you were laid back, you could rap at a slow pace. If you were hyperactive or a type-A, you could rap at a fast pace. No two people rapped the same, even when reciting the same rhyme. There were many people who would try and emulate someone's style, but even that was indicative of a particular personality.
Rap continues to be popular among
today's urban youth for the same reasons it was a draw in the early days: it is still an accessible form of self expression capable of eliciting positive affirmation from one's peers. Because rap has evolved to become such a big business, it has given many the false illusion of being a quick escape from the harshness of inner city life. There are many kids out there under the belief that all they need to do is write a few fresh' (good) rhymes and they're off to the good
Now, up to this point, all this needs to
be understood with regards to Hip
Hop. Throughout history, music originating from America's Black communities has always had an accompanying subculture reflective of the political, social and economic conditions of the time. Rap is
Hip hop is the culture from which rap
emerged. Initially it consisted of four main elements; graffiti art, break
dancing, dj (cuttin' and scratching) and emceeing (rapping). Hip hop is a
lifestyle with its own language, style of dress, music and mind set that is
continuously evolving. Nowadays because break dancing and graffiti
aren't as prominent the words 'rap' and 'hip hop' have been used
interchangeably. However it should be noted that all aspects of hip hop
culture still exists. They've just evolved onto new levels.
Hip hop continues to be a direct
response to an older generation's rejection of the values and needs of young people. Initially all of hip hop's major facets were forms of self expression. The driving force behind all these activities was people's desire
to be seen and heard. Hip hop came about because of some major format changes that took place within Black radio during the early 70's. Prior to hip hop, black radio stations played an important role in the community be being a musical and cultural preserver or griot (story teller). It reflected the customs and values
of the day in particular communities. It set the tone and created the climate
for which people governed their lives as this was a primary source of
information and enjoyment. This was particularly true for young people.
Interestingly enough, the importance of Black radio and the role djs played
within the African American community has been the topic of numerous speeches from some very prominent individuals.