Development of modern Rap



Rap music as a musical form began among the youth of South Bronx,
New York in the mid 1970’s. Individuals such Kool Herc and
Grandmaster Flash were some of the early pioneers of this art form.
Through their performances at clubs and promotion of the music, rap
consistently gained in popularity throughout the rest of the 1970’s.
The first commercial success of the rap song “Rapper\'s Delight” by the
Sugar Hill Gang in 1979 helped bring rap music into the national
spotlight. The 1980’s saw the continued success of rap music with many
artists such as Run DMC (who had the first rap album to go gold in
1984), L.L. Cool J, Fat Boys, and west coast rappers Ice-T and N.W.A
becoming popular. Today, in the late 1990’s rap music continues to be
a prominent and important aspect of African- American culture.

Rap music was a way for youths in black inner city neighborhoods
to express what they were feeling, seeing, and living and it became a
form of entertainment. Hanging out with friends and rapping or
listening to others rap kept black youths out of trouble in the
dangerous neighborhoods in which they lived. The dominant culture did
not have a type of music that filled the needs of these youth, so they
created their own. So, rap music originally emerged as a way "for
[black] inner city youth to express their everyday life and struggles"
(Shaomari, 1995, 17). Rap is now seen as a subculture that, includes
a large number of middle to upper white class youths, has grown to
support and appreciate rap music.

Many youth in America today are considered part of the rap
subculture because they share a common love for a type of music that
combines catchy beats with rhythmic music and thoughtful lyrics to
create songs with a distinct political stance. Rap lyrics are about
the problems rappers have seen, such as poverty, crime, violence,
racism, poor living conditions, drugs, alcoholism, corruption, and
prostitution. These are serious problems that many within the rap
subculture believe are being ignored by mainstream America. Those
within the rap subculture recognize and acknowledge that these
problems exist. Those within this subculture consider "the other
group" to be those people who do not understand rap music and the
message rap artists are trying to send. The suppresser, or opposition,
is the dominant culture, because it ignores these problems and perhaps
even acts as a catalyst for some of them.

“The beats of rap music has people bopping and the words have
them thinking, from the tenement-lined streets of Harlem, New York, to
the mansion parties of Beverly Hills, California” (Shomari, 1995, 45).
Rap music, once only popular with blacks in New York City,
Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, has grown to become America\'s
freshest form of music, giving off energy found nowhere else. While
the vocalist(s) tell a story, the sic jockey provides the rhythm,
operating the drum machine and "scratching". Scratching is defined as
“rapidly moving the record back and forth under the needle to create
rap\'s famous swishing sound” (Small, 1992, 12). The beat can be
traditional funk or heavy metal, anything goes. The most important
part of rap is "rapping," fans want to hear the lyrics.

During every generation, some old-fashioned, ill-humored people
have become frightened by the sight of kids having a good time and
have attacked the source of their pleasure. In the 1950s, the target
was rock \'n\' roll. Some claimed that the new type of music encouraged
wild behavior and evil thoughts. Today, rap faces the same charges.
Those who condemn this exciting entertainment have never closely
examined it. If they had, they would have discovered that rap permits
kids to appreciate the English language by producing comical and
meaningful poems set to music. Rappers don\'t just walk on stage and
talk off the top of their heads. They write their songs, and they put
a lot of though into them. Part of rapping is quick wit. “Rappers
like L.L. Cool J grew up rapping in their neighborhood, and they
learned to throw down a quick rhyme when they were challenged”
(Nelson,Gonzales, 1991, 135). But part of it is thoughtful work over
many hours, getting the words to sound just right