Rap History
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 so that the ideas come
across with style. As L.L. Cool J describes it, "I write all my songs down
by hand. Each song starts with a word, like any other sentence, and becomes a
manuscript." (Nelson, Gonzales, 1991, 137). Many performers set a positive
example for their followers. Kurtis Blow rapped in a video for the March of

Dimes\' fundraising