a hot topic - one that is the subject of much controversy in the music industry and in our society. we always hear the stories. but, do you know anything about it?
rap (hip-hop) did not begin as a form to exploit women, disrespect other nationalities or a license to blurt out as much profanity as possible. there was no grabbing of the crotch and prancing around the stage. 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 to living the plush life. there are many out there under the belief that all they need to do is write a few good rhymes and they're off to the good life. early rappers took great pains to accomplish the art of showmanship. pioneering rapper's point out how they spent long hours rehearsing both their rhymes and routines. the name of the game was to get props for rocking' the house. that meant being a class act entertainer.
"rap" is not a new idea that sprung up in the music industry in the 80's and 90's. in fact, it has been evolving for decades. rap's roots can be traced to cab calloway; known for his signature "hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho" chant from "minnie the moocher". starting back in the 1940's, calloway used a call and response format with his audience, which is one of the foundations of rap.
other musicians who have utilized this technique, or have utilized a monologue-style in their music, include lou rawls, charlie daniels, bo diddley, arlo gutherie and peter, paul, and mary.
rap caught on because it offered young urban's a chance to freely express themselves. 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.
in the early days rappers flowed on the mic continuously for hours at a time, non stop. most of the rhymes were pre-written but it was a cardinal sin to recite off a piece of paper at a jam. the early rappers started off just giving shout outs and chants and later incorporated small limericks. later the rhymes became more elaborate, with choruses like 'yes yes y'all, or 'one two y'all to the beat y'all being used whenever an emcee needed to gather his wind or think of new rhymes.
in regards to rap and 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 no different.
hip hop is the culture from which rap emerged. initially it consisted of four main elements; graffiti art, break dancing, dj (cutting' 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. now, 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. (remember parents weren't thrilled with elvis either!). initially, all of hip hop's major facets were forms of self expression. the driving force behind all these activities was a desire to be seen and heard.
when i hear people mention rap music in a negative way, i think of rock initially being called "the devil's music". "is rap really music?"...this is for the listener to decide. rap/hip hop music can actually be quite complex. musicians utilize techniques such as double timing, crossing the bar, polyrhythms, syncopation, and accents. these are all methods which enrich the rhythmic components of the song.
this thread is dedicated to the memory of jason mizell, "jam master jay", dj for the most successful rap group of all time, run-dmc. he was shot and killed 10/31/02 at his recording studio near the new york neighborhood where he grew up.
"wars going on across the seas.... street soldiers, killing the elderly....whatever happened to unity?....
it's like that...and that's the way it is...." -run dmc 1984