Rap 101

  1. 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
    Last edit by rebelwaclause on Nov 19, '02
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  2. 37 Comments

  3. by   Rustyhammer
    You often hear of rappers being involved in either illegal activities or at least singing about them. There has been more than one rapper shot and killed.
    My kids are "rap-curious" and I try to monitor which CD's they are listening to. I don't like my boys listening to women being refered to as "hos" or in any disrespectul manner.
    The only "clean" rap I've heard so far has been Will Smith and I let them listen to him.
    I have tried to keep an open mind about this but most of the rap CD's I've heard are full of the "F" word and contain violence and anti-women messages and boys age 9 and 11 are too young for that.
    -Russell
  4. by   RNinICU
    Very interesting topic, and very well put, Rebel.
  5. by   kristi915
    I think this Jason Mizell guy spoke very well in his music. I don't think he was all about degrading women or illegal stuff. I thought he rapped about good stuff???
  6. by   rebelwaclause
    Originally posted by Rustyhammer
    You often hear of rappers being involved in either illegal activities or at least singing about them. There has been more than one rapper shot and killed.
    -Russell
    Thanks for trying to remain open, Rusty. Yes there's bad "gangsta" rap, then there's less popular "clean" rap - Like Will Smith and recently LL Cool J promote. But if you think about it, not just rappers are involved in illegal activities. The music industry as a whole houses many "bad boy" celebrities within each music genre. The sad truth about all of this, is that your average kid from the ghetto isn't hoping to be a "hood-star". The record industry promotes what sells, and these kids get caught up in something they've seen and are familiar with, but was trying to escape.

    My point in posting the history of Rap was to attempt to offer some positive history on the culture and history that is rarely told. I hope others will learn from it and be less judgmental of what music big-wigs have turned into "industry".

    Thanks for listening.
  7. by   shygirl
    Thanks for the info, but...I still do not like rap!
  8. by   rebelwaclause
    Thanks for your honesty Shygirl, but I have to ask "Why?" Is it for the same reasons I do not like Country music? (just not my cup of tea)...
  9. by   Rustyhammer
    I surely didn't mean to put a negative tone on a fine post Rebel.
    It is sad whenever a persons life is cut short, especially when they still have so much to offer this world.
    I apologize for any percieved negativity I put in.
    I'm really not anti-rap. More I am unenlightened.
    I agree that there are many artists of many genres who have had there share of trouble with drugs and other illegal activity. It's not exclusive to anyone.
    I thank you for the history.
    -Russell
  10. by   RNinICU
    Originally posted by rebelwaclause


    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.


    I felt the desire to comment further on this subject. Back in the late 60's, my mother thought that if I listened to rock music, I would turn in to a sex crazed drug addict. When my kids were teenagers, heavy metal was popular and got blamed for a lot of things, including encouraging teen agers to commit suicide. Music is an art form, and a way for people to express themselves. Music does not create feelings of frustration and hopelessness, just as it soes not create fellings of love or passion. It is simply a way for the artists to put feelings they already have into a form that others can appreciate. If young people relate to a particular artist or song, it is because they share the feelings expressed. Any one who commits suicide or shoots a policeman after hearing a certian song already had those thoughts and feelings. It is up to parents to instill values and morals and a sense of self worth in their children. Just my opinion.
  11. by   rebelwaclause
    No, No No Rusty...I didn't take your post as negative at all! I appreciate that you can always verbalize your "disgust" in a positive way (hehehehehe). Always enjoy your opinion!

    Take care!
  12. by   Rustyhammer
    Originally posted by RNinICU
    Back in the late 60's, my mother thought that if I listened to rock music, I would turn in to a sex crazed drug addict.
    My mom thought the same thing. Funny now to think how intuitive and perceptive she really was.
    -Russell
  13. by   Q.
    I think the "rap" I used to listen to way back when was "Beastie Boys." Aren't/weren't they kinda rap-like?

    I agree rap has a negative connotation to it, and that sucks because that's what gets the most attention it seems.
  14. by   rebelwaclause
    I do think music will portray "fun" within whatever the songs topic is, sometimes sending a message of "Just do it". And whats better to rap or sing about other than the top seller - Sex, drugs and rock (with the roll?).

    Additionally funny is that music cannot make anyone do anything they haven't honed in to do anyway. I mean, didn't we all go through our "fast-azz" late teens/early twenties when we did everything we where told NOT to do?

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