Rap is one of the most popular mainstream music genres. It is often considered a new style of music; however, many are surprised by how far Rap’s history goes.
In this article, we will consider some interesting facts about Rap music and its origins. We will start with the name Rap.
Why Is It Called Rap?
So, where exactly did the name Rap come from? The truth of the matter is that none knows. But there are many interesting theories to choose from to form your own opinion.
One interesting theory is that Rap is an acronym for “Rhythm and Poetry.” That would make perfect sense since rap music is poetry put to a rhythm. This definition is a favorite theory of true artists at heart. However, some of the more rebellious fans prefer the theory that it stands for “Rebellion against Police.” As we will see later on, however, the rebellion wasn’t really at the heart of the rap movement in its beginnings.
Others argue that instead of being an acronym, it simply borrows the word from common English. For centuries, the word “rap” has been used to refer to a light knock on a door. The sound of someone “rapping” on a door could be considered similar to the repeated rhythm so characteristic of rap music.
In more recent years, “Rap” was adapted as a slang verb that refers to an open and free, sometimes radical, discussion. This also would make sense since most topics that makeup rap songs are of this nature.
All of the above theories make sense, so it comes down to which one you like and want to accept. Let’s get into detail on how the actual music originated.
Who Was The First Rapper?
The exact origins of rap, similar to its name, are somewhat obscure. Many will point to a live event in the Bronx in the 1970s as the first rap song ever performed (more about that later). But historians point to much further back.
They point to thousands of years before the Bronx ever existed. Back on the African continent, most tribes had what is referred to as Griots. Griots were the entertainers, newscasters, and historians of a tribe. They would tell stories rhythmically while playing music with a handheld instrument, such as a drum.
Many African slaves continued this tradition in the US, which could account for the supposed origins in Blues and Jazz (more about that later).
It is also worth mentioning the “call and answer” songs sung in the fields between the enslaved workers while they worked in the fields. They would sing to the rhythm of their movements while working, often answering one another in a similar fashion to today’s rap “battles”.
Some historians argue that Blues music should be considered the start of modern rapping. It is claimed that some blues songs were rapped instead of sung as far back as the 1920s. Likewise, Jazz should also be accredited as having an influence on modern rap for similar reasons.
Another theory is that rapping has its roots mainly in the Jamaican practice of “toasting.” This theory was enhanced because the first identifiable and authentic modern rapper, DJ Kool Herc, was a Jamaican immigrant. Herc, however, publicly denied the connection.
While the theories that we have mentioned above are somewhat controversial, everyone agrees that it was in the 1970s that modern rap music took off in the mainstream. Mostly thanks to block parties in the Bronx.
Most accept that DJ Herc was the first to catch on to the crowd’s reaction when making a melodic announcement with the music still playing. At a historical block party in the Bronx, in 1973, he got his friend La Rock to pronounce what is widely accepted as the first official rap bar. After this moment, Rap’s history has been well documented.
What About The History Of Rap Subject Matter?
Despite its popularity in recent years, rap music has gotten a bad rap (no pun intended). However, examining the modern history of rap is actually quite inspiring to most musicians.
While it is true that many groups out there concentrate on crime and rebellion that is not what rap music is really all about. In the 1970s, rap music’s main theme sung at block parties was “party rhymes,” meant to keep the crowd in a festive mood.
The second most rapped theme was based on love, sex, and beauty. Another popular theme is material possessions and riches, which are a favorite since rapping and bragging combine nicely.
In this brief discussion on rap history, we have seen that it undoubtedly has its roots in ancient Africa. This fascinating music genre will surely be respected and cherished well into the future!