Rap

Rapping (also known as emceeing, MCing, spitting (bars), or rhyming) refers to “spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics”. The art form can be broken down into different components, as in the book How to Rap where it is separated into “content”, “flow” (rhythm and rhyme), and “delivery”. Rapping is distinct from spoken word poetry in that it is performed in time to a beat.

rap
Rapping (also known as emceeing, MCing, spitting (bars), or rhyming) refers to “spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics”. The art form can be broken down into different components, as in the book How to Rap where it is separated into “content”, “flow” (rhythm and rhyme), and “delivery”. Rapping is distinct from spoken word poetry in that it is performed in time to a beat.

Rapping is a primary ingredient in hip hop music and reggae, but the phenomenon predates hip hop culture by centuries. It can also be found in alternative rock such as that of Cake and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rapping is also used in Kwaito music, a genre that originated in Johannesburg, South Africa and is composed of hip hop elements. Rapping can be delivered over a beat or without accompaniment. Stylistically, rap occupies a gray area among speech, prose, poetry, and song. The use of the word (meaning originally “to hit”) to describe quick speech or repartee, long predates the musical form. The word had been used in British English since the 16th century, and specifically meaning “to say” since the 18th. It was part of the African American dialect of English in the 1960s meaning “to converse”, and very soon after that in its present usage as a term denoting the musical style. Today, the terms “rap” and “rapping” are so closely associated with hip hop music that many use the terms interchangeably.

Etymology

Over many centuries, the meaning of the English verb rap was gradually extended from ‘hit, strike, especially repetitively and rapidly’ to ‘parley’, and finally, ‘speak lyrics to a beat measure (whether or not the beat itself is physically present)’.

By the late 1960s, when Hubert G. Brown changed his name to H. Rap Brown, rap was a slang term referring to an oration or speech, such as was common among the ‘hip’ crowd in the protest movements, but it did not come to be associated with a musical style for another decade.

Rap thus etymologically means “fast read” or “spoken fast”. It may be from a shortening of repartee.

Roots

Rapping can be traced back to its African roots. Centuries before hip hop music existed, the griots of West Africa were delivering stories rhythmically, over drums and sparse instrumentation. Such connections have been acknowledged by many modern artists, modern day “griots”, spoken word artists, mainstream news sources, and academics.

Blues music, rooted in the work songs and spirituals of slavery and influenced greatly by West African musical traditions, was first played by blacks, and later by some whites, in the Mississippi Delta region of the United States around the time of the Emancipation Proclamation. Grammy-winning blues musician/historian Elijah Wald and others have argued that the blues were being rapped as early as the 1920s. Wald went so far as to call hip hop “the living blues.” Jazz, which developed from the blues and other African-American and European musical traditions and originated around the beginning of the 20th century, has also influenced hip hop and has been cited as a precursor of hip hop. Not just jazz music and lyrics but also Jazz poetry. According to John Sobol, the jazz musician and poet who wrote Digitopia Blues, rap “bears a striking resemblance to the evolution of jazz both stylistically and formally.” One of the main influences on Hip Hop artists was James Brown. James Brown is credited for inventing funk music in the middle ’60s. The characteristic funk drum beat is the most common rhythm used for rap music. Two of the earliest recordings which have a funk beat and lyrics which are rhymed in rhythm over this type of beat were released by comedian Pigmeat Markham, “Here Come the Judge” which was released in 1968 by the Chess label and in 1969 another song about running numbers called “Who Got The Number?”. “Here Comes the Judge” peaked at number 19 on the Billboard charts. While it was primarily a comical song about a Judge and his courtroom it is also notable for the political lyrics “I’m goin’ to Paris to stop this war” and “I had a chat with Ho Chi Minh” both social commentary references about wanting to go to the Paris Peace Accord negotiations to stop the war in Vietnam.

The spoken word jazz poetry of the United States was also a predecessor for beat poetry, as well as the rapping in hip hop music. Gil Scott-Heron, a jazz poet/musician who wrote and released such seminal songs as “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, “H2OGate Blues Part 2: We Beg Your Pardon America,” and “Johannesberg,” has been cited as an influence on many rappers. His collaborations with musician Brian Jackson (Pieces of a Man, Winter in America) have been cited as major influences on hip hop, in terms of sound and lyrical style. Similar in style, the Last Poets who formed in 1969 recited political poetry over drum beats and other instrumentation, and were another predecessor for rap music. They released their debut album in 1970 reaching the top ten on the Billboard charts.

Precursors also exist in non-African/African-American traditions, especially in vaudeville and musical theater. One such tradition is the patter song exemplified by Gilbert and Sullivan but that has origins in earlier Italian opera. “Rock Island” from Meridith Wilson’s “The Music Man” is wholly spoken by an ensemble of travelling salesmen, as are most of the numbers for British actor Rex Harrison in the 1964 Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady. Glenn Miller’s “The Lady’s in Love With You” and “The Little Man Who Wasn’t There” (both 1939), each contain distinctly rap-like sequences set to a driving beat. In musical theater, the term “vamp” is identical to its meaning in Jazz, gospel, and funk, and it fulfills the same function. Semi-spoken music has long been especially popular in British entertainment, and such examples as David Croft’s theme to the 1970s’ sitcom Are You Being Served?, the 1979 song Mickey as performed by Toni Basil in 1982, and the 1984 title song, “One Night in Bangkok” for the musical Chess have elements indistinguishable from modern rap. In the realm of classical music, semi-spoken music was popular stylized by composer Arnold Schoenberg as Sprechstimme, and famously used in Ernst Toch’s 1924 Geographical Fugue for spoken chorus and the final scene in Darius Milhaud’s 1915 ballet Les Choéphores. Although these probably did not have a direct influence on rap’s development in the African American cultural sphere, they paved the way for acceptance of spoken word music in the media market.

More directly related to the African American community were items like schoolyard chants and taunts, clapping games,[19] jump-rope rhymes, some with unwritten folk histories going back hundreds of years across many nationalities. Sometimes these items contain racially offensive lyrics. A related area that is not strictly folklore is rhythmical cheering and cheerleading for military and sports.

During the mid-20th century, the musical culture of the Caribbean was constantly influenced by the concurrent changes in American music. As early as 1956, deejays were toasting (an African tradition of “rapped out” tales of heroism) over dubbed Jamaican beats. It was called “rap”, expanding the word’s earlier meaning in the African-American community—”to discuss or debate informally.”

One of the first rappers in the beginning of the hip hop period, in the end of ’70s, was also hip hop’s first DJ, Kool Herc. Herc, a Jamaican immigrant, started delivering simple raps at his parties, inspired by the Jamaican tradition of toasting. By the end of the 1970s, artists such as Kurtis Blow and The Sugarhill Gang were just starting to receive radio airplay and make an impact far outside of the New York area, on a national scale.

 

Source: Wikipedia