United States

History of Rap

Have you ever wondered how rap came to be such a popular genre? Rap music has changed and shaped our society today. Some rappers sing about life and the way life goes and others rap about random topics. Most students can relate to what they are talking about and apply it to the problem they’re in at the moment.  It’s important having knowledge about the history of rap and how it evolved because it is still a big part of our society through art and music. Also, it influences people to take action on a problem they believe in changing.

This is Kurtis Blow when he was younger

Rap as a genre began at block parties in New York City in the early 1970s, when DJs began isolating the percussion breaks of funk, soul, and disco songs and extending them. Kurtis Blow was the first rapper to sign with a major label and was the first to earn a certified gold single. According to an article titled, Kurtis Blow Biography, “In 1979, Blow signed a deal with Mercury Records, making him the first rapper signed by a major label. His album Christmas Rappin’ sold more than 400,000 copies. His follow-up album, The Breaks, went gold, led by its iconic title track: “Brakes on a bus, brakes on a car, breaks to make you a superstar.” This shows that rap started out once his album and new songs blew up. Shortly after that more rappers came on the radar.  Now the most popular genre according to Billboard is Rap & Hip Hop.

Kids today mainly only listen to Rap music. According to Nielsen Music, “Total music consumption in the U.S. in 2017 climbed 12.5 percent to 636.65 million units (up from 566.1 million). That figure adds together traditional album sales, track equivalent album units, and on-demand streaming equivalent album units from both video and audio streams. One track equivalent album unit is equal to 10 tracks sold. One streaming equivalent album unit is equal to 1,500 on-demand streams” (Caulfield). This proves that today rap is still a popular genre. New artists had to face harsh times where people didn’t support them or believe in what they were speaking about. 

These are famous lyrics from Eminem

Artists mainly talk about problems that are happening or had happened in the past. For example, Kendrick Lamar and his song “Blacker the Berry” states, “I said they treat me like a slave, cah’ me black Woi, we feel a whole heap of pain, cah’ we black And man a say they put me inna chains, cah’ we black Imagine now, big gold chains full of rocks How you no see the whip, left scars pon’ me back But now we have a big whip parked pon’ the block All them say we doomed from the start, cah’ we black Remember this, every race start from the block, jus ‘member dat.” These lyrics are talking about him being black and being a slave to a white man but everyone comes from the same place. Like Kendrick Lamar, many other artists make bold statements with their music.

N.W.A was another group of rap artists who challenged the status quo

Rap has given people a voice to express themselves through music. “Over the past three decades, Hip Hop has influenced and uplifted America, speaking up for generations and providing a voice to a group of people trying to deliver a message. Hip Hop is a vocal outlet for many people in America. Hip Hop has provided a platform for MCs and rappers to express their opinions about society, the government and the treatment of African Americans in America for decades. This outlet is crucial for the uplifting of the black community and would benefit society entirely if people opposed to Hip Hop tried to embrace the culture rather than attack the culture” (Odenthal). This proves that Hip Hop & Rap have given people a voice for people that can’t or won’t speak up. Another artist that talks about the harsh reality of the world is Wale. In his song “The Kramer” his lyrics say, “This dark content for those of dark complexion Who’s x-ed off, Rip, who gon’ listen to us? Who gon’ speak for us? Who gon’ plead for us? Who gon’ be the Head N.I.C. for us? Who gon’ defend us from crooked police on us? I’m just an insecure N***** Please listen to me, please listen to me Please listen to me, N***** Please listen to me, who gon’ listen to me?” This song speaks loud to those who don’t have a voice and asking the audience who is going to be the ones speaking for them?

Rap has always been and always will be apart of our lives until the end of mankind. It’s  still important to have knowledge about the history of rap and how it evolved because it’s still a part of our society and has a big influence on people. I suggest that teachers play rap music to show how rap has influenced change.

Article by Calista Hudson and video by Drew Delbrouck 

Work Cited

Caulfield, Keith. U.S. Music Consumption Up 12.5% in 2017, R&B/Hip-Hop Is Year’s Most Popular Genre. www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/8085975/us-music-consumption-up-2017-rb-hip-hop-most-popular-genre.

Odenthal, Kathleen. “How Hip-Hop Music Has Influenced American Culture and Society.”Spinditty, Spinditty, 20 Apr. 2016, spinditty.com/genres/Hip-Hops-Influence-on-America.

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