History of Rap Music

Are you interested in the history of rap music? Rap music reaches back into the archives of slave spirituals, gospel music, rhythm and blues, jazz, Jamaican toasts and the many variations of these music genres that were sung on the streets of New York City. Rap music evolved from a tradition of storytelling through song that expresses the flavor of Latino and African American street culture.

Rap music was recognized as such in the late 1970s, when New York DJs began to take liberties with the dance music available, using the tools at their disposal to play with the music. The role of the DJ shifted with this trend, as DJs began to interject more than just song and artist names, but actually began to contribute to the music being played by saying things they thought needed to be heard, using instruments and their own voices to add to the music. As the DJs gained popularity, people started coming out to dance clubs not just to dance or hear specific music, but to hear the DJs themselves. Certain DJs recognized this opportunity and began to make up poetry that they then set to music, adding their two cents to the songs being played. This was the seed from which rap music was grown.

In the 1980s, rap music became the most popular vehicle for African American and Latino poetry set to music, spoken instead of sung, accompanied by beat boxing, break dancing and interpretative dance. Characterized by rhyming lyrics, alliteration and emphatic delivery coordinated with definitive beat patterns, rap music was easy to distinguish from other music genres. The appeal of rap music crossed over cultural and socio-economic divides; musical artists took on the challenge of poetic rap music.

In the early 1990s, rap music evolved into music with a strong, definitive message when gangsta rap took over the rap music stage. This sub-genre glorified issues, such as street violence, drug use, the sale of drugs, prejudice, sex and anger. Most rap musicians took on a negative, tough guy reputation, claiming in their songs to rule the streets as they inspired their listeners to revel in the rough experiences of urban life. This attitude, which was often anti-authoritarian or anti-majority, created a great deal of controversy. It resonated with a segment of the population and was embraced and celebrated, but was rejected by other parts of society.

At the turn of the century, rap began to cross cultural lines, as the messages delivered softened and became more mainstream. While some rap singers still deliver messages full of anger, many more rap singers tell humorous or mild street stories in their music, focusing more on sex and thrills than on hate messages. Rappers of all ethnic backgrounds can now be found, and even the religious community has capitalized on rap music, using it as a vehicle to deliver their messages to the urban music lovers.

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