Rap Song Facts

Rap is a genre of music that originated in the 1970s in the Bronx, N.Y. The music was a regional hit for a decade until the song Rapper's Delight by the Sugarhill Gang became a dance club hit. By the late 1980s, rap songs regularly featured on top R&B and pop music charts had invaded the mainstream culture by appearing in television commercials; rap music even played a small role in the 1992 Democratic primary election for president.

Rap roots

  • Rap music is one component of hip-hop culture. The other components, "B-boying," (break dancing), graffiti art and "DJ-ing" (playing and manipulating records that make the beat for rap music) are known as the four corners of hip-hop.
  • The terms rap music and hip-hop music are often used interchangeably in writing and speaking about rap music.
  • Rappers were originally referred to as MCs, or master of ceremonies. Currently, the terms are used interchangeably, though MC has fallen out of favor in common parlance.
  • DJ Kool Herc (Clive Campbell) is the Jamaican-born musician credited with inventing rap music. As a DJ working block parties in the Bronx, Herc would isolate the drum breaks in popular songs and play the drum breaks only by taking two copies of the record and switching back and forth between them using two turntables.
  • Herc would also speak to the dancing crowd during his spins in the way Jamaican DJs did. He called his dancers "break" boys and girls because they danced over the drum breaks.
  • Kurtis Blow credits DJ Hollywood as the first rapper. He rhymed over disco hits when he worked posh clubs in New York. He's credited with coining most of the popular phrases from early rap hits like "throw your hands in the air, and wave them like you just don't care."
  • "Grand Wizzard" Theodore Livingston is credited with originating "scratching," the act of creating a percussive noise by sliding a record back and forth under the turntable needle.

Rap facts

  • In 1978, former R&B singer Sylvia Robinson sought to capitalize on the popularity of rap in New York City. She hired a band and a crew of unknowns and put together the song Rapper's Delight. The song, released in September 1979, reached No. 36 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 1 in several other countries across the globe.
  • In 1981, the new wave rock band Blondie released a song from their album The Tide is High called Rapture. The song was a No. 1 hit, and its video, featuring hip-hop cultural figures, was the first rap video on MTV.
  • Def Jam records was the most successful record label devoted to rap music in the 1980s. They boasted having Run-DMC, The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J and Public Enemy on their label. Run-DMC was the first rap group to win a Grammy Award nomination. The Beastie Boys and LL Cool J both had platinum-selling albums during the decade and Public Enemy popularized the use of political and social commentary in rap music.
  • 1989 was the first year the Grammys presented a category specifically for rap music. The category was "Best Rap Performance" and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, featuring future movie star Will Smith, won the award.
  • In 1992 rap music played a role in presidential politics. Then-Vice President Dan Quayle called for a ban of Tupac Shakur's record 2Pacalypse Now. President Bill Clinton, as a candidate, criticized rapper Sista Souljah for speaking out about the riots in Los Angeles that year.
  • In the 1990s, the most popular rap music discussed violence in inner city America. The violence often spilled over into real life. In 1996, rap rivals Tupac Shakur and Christopher "the Notorious B.I.G." Wallace were murdered in unrelated incidents. As the two artists had a public rivalry, the public believed the rapper's deaths were the result of that rivalry, and there were calls for an end to violence in hip-hop culture.
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