Examining The History Of Rap Music Cultural Studies Essay

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Rapping has received several definitions from various circles such as spitting bars, rhyming, Mcing or emceeing (Edwards, xii). Rap is a kind of a music that consists of tropical rhyme verses that are recited over some recorded or live instruments background. It's simply some "spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics having a strong rhythmic accompaniment" (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, n pg). It was developed by some urban black Americans, its format originally consisting of Disk Jockey (D.J.), that was alternating and mixing some small excepts of the recorded music while adding some rhythmic scratching sound. The D.J's technique is done while a 'rapper' is reciting or singing some rhythmical rhymed lyrics, whose compositions are similar to those of poetry (Edwards, x).

Rap made its first appearance in mid 1970's. Musicians who specialize in rap music sample a wide variety of street sounds, spoken word's recordings, and historical music in a very powerful music format. The first rap has its roots in Bronx; a ghetto that is based in New York City. The black Americans had started using instrumental music and drum beats as the background for their lyrics. As it shall be expounded in this paper, sometimes later J. Sadller came up with a more accurate methodology of mixing music by use of two turntables with additional scratching technique to the rap music. The paper shall expound on how the rap music that we have today was born as well as the reasons for the criticism of the contents of the rap music. The music has been perceived as controversy to societal morals base on the sexually explicit texts and lyrics. It has also been criticized for its glorification of violence or its role in promoting controversial political views. The first appearance of rap was as a tool for expression of the anguish over the oppression of the poor (Rhodes, Para 3).

History of Rap Music and Evolution of Rap Music:

The evolution of rap music can be traced back to the African people, but specifically the black American. The tap root of rap music can be traced in West Africa where tribesmen venerated "men of words". During the slave trade when slaves were brought to America, they mixed the beats they remembered from Africa with the American music. The second root of the rap music is the Jamaican "toast" (folk stories). Toasts were narrative poems that were used to tell stories in rhymes. For more than a century, rapping was a street art. The current rap that we have began in 1970's in street corners and school yards. In the genesis years rap was directed to other rappers; a technique that was known as "battle style". The growth of the rap music expanded from New York City, to Washington D.C., and Philadelphia (Fabian, Para 2).

Rap music can be said to be truly an American minority's (the blacks) creation which is liked and played mostly by the youth. It's unfortunate that rap music is not perceived by many as a part of art rather as a fad that is hoped to sooner or later fade away. It's evident from the historical background that rap music is here to stay, with a back ground of more than twenty years, it is clear that its not just about to fade. In order to understand the rap music in America, it's incumbent that we first trace the "Hip Hop" Culture. Rap music is an integral part of hip hop subculture which has no existence in isolation from its other major components. Hip hop culture involved components such as graffiti and break dancing, also incorporated the dress of the people who were subscribed to the traditions and the civilization of this subculture. There are many researches that have been done most of them pointing to Bronx (New York), as the origin of the culture of hip hop (Rhodes, Para 2-3).

Events Leading to Emergence of Rap:

There are three major events that took place leading to the emergence of the hip hop sub culture: the first event was in 1959 when Robert Moses (Parks Commissioner) began to build an expressway through Bronx. This resulted to the middle class people such as the Irish, Germans, Italians, and Jewish in the neighborhood to be dispersed. This also led to relocation of businesses and factories. The exiting middle class were replaced by poor Hispanic and black families. This poor people came in come along with crime, drugs addiction and unemployment. The second major event which took place in 1968 resulted from the directions of Robert Moses who siphoned the little that was left in Bronx. The event took place upon the completion of 15,382 unit compartment complex, which fostered the exodus of the middle class from their comfortable well kept apartments. The result was skyrocketing vacancy rates landlords began to sell out to professional slumlords consequently Bronx deteriorated into a neighborhood with numerous un-kept and unoccupied buildings (Rhodes, Para 3-4).

The third major event emanated from the two previous events. The resultant of this new occupation and the Bronx projects led to a group of seven teenagers who terrorized the entire region. The teenagers became indulged in some gang activities overwhelming the entire Bronx city for the following six years. Initially they were known as the Savage seven and changed to Black Spades after many members joined the group. The leaders of this group started the hip hop music. The rappers in the hip hop subculture were at a certain time members of these gangs. The gangs in New York City reached their peak in 1973 when the Black Spades started to decline. Some of the gangs got into drugs while others were eliminated by their rivals. Some of the group members especially the girls became tired and opted to get into families. Though the Black Spades gangs were fading they played a great role in the rap culture for they were the initiators of graffiti that is part of the rap music. The graffiti were used by the New York youth where they used to paint walls demarcating regions of different gangs. The youth could gain prominence and respect through spraying their names on very available surface. The gangs were involved in crimes such as stealing of paints for graffiti works (Rhodes, Para 7-10).

The link between graffiti and rap music was made by Richard Goldstein the author of the first pro-graffiti story in 1973. The article clarified that graffiti writers were not anti social as they were perceived, making it clear that they were groups of youth who were using graffiti to express themselves. In the article he pointed out that rap music and graffiti had a common origin. He elucidated that some of the prominent graffiti writers had recorded rap playing an important role in the development of the music. Such examples were "FUTURA", "PHASE 2", and Brathwaite (Fab Five Freddy), (Rhodes, Para 17).

Jamaican Role in Rap Emergence and Evolution:

Jamaican music had a great effect on the development of American rap music. Jamaican music had a trait (toasting) that was very important as far as the development of rap music is concerned. Toasting was done when Jamaican disc jockeys talked over the music that they were playing. The style had developed at a Jamaican 'Blue dances'. Blue dances took place out in the open in slum yards or in large halls; they were a regular feature of the ghetto life among the Jamaican youth. During the dances African American R&B records were played from the background. Some of the favorite R & B artists were Amos Melburn, Fat Domino, Roy Brown and Louise Jordan. The demand for the R&B music was quite high though there was a gap in that there were no black Americans artists to do it neither were there any local Jamaican band to play this type of music. The result was a 'sound systems' (comprising of roadies, DJs, bouncers, & engineers,) which were large portable discotheques were set so as to meet this need (Rhodes, Para 20-21).

The system that was playing the records had to be big so that the dancers and the audiences could hear the bass by which they were to dance in accordance to Hebdige. The person with the greatest role was the DJ such as Sir Coxsone, Duke Reid and Prince Buster, acting as performers as well as DJ's. Competitions among the DJs were according to the size of the sound system and loudness of the music. Sometimes the competitions could lead to battles. In case the crowds were caught up in the frenzies, Duke Reid would control them by firing his shotgun in the air. Toasting began with Jamaican DJ's who would toast over the music they were playing with some simple slogans so as to encourage the dancers. Some of the simple slogans that they would use were "move it up" and work it work it". With continued prominence of toasting, the length of the toasting slogans increased. U Roy was one of the first big stars in toasting in Jamaica. Developing alongside toasting was a technique known as dubs. Record engineers would cut back and forth in between the vocals and the instrument trucks adjusting the trebles and the bass. This technique highlighted Jamaican toasting more and more (Rhodes, Para 23-24).

The Jamaican tasting and the American rap music have four grounds that they share; first both types of music were relying on some pre-recorded sounds, that is they were both played with a background of some music or other sounds. Second, both types of music were relying on some strong beats whereby they were either toasted or rapped. The American rap music was relying on some of Jamaican toasting and strong beat hard funk relying on the Jamaican rhythms. Third, in the two styles of music the toasters and the rappers spoke their composition or lines timing with rhythm that were taken from, the records. Finally the contents of the toast as those of rap had a similar nature. For example there were insult raps, boast raps, news raps, nonsense raps, party raps, and message raps (Rhodes, Para 24).

In 1967 a Jamaican youngster (Clive Campbell), relocated to Bronx. He took with him some sound system's knowledge from Jamaica (the Jamaican toasting style). He was known as Kool Herc. He took Bronx graffiti writing and later in 1973 he began to DJ. When he amassed a great sound system, over the DJ's experience he realized that for the dancers to enjoy and dance to his music they needed to hear the background beats. He could buy two copies of music which he could play over and over insisting on the breaking part. He was using tow turntables in accomplishing this feat. The breaks could lust for about 30 seconds during which the bass the drums and the rhythm guitar stripped the beat to its barest spirit. The technique came to be known as the beats or the break beats. He was peculiar in that he did not use headphones in locating of the breaks on the opposite turntables as all the other DJs were doing, they later imitated his style. He became the first producer of the MC-Dance team (Rhodes, Para 26).

Some other DJs who made contribution to the rap music were people like DJ Theodor. He was the one who invented the "scratching" technique that is found in rap music today. Scratching is a technique whereby a DJ spins a disc or a record backwards and forward in a very rapid speed without removing the needles from the groove. When a record is handled this way it can become percussive instrument. DJ George Sandler is also a very key figure in relation to rap music. He was prominently known as Grandmaster Flash. He was known because of his expertise on Punch phasing. This is a technique whereby the DJ hits a specific brake in one of the turntables while the record on the opposite turntable is continuing to play. It does not necessarily have to be the same records. This technique is used to accentuate the rhythm and the beat for the dancing crowd. The beat box was also in use by some people like Flash. The machine was used to produce some electronic beats. This feature was adopted by rap artists, in all rap music there were some members who were known as a human beat boxes producing sounds with their lips, mouths, and throats. The technique faded in use as rap music developed. A group of artists known as 'Fat Boys' were famous for their trait of using the 'human box' (Rhodes, Para 26-27).

The history and evolution of rap music can not be complete without mentioning an early American DJ: African Bambaataa popularly known as Bam. He ran a sound system at Bronx River community Center. Bam was known as a spokesman and an ambassador for hip hop culture. His name had been derived from a famous Zulu chief who reigned in the 19th century; the meaning of the name is an affectionate leader. He was very serious and zealous in his role as the hip hop leader. In 1975 Bam founded "Zulu Nation"; an organization that was supposed to replace the gang rumbles and drug with rap, hip hop and dance styles (Rhodes, Para 28).

Rap Styles:

If a person is having difficulty finding their way around rap or hip hop genre, they may find the plentiful rap styles available to be too much of a good thing. Despite the fact that there are no set regulations that for determining what rap style an artist is categorized, there exist some helpful guides to the identification of the various styles that are in existence. The classification of the different styles of rap is based on the content of the music, the geographical location of the rapper and how the rapping is performed. For example Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are all rappers from California, hence classifiable as West coast Rappers. Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes and Notorious B.I.G on the other hand are known as East Coast rappers. Most of these rappers can also be categorized as Gangster Rappers or Hardcore Rappers. For one to place a rap musician to the most suitable rap style, one has to have a clear understanding of the overall history of the kind of music that the rapper specializes in (Rlanda, Para 2).

When we look back at rap music trend, we will realize that although the rap music was at ground breaking stage, almost all the early rap styles were closely related. The early rappers, such as the Sugarhill Gang, Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash, created songs through looping drum beats and scratching records. The development of rap music came along with growing demand for new and exiting sounds. This led to the emergence of new trends, as rappers were being pushed to some new limits. In order to manage the need for something new, rappers started employing new rapping techniques never used before. These styles incorporated sampling, live instrumentation, electronic beats among other made up sounds such as pouring of champagne, and gun shots. Rappers managed to keep ahead of funs hence keeping them excited about future albums; before the funs could get bored by a certain style, rappers would develop a new style (Rlanda, Para 3).

Gangsta Rap:

In order to fully conceptualize the concept gangstar rap, it's incumbent for us to understand the differences between plain old gangsta rap music and hardcore music. Whereas gangstas' music are almost always classifiable as hardcore hip hop, its not all hardcore music that can be categorized as being in the class of gangstas. When the term "hardcore gangsta rap" is used to mean that gangsta rap music is considerable as a subdivision of hardcore rap. Funs do not like using the term hardcore rather opts for gangsta in reference to the most intense brand of rap music what they would refer to as the gangsta to the max. This kind of music basically is composed of explicit lyrics, ultra aggressive themes, and non hard hitting beats. It can simply be called extreme hip hop uncensored (EZ Tracks: gangsta rap music, Para 2-3).

Gangsta rap has been criticized for pushing the envelope beyond what is morally, and socially acceptable, nevertheless it had managed to become the most commercial type of rap throughout the late 80's to early 90's. The hardcore gangstas funs were very jolly during this period as the most deliciously loathsome songs were recorded. Today there are gangsta songs from artist such as Dr. Dre, ive-t, snoop Dogg, 50 Cents, Young Bucks, and DMX (EZ Tracks: gangsta rap music, Para 4-5).

Hardcore Rap:

Even though hardcore and gangsta rap music are practically synonymous, hardcore rap came first. Gangsta is an evolution of the hardcore rap music into a more specialized genre. The hardcore gangsta style of music is most recognizable for its hard hitting beats and its aggressive lyrics. The difference between the hardcore rap music and gangsta rap music is that hardcore rap music does not necessarily have to include gangsta themes. Such examples are found in Christian hardcore raps. Despite the fact that hardcore rap music emanated from the East Coast of the country, the West Coast hardcore's challenged the East Coast hardcore's reign over the rap music. Some artists from the West Coast became the "spokesmen" for hardcore music genre. They dominated the field such that it seemed that West Coast hardcore rap was the only music that existed until the emergent of Wu-Tang Clan from the East Coast (EZ Tracks: Hardcore Rap Music, Para 5).

Southern Rap:

The history of the southern rap can not be told without mentioning prominent artists in this region such as Juvenile, Tag Team, Mystikal, Ludacris, 69 Boys, and Master P. the growth of the rap music in the south to what came to be known as "Southern rap hip hop" which is also referred to as Dirty south rap. This style of music has its origin in Miami bass. It was made to be popular by '2 live Crew'. One can with ease see the connection between the southern underground rap and 2 Lives Crew's sexual dance beats since southern rap artists were to a great extent emerging and expanding on the 2 live Crew and Luther Campbell's style who was the front man (EZ Tracks: Southern Rap Music, Para 1-2).

Mystikal who was one of the Southern rap artists used sexual innuendos in spicing up the contents. Mystikal who was from New Orleans had many hits of the southern rap hip hop genre. He was the most known for the catchy song "Shakes Ya Ass". He was Master P's record label "No Limit" (EZ Tracks: Southern Rap Music, Para 3).

The most common trait found in the history of the Southern rap music was that almost all southern rap artists were oriented to the "No Limits". Master P's 'No limit Label' is perceived as the historical source of the southern rap, otherwise it would not be present. The southern rap scene is perceived as synonymous to dirty south rap. Nevertheless there are some slight distinctions between the two genres; the line of demarcation is always blurred as the Sothern's rap music history is seen to be the Dirty Southern rap music's history. From whichever angle or school of thought that one looks at the Southern rap music one fact is irrefutable; Master P was of great influence to the emergence and development of rap in the South (EZ Tracks: Southern Rap Music, Para 4).

Shaping and Comparison of Rap

In some of the new catchy styles, the music would dictate how certain songs would be rhymed. Will Smith, P. Diddy and MC Hammer stood out as clearly unusual artists. Much of their catchy tunes and upbeats rhythms tend to downgrade them to pop rap. Some hardcore rappers such as Wutang clan, Ice Burge, DMX, Ice-T and Eminem break from history styles by their approach of unequivocal lyrics, hostile approach, and some humor instances. Just like pop rap, the hardcore music style facilitates in setting the tone for the songs that resonate a rapper's feelings; whether to be aggressive or constructive (Rlanda, Para 4).

There were two schools of Rap music: The old school and the New school: The old school was from 1979 to 1984. The most important rappers in this generation were credited for their role in shaping the rap music that we have presently. Among others were Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Kool DJ Herc, Jazzy five, the Treacherous Three, Soul Sonic Force, Jazzy Jeff, DJ Red Alert, Lil Rodney Cee, Fantastic Freaks, Sha Rock, Beasy Bee, Grand Master Caz, and Grandmixer DST. Rap was faced by its first stylistic crisis between 1983 and 1984 since all the songs worked with the same limited beat boxes hence the end product was very similar songs that were very boring to the listeners. Consequently the sales for the rap songs reduced immensely hence threatening the popularity of rap music. It's from this crisis and threats that a new school of rap was developed (Fabian, at al, Para 3).

The new school of rap music existed between 1984 and 1985; this was as a result of the digital sampler emergence. In the begging of 80's digital sampler got cheap enough such that everybody would manage to use them. It became possible to sample complex drum loops and the old funk records without necessarily having to use syntactic beats. The sounds of rap music became more natural with more musical complexity. During this time rap music obtained a wide range reaching from apocalyptic tracks through public enemy to love songs. The new school also came to life in to the East Coast, and just like the Old School, it was a phenomenon of the New York City (Fabian, at al, Para 4).

Despite the fact there is a pronounced controversy between West Coast and East coast rappers, it's surprising to realize that the two region's rappers have a lot in common. In order for somebody to understand how the two hyped controversies came about, it is imperative to show the differences in the two types of raps.

In the beginning the East Coast was the only rap that was in existence, it's where the birth of hip hop took place. Some of the most renowned East Coast rappers included: Jay z, LL Cool, P. Diddy, The Wutang clan, Nas, Notorious B.I.G., and DMX. The emergence of the West Coast rap can be traced back from 1990's. West Coast rap was very derivative of the East Coast rap music. With development of rap music from both camps their differences and the tension became too strained. The West Coast rappers were able to pioneers their own sound that came to be known as Gangsta Funk (G-Funk). Those who were/are adored for G-Funk are Ice Cube, Cooling, 2 Pac, Cypress Hill and Snoop Dogg (EZ Tracks: East Coast Rap, Para 1-2).

If one was to compare the East Coast rap to the West Coast rap, either thematically or musically, it will not be hard to realize that there are very minute differences, this fact raises the question as to what is the reason then for the immense conflict, fights and insults between the two. The conflict that existed initially was gang related. Though the two types of rappers lived in opposite sides of the country, they met at the national level of releasing their music to the public. The peak of the controversy between the East Coast and West Coast rappers was most pronounced after the murder of 2 Pac in 1996. Though the murder remains a mystery to many funs and the general public, notorious B.I.G of the East Coast camp of rappers was blamed as the cause of the death since he had placed a 1 million dollar reward for 2Pac's life. Before the mystery could be resolved, notorious B.I.G (Bruno, Para 1-3).

When the two rappers were no more as a result of murders, the conflict between the East Coast and the west Coast rappers became so real and pronounced even among the funs of the two camps. Efforts were launched in attempt to curb the controversies so that the two camps of rappers would co-work bringing harmony in rap music (Bruno, Para 1-3).

Rap in Europe:

In Europe the emergence of rap music was preceded by break dance that was less violent than rap itself. Thereafter some underground organizations started to emerge in European cities. Some U.S rappers were performing in clubs of the major European cities. The European youths started emulating these performers, whereby they would organize parties and rapping in English. The European rappers movements developed in such a way they were somehow differentiated from the Americans rappers (Rutten, 1996, 129-130).

In France rap music was not violent since the political organization of French people varies from that of the United State. The suburbs of France are not real Ghettos, the school system, employment and many other social opportunities are equally provided. Hence there was need for violence. Rap was done in French and was more explicit than English rap. MC Solar emerged rapidly due to his very open and positive attitude. He had a strong literacy talent as well as a sense of humor. From his profound artistic presentation of rap in French he became the spokesman of the entire generation; he did not speak for migrant communities alone but also for the middleclass white teens. Some of his best selling records included the platinum with 250,000 sales abroad (Rutten, 1996, 129-130).

In England the wave of rap has rapidly been absorbed by strong club scene becoming trip-hop or pop. In England there was no need of use of strong means of social or political expression since the immigrant communities had been well structured with good representation in artistic and public forms of oppression and opposition. Their oppression feelings were fully expressed in other events such as dub poetry and by local personalities (Rutten, 1996, 129-130).

Conclusion

Rap music has its roots based in Bronx near New York City. The black Americans who were immigrants from Africa as a result of slave trade were trying to express their anguish oppressions and frustrations through music. Rap is lyrics that were accompanied by some background recorded music. Rapping can be perceived as an ingredient of hip hop culture. Rap has evolved over the years from the use two turntables to the current complicated technological sound systems. The development of rap music is a product of combination of many artists and DJ's. United States blacks-people and Jamaica are the greatest contributor to the emergent and development of rap music.

Rap music that started in the United States has moved even to the other parts of the world including Europe. The first people to emulate the rap music were the artists from the West Coast. The evolution has led even to the change of rap contents; in the genesis rap was directed to other rappers as well as to the opposition parties in expression of anguish. The content which was majorly abusive and insulting, socially unacceptable has been changing over the years. In Europe where rap has been developing, the content is what can be referred as clean material. This has led even to emergence of rap Gospel among the Christians.

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