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Rapping About Rap

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Rap music is on its way to becoming one of the most popular forms of music on the market today. Although rap has only been popular for the last 15 years, it can be traced back to the days of slavery and even further to the tribes of Africa. Rap is used now as it was used for the past few centuries, as a form of communication. This music has been a way for the young African-American's to speak out about their lives and the struggles they go through. Like rock-n-roll and other forms of music that achieve national attention, rap is being blamed for corrupting our youth. There is a new type of rap music out called "Gangster Rap". This form of rap music is not the same and should not be compared with rap durived from the hip hop era. There has been many attempts by people in the rap business to bring positive attention to their music. They are spending a lot of time promoting the "Stop the violance" campaign

and others that promote education and drug awareness.

The history of rap varies, but the most common belief

is that it comes from Africa. This can be proven by looking at the different techniqus used in making rap music and the techniques used in African music. Rap music consists of many sounds and techniques that come from different sources. As noted in Grolier Electronic Publishing, under the subject African musical styles, "One of the most common types of music-making is call-and-response singing, in which a chorus repeats a fixed refrain in alternation with a lead singer who has more freedom to improvise". This is an important part of rap music. Cheryl Keyes explains, "Audience response helps to prolong performance and helps the rapper to spontaneously execute rap formulas. The more verbal and kinesic the response from the audience, the longer the rapper raps"(146). Another technique used in rap music is the talking over pre recorded tracks. This is defined by Grolier also in the definition of rap music, "a combination of rhymed lyrics spoken over rhythm tracks and pieces of recorded music and sounds called samples, taken from other records". This has also been traced back to Africa as noted by Relin in his article, "Musical historians say the roots of rap (chanting over a rhythmic beat) reach back into African tradition of oral history"(8). One of the final influences to raps style was toasting. This consisted of quick vocal deliveries more like speech than singing (Berman 140). Another link from African music to Rap is in the sounds that are used. It is said that "Grand Wizard" invented "scratching" while practicing at home (Greenberg 15), however Andrei Strobert, a Brooklyn-based scholar, musician and artist was quoted in an article by Harry Allen about the roots of rap music, "The scratch that you hear in hip-hop is similar to the African sekere". She goes on to explain, "A sekere is a big gourd with beads around it". She also noted that many of the sounds rappers use in her studio are from the Imo tribe of Nigeria (80).

There are many comparisons between rap and African music but one comparison you don't hear about too often is the influence by Puerto Ricans living in New York at the time rap started popping up. Juan Flores brings up this comparison in his article,

"Recital of decimals and aguinaldos in the Puerto Rican folk tradition involved methods of improvisation and alternation much like those typical of rap performances, while the tongue-twisting (trabalengua) style of some plena singing is an even more direct antecedent. More important, perhaps, just as with doo-wop and rhumba, there is a fascinating "fit" between Puerto Rican "clave" and characteristic rap rhythms"(583).

Puerto Rican's also played a big part in the influence of break dancing, a big part of rap culture, as noted by Flores,

"The speedy footwork, elaborate upper-body movement and the daring dips in up-rock rested in a formative background in rumba and guaguanco, and was to some extent anticipated by the Latin hustle. It is indicative that the Rock Steady Crew, the most accomplished of the many breakdancing groups, is composed almost entirely of Puerto Ricans" (583).

Rap music as a form of communication can't help but to be influanced by the surrounding

cultures, just as language is continually changing so will the forms of music.

Although rap has outside influences it is mainly from African tradition, where tribesman hold "men of words" in high regard (Greenberg 11). Music is an important part of African social life. As cited in Grolier Electronic Publishing, music is,

"a medium for the transmission of knowledge and values and for celebrating important communal and personal occasions. Music is often combined with speech, dance and the visual arts to create multimedia events". This stayed with those who were sold into slavery and kept alive here in America. Greenberg states, "On the plantation, blacks also mixed American music forms with beats they remembered from Africa" (13).

Even though rap seems to be a fairly new form of music it has been here for a long time. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five as quoted by Allen said, "It's the same shit that Black people was chantin' on the chain gang, and that they was sayin' when they was slaves. 'Hi-de-ho!'-all that shit is rap! Rap always been out there. It was just waitin' for someone to claim it" (79).

Rap as a form of music started getting public attention in 1969 during block parties with Kool DJ Herc, the first hip-hop DJ in New York's South Bronx (Berman 137). Because there were no instruments practically anyone with talent could start and many people did. Rap became a way of communicating to anyone who would listen, about what it was like growing up in South Bronx. Relin stated, "Hip-hop soon developed a devoted word-of-mouth following, and homemade rap tapes were snapped up by eager listeners" (8). Since then it has continued to escalate. Hip-hop was the music and culture revolution from the middle of the 60s to the middle of the 70s and is now the background music for rap (Berman 137).

Many think the first rap record was made in 1979 but in an article by Harry Allen he states, "When people think of the beginning of hip-hop, they head back to the Sugar hill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight,' September 1979. That wasn't the first 'rap' record, however. The Honor goes to Fatback Band's



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