While rap songs have undoubtedly been influenced by traditional African and Caribbean music, as well as 1960s poetics, modern rap music began on most accounts in the city streets of the Bronx, where rap debates or competitions were common in the 70s. Outside of this ecological art form, Melle Mel stepped out of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. He and his group were among the first to turn their rhymes into traditional songs with verses and verses. The first recorded rap song to be a major hit in the United States was’ Rappers’ Delight ‘, performed by the Sugar Hill Gang and released in 1979.
As the 1980s developed, rap singing became both more popular and more complex. Kurtis Blow and LL Cool J both became superstars in the genre. In the 1990s, rap music changed significantly with the advent of gangsta rap. While the rap songs up to this time were an element of bragging, gangsta rap took this Gangsta rap led to a fierce rivalry between the East Coast and West Coast artists, culminating in the shooting deaths in Tupac and the notorious BIG in the mid-90s. Gangsta rap caused much controversy among those who claimed that it continued negative stereotypes of black urban men and women. Today, rap is still popular, but has not been shown to be immune to the decline in cord sales worldwide. While gangsta rap has ceased to dominate the genre, many artists still use elements of gangsta rap in their songs. Rap songs are common all over the world, with many subgenres now flourishing.
Like many musical genres, rap music has been split into several distinct subgenres. Many of these genres reflect where the music was created. Atlanta, St. Louis and New Orleans have all become known as birthplaces for certain rap styles. Rap from the Midwest, for example, is often characterized by quick chatter, known for acts such as Twista and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Crunk is a rap style where the lyrics often scream or scream. The lyrics’ main concern in crunk songs is having a good time. This style of rap singing has become popular in the 1990s and 2000s by Outkast and Lil ‘Jon.
Although both white and female rappers remain in the minority, the white group Beastie Boys has been popular for three decades. Vanilla Ice, a white rapper, made a novelty in the 1980s with ‘Ice Ice Baby’. Female rap duo Salt-n-Pepa performed such female central locks as ‘Push It’, ‘Shoop’ and ‘Whatta Man.’ Lil ‘Kim and Foxy Brown took a female perspective on gangsta rap. while Queen Latifah has made her mark on the rap scene. Eva has been popular in the 2000s and extended her rap success to a clothing line and TV show. Lauryn Hill used her unique style of rapping and singing to power her album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ for both commercial and critical success. TLC, one of the best-selling girl groups of all time, featured a rapper, Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes, who was killed in a car accident in 2002.
Some rap songs have mixed rap with rock and heavy metal music. Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine and Linkin Park have all recently made this hybrid style popular.
Notable Rappers and Rap Songs
Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five remain well respected today as rap music pioneers. Run DMC broke ground with their crossover duet with the rock band Aerosmith, entitled ‘Walk This Way’ 1986.
2 Live Crew became infamy in 1989 for the obviously sexy lyrics on their ‘As Nasty as they want to be’ album. The album had been ruled obscene by judge Jose Gonzalez, and therefore illegal to sell. Performing songs from the album led to the group’s arrests in 1992. Gonzalez’s verdict was later overturned. The controversy eventually broke the sales of the album, of which over 2 million copies were sold.
Gangsta rap dominated the genre in the 1990s and launched the careers of three rap music’s most notable characters: Tupac Shakur, Notorious BIG and Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs. Both Tupac and Biggie, as he was known, made many hits before both were murdered in separate shots. Both murders remain unresolved, but the rivalry between the two rappers seems to have been a factor. Sean Combs, a producer and rapper who helped launch Biggie’s career, is still a popular figure in hip hop to this day. Other rappers who became popular and respected during this era include Snoop Dogg (also known as Snoop Doggy Dogg), Ice Cube, Wu Tang Clan, Ice-T and Dr. Dre (‘The Chronic’, 1992). During Dr. Dre’s mission, Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers) rose to fame in the late 1990s. Eminem also held lyrical controversy, especially with scathing and violent songs involving his ex-wife Kim and anti-gay sentiments. Still Eminem was popular for his unique humor.
Although violent and clear lyrics continue to be found in rap songs, rapper groups such as Arrested Development, De La Soul, Mos Def and A Tribe Called Quest strived to challenge stereotypes and create a different type of activist trap. Rapper Nas is well respected in the genre for his thoughtful, current lyrics, although his style contains some gangsta elements.
Rap music continued to be popular in the 2000s with artists such as Kanye West, 50 Cent, Nelly, TI and Lil ‘Wayne scoring big hits. In 2008’s 808s and Heartbreak, the West adopted a more stripped-down, electronically inspired sound, and once again expanded the possibilities of how a rap song could sound. Socially conscious rappers like Common and Q-Tip are also experiencing popularity.
Sometimes stars in other fields, such as athletes, make remarkable attempts at rap music. Professional basketball player Shaquille O ‘Neal has tried his hand at rapping. His 1993 debut album, ‘Shaq Diesel’, sold well, and he has since made four more albums. Kobe Bryant has also released a rap record, as with other athletes Chris Weber and Deion Sanders.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the fastest rap ever recorded was Rebel XD (real name Seandale Prince), who spoke 852 syllables in 42 seconds in 2007.
The best-selling full-time rap album in the US is ‘Speakerboxx / The Love Below’ by Outkast. This double album featured the smash hit ‘Hey Ya!’
While the development of the music industry sometimes makes it difficult to name best-selling songs, and the computers are always broken, both ‘Low’ by Flo Rida and ‘Whoomp! (There It Is) ‘by Tag Team has sold over 4 million copies, making them among the best-selling rap songs of all time. ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ by Coolio, ‘I Will Miss You’ by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans, and ‘Stronger’ by Kanye West have each sold over 3 million copies. Rap songs that have sold over 2 million copies include ‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix-a-Lot, ‘Can not Nobody Hold Me Down’ by Puff Daddy and Mase, ‘Gold Digger’ by Kanye West, ‘How Do You Want It ‘by Tupac,’ Jump ‘by Kris Kross,’ OPP ‘by Naughty By Nature,’ Rump Shaker ‘by Wreckx-N-Effect,’ Tha Crossroads’ by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and ‘Wild Thing’ by Tone Loc.
So far, Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five are the only rap groups to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Rap Music Outside of US
Rap music is also quite popular outside the United States. Rap singing spread to Japan, Germany and South Africa when breakdancing became popular. Today, rap artists can be found in almost every corner of the world. The World Rap scene includes turn hop and dirt. Trip Hop is a style that is especially popular in Europe, these artists, such as Massive Attack and Tricky, combine elements of jazz, hip hop and electronica into a unique style. Dirt found its genesis in Europe, especially UK Grime mixes dancehall styles with rap elements. Notable make-up artists include Lady Sovereign and Dizzee Rascal. The defining characteristic of a rap song is the mixture of spoken word, traditional song and poetry. This musical genre can try other songs (of any genre) to enhance the background music.