Rap has its roots in dancehall toasting over dub elements of reggae music.
Jamaican DJ Kool Herc had moved from Kingston to the Bronx in the 70s, and he first attempted to incorporate improvised rhymes from his native Jamaica over dub reggae versions during his sets.
Although he didnt find fans for this Reggae sound in New York, he improvised and invented a new style in which someone would chant over the instrumental Reggae parts.
He would later learn to extend the instrumental parts to create a longer instrumental track to chant over using two Turntables and a Mixer.
The rhymes or ‘chants’ were very basic, and usually involved making shoutouts to people in attendance at the Party.
After some time, these basic chants evolved into slightly more complex rhymes that predominantly emphasised a feel-good Party atmosphere. At this early stage, Rap was not called ‘rap’ but was recognised as ’emceeing’.
Eventually, Kool Herc expanded his team so he could focus on spinning records by recruiting close friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent to chant on the Mic. The Trio became known as Kool Herc and the Herculoids, and it boasted the first official Emcees in Hip Hop History.
Herc’s new sound exploded onto the scene, finding a willing audience amongst younger urban New Yorkers who felt that they could freely express themselves using this new medium since Rap was a freely accessible art form immediately available to anyone with the passion and sense to drop a Rhyme.
Additionally, Rap also didnt have a formula, with the only requirements being authenticity and Rhyming on time to the rhythm of the beat. The main accolade to be gained wasnt money at this stage but rather the accolades and respect of one’s peers i.e. Props.
Imitating another’s style (Biting) was a no-no, and its no surprise that Rap has basically taken over Pop Culture because at its core, it still remains an accessible and adaptable means of self-expression which people all over the world have used to communicate their personal truth.
Rap today seems far removed from its humble beginnings in New York, and its journey has been truly remarkable.
Throughout the years Rap has given us Entertainment, Drama and Wisdom, providing an outlet for some of the most dynamic personalities like Tupac Shakur, the world might otherwise not have known.
In the end, Rap will probably go down in History for making a cultural impact as significant and influential as Jazz.
Check out my list of favourite Top 10 Emcees and the Documentary Founding Fathers on the origins of Hip Hop:
Favourite Top 10 Emcees
1. Kool G Rap;
4. Big Pun;
7. Notorious B.I.G.;
10. Ghostface Killah.