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date: 31 March 2020


  • David Toop


A predominantly African-American musical style that first gained prominence in the late 1970s. It is characterized by semi-spoken rhymes declaimed over a rhythmic musical backing, drawn from the sampling of pre-existing recordings and the use of DJ mixing techniques.

Rapping first came to public attention in 1979 with the popularity of the Sugarhill Gang’s single, Rapper’s Delight, although there were many African-American antecedents for the style. In the late 1960s and early 70s, militant black poetry collectives such as the Last Poets in Harlem, New York and the Watts Prophets in Watts, Los Angeles had combined their poems with jazz or African-style percussion as a way of reaching a broader audience. Their lead was followed by Gil Scott-Heron, who matched radical polemic with soulful jazz backings. Other historical sources for rap could be found in black comedians like Pigmeat Markham and Moke and Poke, the fluid patter of jazz and rhythm and blues radio disc jockeys such as Dr Hep Cat, Dr Daddy-O and Douglas ‘Jocko’ Henderson, or the spoken soul raps of Isaac Hayes, Dr. Horse, Millie Jackson and Barry White....

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