- David Toop
- , revised by Charise Cheney
- and Loren Kajikawa
A predominantly African American musical style that first gained prominence in the late 1970s. The most widely recognized element of hip-hop culture, it is characterized by semi-spoken rhymes declaimed over a rhythmic musical backing. Early rap music drew heavily on the sampling of pre-existing recordings and the use of DJ mixing techniques. Increasingly, this art of “beats and rhymes” has been influenced by producers responsible for beat-making and assembling tracks, working alongside rappers who craft and deliver lyrics.
Rapping first came to widespread 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 sources for rap could be found in the work of black comedians, the fluid patter of jazz and rhythm and blues radio disc jockeys, and the spoken soul raps of Isaac Hayes, Millie Jackson, and Barry White....