Climb The Ladder to Success Escalator Style

A Brief History of Rap

“Softly, deftly, music shall caress you. Hear it, feel it, Secretly possess you.” ―Charles Hart

Food For Thought

Climb The Ladder To Success Escalator Style

Throughout time, music has been used as a way to connect people, express feelings, and tell stories. This week’s newsletters will highlight some of the most well-known and little-known musicians, music facts, and genres. Today’s theme: Rap/Hip-Hop

Today’s subject line is brought to you by The Notorious B.I.G. in the song “You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You).”

So don’t you get suspicious
I’m Big Dangerous you’re just a Lil Vicious
As I leave my competition, respirator style
Climb the ladder to success escalator style
Hold y’all breath, I told y’all — death
controls y’all, Big don’t fold y’all, uhh
I spit phrases that’ll thrill you
You’re nobody ’til somebody kills you

Today we are tackling a wide-reaching music genre with a broad history: Rap/Hip-Hop.

It’s impossible to cover the entire history of rap/hip-hop or touch on every interesting story the genre has to offer — we’re just one daily newsletter! Instead, here is a quick overview that will get you started on your journey into hip-hop history.

But first…

What’s The Difference Between Rap and Hip-hop?

This is a hotly debated topic. What defines rap? What defines hip-hop? It’s commonly accepted (although not always agreed upon) that hip-hop is a culture and that rap music is an element of that culture.

In the words of KRS-One:

“Rap is something you do, but hip-hop is something you live.”

The Origins of Rap

In West Africa, over a century before rap hit the music scene in the US, musicians told rhythmic stories over the beat of a drum. In the Caribbean Islands, folk artists also told stories in rhyme.

These poets laid the foundation of modern rap music.

Rap In The US

Rap emerged as a genre in the 1970s when New York DJs mixed samples of funk, soul, and disco music to create a repetitive beat.

DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican-American, is often credited with the birth of hip-hop. He realized that people always liked to dance at the “break” of the music (where the drumbeat or percussion comes in). He wanted to extend this part of the song by replaying the break on repeat.

To do this, he would use two turntables to play the same break over and over again. When one record would finish the section, he’d switch to the other — and back and forth for as long as he wanted. This is known as “looping” and became the basis of rap and hip-hop.

(Here’s a fun Drunk History episode explaining DJ Kool’s influence.)

According to Four Over Four:

“From there, the Bronx sensation known as hip-hop was unstoppable. The 1970s allowed all the DJs to flourish, including other Bronx-based legends like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. And although throughout the ’70s, the DJ was the dominant force, the MC also rose to prominence. Kurtis Blow was the first rapper signed to Mercury Records in 1979. The Fatback Band and Sugar Hill Gang released mainstream records, hitting the Billboard Top 40 in the following year. These records were mostly MC-driven because the most famous DJs of the time were uninterested in recording their music, preferring to gain notoriety through their parties.”

Timeline: The 1980s-2000s

1980s — DJ Grand Wizard Theodore invents the act of scratching and the “needle drop.” The needle drop is when the DJ would physically lift up and drop the needle where they wanted to cut into the song. Scratching is when the DJ moves the record back and forth to make a beat or rhythmic sounds.

Grandmaster Flash

1982 — MCs Melle Mel and Ed “Duke Bootee” Fletcher debut a song called “The Message.” This marks the end of the party-oriented DJ and the beginning of MC-driven rap.

1984 — This marks the start of “The Golden Era” of rap in New York. As rhymes get more complicated, beats faster, and technology improves, each song seems to be more innovative than the last.

Late 1980s — Rap expands from the East Coast the West Coast creating a rivalry.

1990s — The coastal rivalry grows, creating distinct groups, fans, and types of rap. This is also the time when women begin to step into the rap game.

2000s — Rap continues to grow in popularity. The storytelling and rhymes become more complex.

2003 — “Lose Yourself” by Eminem is the first hip-hop song to win an Academy Award.

Where We Are Today

Technology has advanced expanding the possibilities of what artists can do. Rhymes have gotten more complicated, styles more distinct, and the beats more unpredictable.

Rap has a colorful history and has influenced American culture in many ways. And it’s not going away. Last year, rap even overtook rock as the most popular music genre.

What are some of your favorite rap/hip-hop artists? Drop us a line on Twitter @TheMissionHQ.

Mission Daily

Steph’s Take On Kanye

In this throwback episode of Mission Daily, Stephanie and Chad discuss some of the things they are reading and listening to. Mentioned: Valley of Genius, East Coast Rap, and Kanye West.

🎧 Listen to the episode. 🎧

Deep Dive

How Rappers Rhyme

Is there a framework for creating rap music?

In this video, Vox breaks down how some of the greatest rappers of all time make their rhymes and how rap has evolved since the 70s.

Check it out.

A Little Nostalgia

A History Of Rap With Jimmy Fallon

The Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake duo is one of our favs to catch on screen together. And what’s one of their best skit series?

… History of Rap, of course!

Watch as Jimmy and Justin jump through time by singing all of our favorite rap songs.

And for the full playlist of music that they cover, go here.


The Get Down on Netflix

If you are hurting for shows to binge (which, let’s be real, you aren’t), then we recommend checking out The Get Down. It’s a historical fiction account of the birth of hip-hop in the 70s.

It’s got a great storyline and fantastic music; a good watch for anyone remotely interested in the music industry. 🎶 🎶

Sign Off ✌️

Happy Tuesday!

We hope the week is treating you nicely so far. 🤗 Catch you tomorrow!

This was originally published on March 19, 2019 as The Mission’s daily newsletter. To subscribe, go here.

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Climb The Ladder to Success Escalator Style was originally published in The Mission on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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