How Rap Music Got Started

Hip hop culture began as an outgrowth of street life. Rap music has emerged as its hallmark medium.

DJ Kool Herc helped to shape modern rap by delivering poetry verses over instrumental breaks of funk music. His interjections took cues from oratory traditions such as African Griot history, blues songs with talking parts and jailhouse toasting (“the Dozens”).

Grandmaster Flash’s work expanded upon longstanding musical forms like jazz, soul and reggae while his lyrics addressed both personal and social concerns.


Rap music has become one of the most influential genres in modern pop culture. Influences from this form of musical expression include fashion, food, movies, sports and even dance – it even contributed to street slang becoming part of our language! Rap has existed for centuries as part of African American culture before becoming an outlet for self-expression that is beloved globally.

Rap music’s roots remain uncertain; some consider DJ Kool Herc the pioneer, while others cite Kurtis Blow as its first commercial artist. Both men released albums during the 80s; however, only part of Blow’s album can be considered hip hop music.

Kool Herc began his career as a DJ who hosted parties. Using breaks from funk and soul songs to encourage dancing, Kool would speak directly to his audience during instrumental sections in order to keep up with the beat – something which defines rap music today.

Early rappers used their voices to engage and motivate crowds at dance events. They would also incorporate call and response chants such as, “one two three four to the beat y’all”. Meanwhile in the 1970s poet Gil Scott-Heron wrote poetry with similar lyrical characteristics similar to what early rappers would use today – it would now be considered rap!

Early in the 1990s, rap musicians began heavily sampling other artists’ work for use within their songs, which caused friction with original copyright owners who wanted compensation for having their works used differently than intended. Rappers eventually switched back to using more original lyrics and rhyme schemes in their lyrics.

In the 1990s, rap music emerged as more of a lifestyle and cultural phenomenon than mere music. Influencing clothing brands, fashion, hairstyles and gangsta rap styles. While some critics may perceive its content to be stereotypical of drug abuse and violence, other people embrace its positive messages as part of a lifestyle statement.


Rap music is an expansive subgenre with multiple subgenres, best-known as hip hop – an aesthetic movement which began alongside its musical genre during the 1970s and gave rise to cultural cornerstones like graffiti writing, break dancing and DJing. Rap incorporates rhythmic speech over a rhythmically driven background track often using digital sampling or beats; early rappers (known as MCs or master of ceremonies) spoke over this backing track in an oratorical style with carefully constructed rhyme schemes that often included oratorical rhetoric accompanied by oratorical oratorical speech over rhythmic drum beats for optimal effect.

Early rappers would rap over records that combined elements from funk, soul, and disco music genres; using digital samples to produce beats which they then rapped over. This technique became known as “jukeboxing.” As rap music gained momentum it soon became common for DJs and MCs to perform at block parties; initially it was considered just another passing trend so record companies did not invest heavily into it until 1979 when King Tim III hit mainstream release as its B-side was later promoted into being released as an A-side and eventually made its way up to number 30 on global r&b charts!

Other styles of rap have evolved as music has progressed over time. Gangsta rap, for instance, brought criminal lifestyle and culture of gangs into musical mainstream through N.W.A’s early version. Other oratorical precedents for MCing can be found in West African griot histories, talking blues songs from jailhouse toasts to Amiri Baraka Gil Scott-Heron Last Poets poetry recitation. Some rappers have experimented with speed and cadence of vocal delivery while developing innovative flow patterns giving each rapper his/her unique and distinct style.

Jazz hip-hop combines two American original music genres into an experimental hybrid musical form, employing vinyl records as the instrumental accompaniment and jazz progressions as the basis for rappers to rap over. Pioneered by producer J Dilla, jazz hip-hop is one of the most innovative styles.


Rap music’s roots can be traced to New York City in the 1970’s when urban renewal caused displacement for African American, Puerto Rican and Jewish families living there, along with any associated businesses. Young people began dancing, creating art, rhyming to express themselves – these elements coalescing and eventually became known as hip hop culture.

DJ Kool Herc is widely credited with pioneering rap by altering the breakbeat section of “Rapper’s Delight,” a children’s song, in order to add lyrics with rhymes that formed into his first rap songs. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Kurtis Blow and the Cold Crush Brothers made an early mark as pioneering rappers who created cool yet charismatic personas as major names within early hip-hop music culture.

Through personas, these artists told stories of their lives through poetic narratives. These tales often recounted struggles encountered while growing up on the streets of New York City; their lyrics would feature conflict, climax and resolution as well as characters, setting and theme; this form of storytelling remains popular with contemporary rap artists today.

Some rappers took an introspective view of urban life and denounced violence within their communities – this style is known as Gangsta rap – while others glamorized street life and embraced its elements – these rappers became known as playas; Schoolly D and Ice-T are two such playas who have dazzled audiences with their playa music.

Other rappers like Public Enemy went deeper into social issues by speaking out about race, power and injustice – becoming iconic figures within their genre and mainstream culture.

Rap has evolved over time into various subgenres that cater to various audiences. Artists such as Kendrick Lamar use provocative lyrics that address social issues while Future uses autotuned melodies for catchy hooks – whatever its genre, rap has empowered underprivileged communities while challenging social norms.


Rap has come a long way since its birth. Once widely derided for romanticizing street life and inciting juvenile behavior, rappers have since used this medium to address social injustices often disregarded in mainstream society. Today rap has become widely accepted and an integral part of American culture.

As the genre has progressed, so have its trends. Early gangsta rap was marked by lyrics which were demeaning towards women and depicted violent lifestyles – but this phase eventually passed with artists such as Ice-T and Schoolly D helping make rap more widely acceptable again.

By the late 1990s, rap music had made its mark as a legitimate musical genre. But in the 2000s, an underground movement known as trap music emerged to change hip hop forever. Trap was distinguished by its use of synthetic beats and vocal samples to create street-sounding aesthetics while employing aggressive styles of rapping that were similar to hard rock bands such as RUN DMC. Today it remains popular and its influence can still be felt across other rap styles like crunk and snap music.

As one of the latest trends in rap music, electronic productions have grown increasingly popular. While traditional instruments were once relied upon, rappers today often use keyboards and synthesized sounds instead. This has increased production value while making live performances more accessible to audiences who may otherwise lack access. Furthermore, streaming services allow rappers to release music anytime on demand and develop larger followings.

Rappers have also developed their own vocabulary that has an incredible impact on listener perception of lyrics. Some groups, such as Wu-Tang Clan, have even created their own lexicon of terms exclusively used within that group; other rappers such as Kool Moe Dee have extended it even further by appealing to older audiences with extensive lyrics that resonated well.