Loved by the masses and hated on by equally as many, there’s probably no other genre as controversial, influential, debated, or experimental as Rap music. While those born in the ’80s may know some of the genre’s history, many Gen Zers are in the dark so today we’re gonna shine the light on what we consider to be, the revolution and rebellion of the unheard turned mainstream behemoth generating billions of dollars yearly. Read below to learn the history of Rap music as you know it.
11. The early 1970s. First mentions of Rap and incipient music style association.
Isaac Hayes releases Black Moses in 1971 with the first direct reference to the genre with song titles such as Ike’s Rap, Ike’s Rap II, Ike’s Rap III. People start taking note of the word Rap and assume it is spoken word to a beat. Del the Funky Homosapien confirms the notion meant talking in a certain manner and style: “I was born in ’72 … back then what rapping meant, basically, was you trying to convey something—you’re trying to convince somebody. That’s what rapping is, it’s in the way you talk.” It is worth mentioning that Isaac Hayes wore unapologetically extravagant gold chains, sunglasses, and a flawlessly shaved head. All visual elements that are well alive to this day in the Rap genre.
10. The late 1970s. First officially signed Rap artist.
Kurtis Blow becomes the first commercially successful rapper and the first to sign with a major record label in 1979. Subsequently, his single The Breaks from his 1980 self-titled debut album, becomes the first-ever certified gold record Rap song. Kurtis Blow is from Harlem, New York, and the other new Rap names on the market all share a similar provenience, such as The Fatback Band, The Sugarhill Gang, Funky 4+1, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The genre overall is still in its early phase and is largely focused on having a good time with the rhyming patterns and flows following rather perfectly the rhythm of the music.
9. The early 1980s. Scratching is invented thus pushing the lyrical side of Rap to progress.
Grand Wizzard Theodore is credited with accidentally having invented scratching. The legend says the DJ’s mother angrily entered his bedroom as he was playing tracks at full volume and while pausing to let the mother speak, he accidentally moved it back and forth and discovered the phenomenon scratching effect.
Once this took place, a new collaboration between Rap DJs and MCs began forging. As the two now depended on one another to elevate the genre. The lyrical aspect had to keep up with the change and the rappers now began layering with meaning their rhymes.
8. The mid 1980s. The genre evolves and becomes a form of protest.
Rap starts gaining serious traction with talents like Eric B. & Rakim, Public Enemy, Run-DMC, LL Cool J leading the genre. Sampling becomes widely used by NY rappers while Melle Mel and Duke Bootee lead on with social protests in their records.
We also witness the birth of one of the hottest Rap records in history, with the first appearance from Slick Rick, The Show, by Doug E Fresh.
7. The late 1980s. West Coast Rap enters the picture and Gangsta Rap reigns.
The late 1980s are today dubbed as the Golden Rap Era. Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, heavily notorious names today, all came about together from California in the late ’80s with their open rebellion against police brutality, racism, and rich vs. poor oppression. The East Coast was heavily promoting their own talents as well such as DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Salt-N-Pepa, Slick Rick, and The Sugarhill Gang.
6. The early 1990s. The rivalry between East Coast and West Coast Rap begins.
It was only a matter of time before the two larger-than-life states put their top talent on the frontline and tried to have the masses rule who’s the better rapper. You will find people extremely dedicated to this old-school “cause” even in 2021. We’re now entering the era of Biggie vs Tupac. After the first released Who Shot Ya?, Tupac took it extremely personally and began a career-long attack on his Californian counterpart and added Bad Boy Records to the enemy list.
5. The mid 1990s. Female MCs step into the spotlight, Jay Z vs Nas happens, and we lose both Tupac and Biggie.
Queen Latifah has been making waves since 1989 but in the mid-90s is when the MC gained notoriety and mainstream attention. Concomitantly, in the midst of a full-blown beef between California and New York, Nas failed to show up to a recording session for Jay-Z’s Bring It On from his debut album Reasonable Doubt, and because of it, we’ve been gifted one of the most publicized beefs in Rap history. Nas won with Ether all the way later in 2001.
Sadly, in 1996 on September 13 Tupac Shakur gets shot, and a year later on March 9, 1997, Biggie dies of the same death. The beef that turned bloody turned many people against the genre and the stereotype of violence, drugs, and Rap music being all integral elements of one another, began.
4. The late 1990s. Rap finally gets its laurels and is heavily commercialized.
By the late 1990s, the Rap scene is on complete fire with the biggest legends of today riding high their glory period: Eminem, The Roots, Three 6 Mafia, Wu-Tang Clan, MF Doom, Ruff Ryders, Ja Rule, Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliott, Ludacris, and so many others. Many of the underground voices go mainstream and success for Rap as a genre is unprecedented. Everyone starts borrowing from the Rap culture and the music although sporting old-school influences, it becomes highly sophisticated and pleasant to the ears even for non-Rap listeners. Not to mention that a 24-year old Lauryn Hill goes home with a Grammy.
3. The early 2000s. The Rap Rockstars Are Born.
With the bling, flashy cars, models, and all the compelling visuals, paired with the moving instrumentals, swag, and larger-than-life aura Rap stars constantly emanating, the youth chooses to tune in to the wave and gradually but surely switch from Rock music to Rap music subsequently rappers become the new modern Rockstars. Eve, Tyrese, Nelly, Jay Z, Eminem, Shaggy, P.Diddy, Missy Elliott are highly sought after and are changing the Rap industry direction. At this very moment, Rap very much becomes a visual experience.
2. The mid-late 2000s. Rap becomes international spurging instant celebrities across the world.
With the introduction of Rap music in the soundtracks of video games like Need For Speed, Rap now goes global spawning a myriad of international counterparts to the American Rap stars. Canada has K-Maro, Russia has Тимати, Romania has B.U.G. Mafia, Italy has Mondo Marcio, UK has Tinie Tempah, Germany has Pyranja, and so forth and so on. Now the entire world is tuned in and America spawns megastars like 50 Cent, Kanye West, Lil Jon, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Gucci Mane, The Game.
1. 2010 – Now.
Once we enter 2010, Rap becomes highly entangled with Pop and we see hybrid Rap artists like Drake taking over the industry and gaining cult followings in Beyonce fashion. We also start seeing more diversity in the game with the arrival of Iggy Azalea. Nicki Minaj rules at an all-time high the public’s favoritism for female MCs. Then Future comes in the mid-2010s and introduces mumble Rap on the market. Now we’re witnessing history in the making with independent artists like Hopsin and Russ being able to build and support big careers without a label’s help.
From Avant-Pop to Rap and Rock music, these 50 talents need and deserve support more than the ones you hear on the radio. So pay us back for the free articles by hearing THEM out. Thank you.