Rap: A History and Culture

Rap: A History and Culture

Tanner Wymore, Staff Writer

Rap Music is a big part of Western Culture, but it’s origins may surprise you. In our current year, 2018, we have rappers spitting rhymes about money, women, and personal struggles, but how far have we really come from the origins of rap?

Rap’s influence comes from Jamaican Toasting, an ancient Jamaican chant, involving a deejay (a dancehall/reggae musician) singing to a lyrical drum riddim (rhythm). It grew in popularity once again in Jamaica in the second half of the 60’s, getting carried over to underground rap in 1973. Dj Kool Herc, is a Jamaican-American influenced by Jamaican Toasting, carrying it over to the US in New York, by rhyming at parties with his partner, Coke La Rock.

After gaining popularity in the US, rap made its first commercial debut in the summer of 1979, by the funk band, The Fatback Band, called King Tim III (Personality Jock). It’s widely believed the first rap song is Rapper’s Delight by The SugarHill Gang, largely because it gained a lot of popularity compared to King Tim III.

Notable songs from the late 70’s and early 80’s

  • King Tim III (Personality Jock) by The Fatback Band
  • Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang
  • Rapture by Blondie
  • I Need a Beat by LL Cool J

In the late 80s, gangsta rap was the phase rap had gone through, where most rappers were talking about the police, race, and drugs.

Groups like N.W.A including rappers Ice Cube, The D.O.C, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, DJ Yella, and Arabian Prince. As most rappers then (even today), talk about Black Oppression and had influenced people to fight against racism.

Notable late 80’s early 90’s rappers

  • 2pac
  • Eminem
  • Dr. Dre
  • Snoop Dogg
  • Salt-n-Pepa

Moving into the 90’s, new rappers were arriving into the game. The 90’s was when rap was becoming more about the culture, wordplay, and struggles, while gangsta rap was less apparent. This is shown largely in rappers like Tupac, who rapped about struggles of not only himself, but others stories, and Eminem, who had fun with wordplay and his own struggles and others, heavily shown in his song Stan.

The 2000’s was a mix between the 90’s and 80’s rap, keeping old messages, but having new rappers moving in with similar themes. The 2000’s is a transition period in to the 2010’s, where the messages are becoming strongly focused on the money and flexing side of rap, along with 90’s rappers becoming more experienced. The 2000’s was a period of change in rap, as apparent now. Into the early 2010’s, things had a slow transition, but rappers like Kanye West, Drake, and J. Cole were coming out with a new style of rap.

Drake, has more recently gained popularity around 2015, with very popular songs, including Hotline Bling, In My Feelings, and God’s Plan.


As things have changed more recently,  Rappers now have become more bold, with rappers like 6ix 9ine, wearing rainbows, and Lil Pump, wearing a giant cardboard suit. As our current culture has labeled these new rappers as, mumble rappers, and are quite controversial. The name speaks for itself, and consists of a long chorus repeating same words with not as much wordplay as in the past, which,  On the other hand, some people are enjoying modern rap, such as Layla Jelenic, an 8th grader stated, “ New rap music is better than old rap music”, on the other hand, 6th grader Keira Byrie, said, “In the origins of rap, you were actually able to understand what they were saying, but now it’s harder to understand what they’re saying.”   Other recent rappers are keeping the culture full of wordplay with rap group Brockhampton and rappers Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, the Creator, Childish Gambino, Logic, A$AP Rocky,  and the recent death of influential rapper XXXTENTACION.

Rap culture has changed its message. It has evolved from an underground culture to a mainstream way to express a message. Rap is part of our society, and will continue to grow as a lyrical phenomenon.