The United States is known for being home to many cultures and for being a place where cultures can mix and form new cultures. A major part of the formation of new cultures is the creation of new art. Many genres of music have been the result of the melding and evolution of cultures. Rap music is known to have its roots in African American history and is a subgenre of hip-hop that has now spread through the entire country and can be adapted into many styles so that anyone can use rap to express themselves.
The Roots of Rap
Rap was born in New York City during the 1970s when disc jockeys (DJs) at block parties would isolate and extend the percussion from funk, soul, and disco songs (Dye). The masters of ceremonies (MCs) would speak over the tracks to energize the crowd and introduce the DJs. As MCs carried on interacting with their audiences, their speech evolved into rhymes and would match the rhythm of the music. From there, MCs would become known as rappers and rap music would become commercial entering the 1980s. The genre quickly spread across the United States and evolved as an art form, incorporating new techniques and pushing the boundaries of what was socially acceptable.
Because of its roots in New York block parties, it is no surprise that rap became popular in other urban communities, being used as a medium through which people expressed the struggles and hardships of daily life. Some distinct scenes that formed because of the expansion of rap are those in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta. These communities host unique styles of rap that create different moods and convey different messages.
Variation of Rap Scenes
Starting with the New York scene, Nas is a rapper known for his poetic flow and artistic execution of the storytelling of his experience with African American culture. Nas was a very successful artist from the beginning of his career and has received many awards due to his natural talent and lifelong commitment to music. Like the wave of self-expression of Nas is Kanye West. At the start of his career, West was known for using his lyrics to convey his struggles and emotions towards life. Because of his compelling lyrics and relatable compassion, West gained traction and began to evolve as an artist. His later works featured more explicit themes such as sex and eventually reverted to more reflective roots with his most recent album. In the South, Atlanta was home to a proprietary form of rap tailored to the clubbing scene. Ludacris was one of the founders of Atlanta rap that was less about telling personal stories and more about energizing people and fueling a party. This type of rap which lent itself more towards hip-hop than pure rap became popular because of its use in the clubbing scene as people were exposed to the subgenre without having to tune in to a specific radio station or go search for new music at a shop.
One of the most influential rap groups of all time is N.W.A. as their intense lyrics and direct take on social issues were a shock to the public. Because of the group’s early entrance into the creation of rap, their powerful style known as gangsta rap was an unprecedented new music genre. The group used its voice and presence to protest police brutality and racism that was not unknown to any black American during this period.
Modern Influence of Rap
Nowadays, rap has drastically evolved as a genre as artists have taken the liberty to experiment and mix rap with other genres. As rap grew beyond black communities in the United States, a new perspective and appreciation of the genre formed. Eminem is a great example of a modern rapper who created a shocking new picture of the art because he is white, and he is also known for very controversial lyrics, which has made him such a big name in the genre. Female rappers are also very common now, especially with a new wave of feminism that is based on self-love. Cardi B is an example of a female rapper who is not afraid to embrace her sex and share her confidence with the world. Completely opposite from a world of drugs, violence, racism, and sex is rap that expresses faith and religion. NF is a popular rapper who is known for his expression of Christianity in his music.
Rap is just a small piece of hip-hop culture that is rooted in black communities in the United States. Other aspects of hip-hop culture, graffiti, break dancing, and streetwear, have also been shared with cultures beyond their origin, allowing people from different countries and backgrounds to express themselves in new ways. Because of the growing acceptance of these art forms and cultures, the perception of rap and hip-hop has dramatically improved with a positive attitude and a wide audience. The evolution and sharing of culture are extremely important to erase the lines and barriers between communities that create social tensions. The evolution of rap is proof that people can share and help each other grow regardless of the boundaries put in place by outside forces.