Musicdope80s – From streets to world stages, hip hop has grown into one of the world’s prominent musical genres and cultural influences. One of hip hop’s greatest creations is rap music.
Rapping is a genre of music that involves a musician speaking or singing in a monotone a story, rhythmically. Almost a century before rapping came around, West African musicians would tell stories rhythmically over a drum beat on their own. Meanwhile, folk artists from the Caribbeans would also tell stories in rhyme. These musicians would lay down the foundations of modern-day American rap music.
1970’s: The Beginning
Rapping started gaining popularity in America during the 1970s in America as street art, mainly among African-American teens. In 1973, The Sugarhill Gang released their song, ‘Rappers Delight,’ alerting music labels of the genre. The exposure of the style created numerous acts Run-DMC and N.W.A. The audience began to swell, expanding the horizon to White rap group The Beastie Boys, and female rap group Salt’n’Pepa. The instrumentation of this era included 2 turntables and a mixer desk with slow and simple beats. The focus was more on lyrics.
It wasn’t just African-American males who were successful either. By the 1980s, white rap group – The Beastie Boys and Female Rap group – Salt’n’Pepa began to hit the top of the charts.
On the African-American side of Rap music, ‘Gangsta Rap’ began to take the Rap scene by storm. Rap artists such as Ice-T and Schoolly D started the war between East Coast and West Coast Gangsta Rap.
The difference between normal rap and Gangsta Rap is that the lyrics of Gangsta Rap emphasised the gangsta lifestyle.
Late 1980’s and 1990’s: Gangsta Rap
Rap music started to move away from the story-based lyrics about social/economic problems and began to focus more on lyrics based on being gangsters and shooting people. Violence was also a major theme for the lyrics of this type of rap.
During the early 1990’s West Coast Gangsta Rap had developed a sub-genre – G-Funk. G-Funk has a distinctive sound that involves melodic synthesizers, slow hypnotic grooves, deep bass, and a high pitch synthesizer lead. Snoop Dogg had one of the largest influences on G-Funk with his infamous song called “Nuthin but a G Thang.”
Controversy and censorship from radio stations were common, and the biggest example of this was rap group N.W.A, a rap group from Compton California. Their explicit lyrics, no-nonsense attitude, and magnification of crime represented everything gangsta rap stood for.
Dr. Dre released one of the most influential Hip-Hop albums of all time – The Chronic. This album popularized G-funk to a mainstream audience and solidified Dr. Dre as one of the most innovative artists of his time.
Example: Dr. Dre – Let Me Ride
In 1993, a New York-based rap group ‘Wu-Tang Clan’ released their debut album – ‘Enter The Wu-Tang.’ The album became revolutionary because of its dark, and rugged vibe, as well as its technical lyricism.
Example: Wu-Tang Clan – Protect Ya Neck
A Queens-based rapper from New York City released his album called Illmatic. The album received a five-star rating by The Source magazine. The album featured menacing beats and dark narratives, which was something fresh for hip hop.
Example: Nas – N.Y. State Of Mind
During the wave of rivalry between East and West coast Hip-Hop artists, there were also different things going on in the Hip-Hop scene. The genre was dominated by Jazz Rap and Alternative Hip-Hop. Jazz Rap was different from Rap music at the time because of the lyrical content of the music. Jazz Rap was more focused on shooting people and being ‘Gangsta’ and was more focused on girls. The rhythm of Jazz Rap is the same as Rap music however the instrumentation is taken from Jazz. The music consists of repetitive Jazz phrases played by trumpet and double bass. Some of the most popular Rap artists at the time produced Jazz Rap music such as ‘A Tribe Called Quest’ and ‘De La Soul’
Towards the late 1990s, Hip-Hop began to diversify with regional styles. New styles of Hip-Hop like Southern Rap and Atlanta Hip-Hop became a thing. As well as regional forms of the genre, it was also being implemented into other popular genres of music. Nu Metal and Neo-Soul were hybrid genres of music that included rapping. Nu Metal is a form of alternative rock that includes different conventions of other genres such as rap lyrics and grunge. Neo-Soul is a genre of music that originated from Soul music and contemporary RNB. The genre consists of musical conventions from the 2 genres as well as conventions from Hip-Hop and Jazz music.
Because of the growth in different subgenres and hybrid genres of Hip-Hop, the genre as a whole began to quickly grow in popularity and was the most popular genre of music at the time.
2000’s Sheer Dominance
Jay-Z and Eminem were two rappers that held rap music together, along with 50 Cent and his domination during the mid-2000s. Jay-Z released his hit single “Hard Knock Life,” which spawned the biggest hit of his career at the time. He relied more on flow and wordplay and continued with his penchant for mining beats from popular producers such as Swizz Beatz, and Timbaland.
Eminem on the other hand decided to create his treacherous alter-ego “Slim Shady.” The sadistic and violent character allowed him to express his anger with lyrics about drugs, rape, and murder. He had the world on his fingers with the release of his album “The Slim Shady LP.” This opened a whole different avenue of rap for artists.
50 Cent released his debut album “Get Rich or Die Tryin,” described as the most hyped debut album by a rap artist in a decade. Rolling Stone noted its dark synth grooves, buzzy keyboards, and a funky bounce, complimented by 50 and his laid-back flow.
2010 – Contemporary Hip-Hop
After Kanye West and The Outkast recovered Hip-Hop, the genre began to rise again. Hip-Hop in general began to pick up subgenres such as a trap. The growth of popularity in Hip-Hop has continued to increase over the past few years. A new age of artists known as ‘Sound Cloud’ artists has started to dominate the Hip-Hop scene. Sound Cloud artists generally stick to the Mumble Rap sub-genre of Hip-Hop which consists of a basic melody accompanied by an extremely heavy bass line. The vocalist will slur his words or not actually say words but instead murmur over the backing track. Artists of this style include Fetty Wap, Future, XXXTentacion, and Lil Uzi Vert. A large majority of the Hip-Hop fan base is highly critical of the mumble rap sub-genre because of the lack of lyricism and the incomprehensibility of the vocalist.
There are other artists of the Hip-Hop genre that are still hugely successful such as – Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and J.Cole.