Where And How Did Rap Music Originate?

Rap music originated in the middle of the 1970’s, though the music genre did not get nationwide attention until the early 1980’s. By the late eighties, rap music was a major part of the American mainstream musical landscape, thanks to lyrical content, the energy of live shows and the parallel rise of MTV and music videos.

What Is The Difference In “Rap” And “Hip Hop”?

“Rap music” and “hip hop culture” are roughly synonymous in the minds of many Americans, though there are differences. Hip hop was originally a combination of rap, DJing, breakdancing and “tagging”, which was the hip hop name for producing graffiti. Therefore, “rap” is the most famous part of hip hop culture, but “hip hop” comprises more than just rapping and rappers. These days, though, people often use the term “hip hop” when discussing music which combines rapping and Dj, and the term “hip hop” can be considered a proper definition of rap.

Who Started The Hip Hop Culture?

Generally speaking, rap was started in the Bronx, New York in the 1970’s. Because of personal recollections and the myth-making aspect of hip hop, it’s hard to isolate the exact time and place where rap started or who exactly should be considered the inventor of rap. For instance, many believe “Kool Herc” helped create rap at street parties in the Bronx, while others cite “Melle Mel” as the first official rap MC, or at least the first to call himself MC.

Origins Of Rap Music


In New York City dance clubs in the Bronx in the late-1970’s, club Djs began to isolate and sample the sounds from the disco and funk music of the 1970’s. These distinctive beats and bass lines became the foundation of a new type of music in these clubs, and Djs can be seen as the prime movers of hip hop.

MCs (Master of Ceremonies) in the clubs were there to introduce the hot new DJ. Between songs, though, MCs began to talk to the crowd. Like MC’s even today, this talk varied between jokes, biographical anecdotes, as well as attempts to excite and energize the audience. Eventually, some local MCs began to talk over the music, and this talk soon became part of the music performance. These MC’s became known as “rappers”.

Eventually, “rap music” was refined to become a mixture of rhythmic poetry, and rappers were getting noticed by 1979 and some commercially successful records were selling locally, though rap had hardly made an impact on the U.S. mainstream.

Mainstream Rap Success

The first rap song which gained mainstream notice in the American music media was “Rapper’s Delight”, performed by the Sugarhill Gang. Rap gained a wider following throughout the early 1980’s, and the genre was known by the American youth on some level in the early 1980’s, though mainly as an African-American genre of music.

1986 was the year that rap crossed over into the American mainstream, as Run-D.M.C. had the first huge mainstream rap album with “Raising Hell”. The music video for Run-D.M.C.’s cover of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” classic rock hit featured a collaboration with Aerosmith. This song appealed to wider audience of white American youth. It not only made Run-D.M.C. one of the first rap acts which became a household name, but resurrected Aerosmith to popularity. Seeing how commercially viable rap music could be, record labels became more aggressive in signing and marketing rap acts.

MTV became a huge engine for marketing rap music to the American public. The Hollywood glamour of music videos would combine with the (often gritty) realism of the rap music itself to make huge stars out of rap singers and DJs alike, and any list of important rap artists would be incomplete enough that it’s better not to start a list here.

Rap Music In African-American Culture

Rap had antecedents in African-American culture going all the way back to the spoken-word artists of pre-slavery West Africa, the griots. Some of today’s rappers, academics and media commentators are on record calling today’s rap artists “modern-day griots”.

African-American culture also has claims on rap. For instance, African-American blues artist, Elijah Wald, has pointed out that lyrics were “rapped” by blue singers as far back as the 1920’s. Rap no doubt was also influenced by 1920’s “Jazz poetry”, another African-American art form. And scholars of reggae and mento music will point out that American deejays were “toasting” or rapping to Jamaican beats as early as 1956.

Therefore, there are many possible origins for modern rap, and many different African-American artists can claim to have originated rap music. Given the fusion of pop culture that hip hop and rap represents today, it would be fair to say that all of these various art forms and artists influenced rap at one time or another. But if you want to say how and where rap music originates, you are on solid ground saying in New York City in the Seventies.