The Roots of Rap
Spoken word poetry set to tasteful rhythms has been around since the dawn of mankind. Ever since humanity first discovered percussion and rhythm, early precursors to rap have existed.
Ancient West African Griots
Many people credit the Griots of West Africa with being some of the original ancient rappers. These wandering troubadours would pass down spoken word stories of their people set to rhythmic beats.
Another root of rap a bit north of the West African Griots can be found in ancient Europe. The Vikings would throw down at ancient rap battles in a process known as flyting.
This word loosely translates to “provocation” in their ancient tongue. The Vikings weren’t alone in their adaptation of the ancient freestyle battle between MCs.
The Celts, English, Scotts, Swedes, and other European civilizations all dabbled in it from time to time.
Wherever a civilization developed spoken word set to a rhythm, rap took a primitive form. From the ancient shamanic chants of the Amazon to Tibetan throat singing, the roots of rap can be found all over the world.
America as Rap’s Crucible
The American slave trade was the root of such musical genres as soul, blues, gospel, and jazz. These genres along with other traditional African influences paved the way for modern rap.
As each of these new genres manifested themselves through the pain of a captive population, they formed the building blocks of what we know to be modern rap.
A common prevailing theme throughout many great rap songs is the “struggle”. The “struggle” is the concept of the oppressed trying to survive under the tyranny of the oppressor’s societal system.
The greatest struggle of all is slavery. Rap gives voice to those suffering in the streets. Rap beats give life to the music and make it enjoyable to listen to.
There is much debate in the musical community about who was the first modern rapper. Some say it was the Sugarhill Gang with their album “Rapper’s Delight” put out in 1979.
Others say it was Bill Curtis and the Fatback Band with their single King Tim III. Countless rappers across North America can substantiate some sort of claim of being the first of their genre.
The Emergence of Hip Hop
Regardless of the debate, modern rap made its first iterations in the early 1970s. It started as an offshoot of the funk, soul, disco, and r&b genres. It was soon dubbed hip hop.
Hip hop beats can be characterized by loud bass accentuated by punchy snare drums and various other percussive elements.
As they evolved the technique of “sampling” or taking brief snippets of songs or movies and adding them into the rhythm tastefully did as well.
What Makes the Best Rap Beats?
While this is a very subjective question there are a few key components that many popular rap beats have. The first and foremost is that they get the listener grooving and wanting to move. From there it gets complicated.
A song’s tempo sets its pace. Tempo changes, drops and beat switches can all be mechanisms of enhancing a song. They can also help a lyricist hone in on their flow.
How loud do you want your base? How abrasive do you want the clap to be to balance it out? Picking edgy and engaging percussive elements can add to the allure and uniqueness of your rap beat.
An engaging rhythm is the centerpiece of any rap beat. While the tempo sets the pace of the song, the rhythm sets the mood. The best rap beats don’t sound cluttered and their rhythm flows well.
Some of the best rap artists of all time from the Wu-Tang Clan to Tupac used samples in their work. Samples can add to the overall vibe of a song and help the lyricist get their message across.
If you plan on sampling some other artistic medium there are few things you should know to do it tastefully and avoid legal trouble.
Nobody wants to listen to a rap beat that sounds too much like another song. Yesterday’s hits are old news when it comes to creating new rap beats. Stay fresh and creative to make your beats shine.
The Future of Rap
As lyricists continue to get more creative, digital software gets more advanced and synthesizers get more complex, anything is possible for the future of rap.
Rap has told the stories of the streets for generations. It will continue to do so. Spoken word set to beats will always be around in some variation or another. As long as they are, rap will continue to flourish.
The Emergence of Rap Sub-Genres
New emergences in rappers’ cadence and messages are changing the game. Sub-genres such as mumble rap, trap, political rap, horrorcore, and gangster rap continue to redefine the genre.
Crossover genres like rap-rock and hick-hop push preconceived musical boundaries. Whatever happens in the future of rap, it is sure to be interesting.
Spit Your Flow
As the history of rap continues to unfold in modern times, it may be time for you to step up. With some killer rhymes and the right rap beats at your disposal, you may become the next great MC.
A great option for a beginner is to buy beats and try spitting to them. Commercial beats are an excellent option for someone who enjoys rapping, or needs a rap beat for their business, but doesn’t know how to make them.
If you are looking for a wide variety of rap beats, contact us today so we can help you find your rhythm. That way you can join the rap game and help influence a musical genre with your individuality.