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History and Lyrics of Rap [long]

Rap music's history, from early origins, defamation, acceptance and finally evolution into multiple musical forms. For a general audience, 3 hours.
by

Joel Carlin

on 21 October 2015

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Transcript of History and Lyrics of Rap [long]

Where the Blues led:
Lyricism in Rap Music

Dr. Joel L. Carlin
Biology / Environmental Studies Gustavus Adolphus College
Saint Peter, Minnesota USA

Music, Race, Poetry, History, Class
Terms for Race & Ethnicity
Black
African-American
American African
White
Euro-American
M.I.A. Emmanuel Jal Andre3000 Slug
African-American Musical Forms
Blues
From southern African-American spirituals but quickly spread to cities.
Bessie Smith
Call and response
Rhythmic talk >> melody narratives of personal woes, esp. regarding poverty and race
"Electrified" in 40s
Jazz
Spanish-American war brings brass instruments to New Orleans
Duke Ellington
Theme improvisation
Syncopation vs. melody
Urban from the start, in a highly cosmopolitan music scene
Banned in its early history
Rhythm & Blues
Post-WWII labor migration to cities, massive urbanization, Afro-Cuban beats
Bo Diddley
Focus on piano, sax, electric guitar
Boasting and rebellion, involving class, race and age
50's Doo-wop: Vocal harmonies with meaningless backing lyrics
Rap and Hip Hop
Today's topic!
Hip hop culture
Social causes
Melody and Music-making
Technology
Appropriation
Lyrics!!!
Urban Music: Then & Now
An Idea
Joel's pattern of music development in the U.S.:
Sparks of new music often African-American
Catches on in urban centers, spreading out
Fanned by class- and race-injustice
Smokescreens of misreporting and narrow-focused representation
Blazes across culture and class lines
African-American Musical Forms
African-American Musical Forms
African-American Musical Forms
What is Hip Hop?
Hip hop is a "musical culture"
Dr. Revolt, New York City Graffiti Art Show, Varga Gallery
Graffiti
Breakdancing
Emceeing (scratch, sampling, beatboxing)
Rapping
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
The Social Scene of the 1970s
slum clearance ("white flight")
mixing technology
communications technology
widening economic gap
racial bias in law enforcement
Pres. Carter visits the Bronx
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
The Music Scene of the 1970s
Consolidation of music production into few multinational companies (only six major labels by end of 1980's).
Uninterrupted melody with seamless transitions.
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
1970's - From Bronx to Blondie
Block parties w/ DJs that scratch and mix beats,
b-boy dancers perform in the beat breaks
Jamaican immigrant DJs show toasting and signifying.
1979 Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight”
1981 Blondie’s “Rapture”
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
Boasting and Signifying
Boasting of one's own physical, sexual, criminal prowess; affirming credibility of you & your crew.

Song packet:
1979 - Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight"
1988 - Big Daddy Kane's "Ain't no half-steppin'"
2009 - K'naan's "T.I.A."

Lyrics Break!
Nigger & Nigga
Africa Bambaata
Early 1980's - Rap Matures
Hip hop spreads; but only violent songs get airplay
Reliable, programmable drum machines introduced in 1980, high memory sampling of bass beats incorporated into drum machines in 1987
Latino rap in NYC and LA.
Lyrics get more complex
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
Cries Against Violence
"Progressive": often Afrocentric hip hop that seeks to stop not only violence, but all self-generated behaviors that worsen the African-American [urban] condition.
A Tribe Called Quest, De la Soul, Talib Kweli

Song packet:
1989 - KRS One's "Stop the Violence"

Lyrics Break!
Children Turned Violent by Music?!?
Pre-acceptance = overreporting of violence
At a concert in Annapolis 50-70,000 youth tried to attend a sold out performance for 8,000 seats. Roads were clogged for seven hours.
"It was dangerous. Lot of kids got hurt. There was a lot of rioting going on, just crazy, man! The music drove 'em insane."
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
Roland TR808 Rhythm Composer
Carl Perkins, "Top Stars of '56" tour
85-95: Golden Age of Hip Hop
Airplay (finally), East v. West violence
Eclectic sampling, Afrocentrism, jazz,
political militancy, gangsta rap (Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg),
West Coast hip hop (MC Hammer, Tupac Shakur),
rebirth of East Coast (A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan).
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
Rap & the Gangsta lifestyle
For some, an honest portrayal of urban life otherwise totally absent from the airwaves.
Resonates with Civil Rights struggle then & now
Rap criticized for glorifying crime and violence, but few critics address the causes of the poverty.
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
Why can't "they" just respect authority like other "good" citizens?
"Poverty has nothing to do with our people. It's not in our culture to be poor. That's only been the last 500 years of our history. Look at the last 2000 years of our existence and what we brought to the world in terms of science, mathematics, agriculture and forms of government."
Crime and Punishment
Crime as the only escape from poverty, while the rich-poor gap grows.
Police misconduct, from profiling to police brutality, to govt monitoring of the internet.

Song packet:
1982 - Grandmaster Flash's "The Message"
1988 - NWA's "Fuck Tha Police"
1989 - Public Enemy's "Fight the Power"
2012 - Killer Mike's "Reagan"
Lyrics Break!
What is Appropriation?
Appropriation & Evolution
Wiggas 'n' Wannabes
The search for the coolest music and lifestyle
Example?
EuroAm musician who adopted slang, walk, & women
Recorded Afr-Amer artists
Widely criticized for promoting drugs & violence
Subject of critical essays
Appropriation & Evolution
Mezz Mezzrow (1899-1972)
1995-2005 - Rap's Ri$e and Fall
Hip hop has the most profitable music in industry
Euro-Am Rap: Eminem
Regions: southern, midwest
Fusions: jazz rap, triphop

Song packet:
1993 - US3's "Cantaloop"
1999 - Eminem's "Brain Damage"
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
2005-present - Hiphop Radiation
Rap sales drop while the internet explodes
Some artists (Jay Z, Eminem) dominate sales, but overall sales drop precipitously
Lyrics take on personal meanings away from the "hood" (Kanye West, OutKast, Gnarls Barkley)
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
Jay Z
2005-present - Hiphop Radiation
Rap sales drop while the internet explodes
Hiphop elements fully incorporated in Asian pop culture, where Asians look to the U.S. to define foreign 'cool'
Still resonates with those oppressed, VERY popular in Africa, Latin America
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
Hiphop Samurai? Yup.
2005-present - Hiphop Radiation
Personal means to escape the 'Big 3'
Indie labels (Rawkus Records)
Foreign-born artists top US charts (K’naan, M.I.A.).
Free download, THEN sign (Jay Electronica, Lupe Fiasco, Wale)
Self-promote indie label via viral videos (Macklemore)
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
Macklemore's video for "Thrift Shop" has been viewed 418 million times.
Personal Stories w/ Hiphop Roots
ANYthing goes in loose rhyming narrative of modern rap music.

Song packet:
1998 - Talib Kweli's "For Women"
2001 - OutKast's "Ms. Jackson"
2004 - Kanye West's "Jesus Walks"
2005 - Lyric Born's "Stop Complaining"
2006 - Komplex Kai's "About the Rez"
Lyrics Break!
International Hiphop Culture
Song packet:
Japan - Nujabe's "Battlecry"
Chile - Ana Tijoux's "Sacar la Voz"
Lyrics Break!
PSY "Gangnam Style" Ana Tijoux "Sacar La Voz"
Urban Music: Then & Now
An Idea
Joel's pattern of music development in the U.S.:
Sparks of new music often African-American
Catches on in urban centers, spreading out
Fanned by class- and race-injustice
Smokescreens of misreporting and narrow-focused representation
Blazes across culture and class lines
Why are the Lyrics so Offensive, or
Impossible to Understand?!?
GOOD rap uses cusswords for a reason.
Reflects how people actually talk
Thanking your Crew
Part of boasting
Prevents airplay, coversongs obvious
Codewords that only the Crew, or folks in your neighborhood, can understand
RETENTION OF AESTHETIC CONTROL
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
Latino rapper Immortal Technique
Rap and Sampling
Mixing in soundbytes as music
Speeches (Malcom X, MLK)
Poetry (Gil Scott Heron)
Afr-Amer Artists (Nina Simone)
Other Raps!
Codewords that only the Crew, or folks in your neighborhood, can understand
RETENTION OF AESTHETIC CONTROL
Hip hop and Rap: Overview
Nina Simone
(1933-2003)
Full transcript