I’m not the bigger hip-hop fan out there, but I found the history of the genre fascinating, mostly because of how it tells a story of America. Being European, I learn a lot about the USA by exploring how its cultural movements emerged.
I recently heard that Hip-Hop is 50 years old and, out of curiosity, I asked myself:
What is the First Rap Song?
First, let’s begging by stating that the “50 years” comes from the fact that one event has been declared as the starting point of hip hop culture. that cultural revolution was started in 1973 when DJ Kool Herc ran the turntables at the notorious “Back To School” jam–a party he organized with his sister Cindy.
It started at 9:00 PM on August 11th in the Bronx. Female attendees paid 25 cents, while male attendees paid 50 cents, to enter the party taking place in the Rec Room at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. The rest is History.
If everybody agrees that this party marked the birth of the Hip Hop culture, there’s still discussion about the first rap song.
One of the earliest recorded instances of rap on a commercially released record is “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang, which was released in 1979.
“Rapper’s Delight” was a groundbreaking track that popularized rap music and introduced it to a wider audience. The song was created by producer Sylvia Robinson, who founded Sugar Hill Records. The Sugarhill Gang, a hip-hop group consisting of three members (Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and Master Gee), performed the song. The track heavily sampled Chic’s disco hit “Good Times” and featured the group’s rapping over the music.
While “Rapper’s Delight” was not the very first instance of rapping, it was the first rap song to achieve mainstream success and reach a broader audience. It played a significant role in bringing hip-hop and rap to the forefront of popular music culture and paved the way for the genre’s continued growth and evolution over the decades.
King Tim III (Personality Jock)
A few months before “Rapper’s Delight,” the track “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” by The Fatback Band was recorded as a B-side to the song “You’re My Candy Sweet.” It features the voice of Timothy Washington, also known as King Tim III, delivering rhythmic and rhyming vocals over the music. This style of vocal delivery was one of the earliest instances of rap being recorded on a vinyl record.
The song was not as commercially successful as “Rapper’s Delight,” and it didn’t receive as much mainstream attention. However, its significance lies in being a pioneering example of rap music being recorded and released by a major record label. It helped to establish the foundation for the rap genre’s future growth and paved the way for the explosion of rap music in the 1980s and beyond.
Before there was Rap Music
Rap music’s roots are deeply ingrained in a variety of musical and cultural traditions, such as disco and funk, African oral traditions, the call-and-response style of music, Jamaican toasting, and more.
Rap as a genre emerged as a result of the fusion of these inspirations, with “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” and “Rapper’s Delight” serving as key turning points in the genre’s popularization.
But it’s important to recognize the long history and wide range of influences that helped rap music develop and become the current worldwide cultural phenomenon.
It’s been a while since I read it, but Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree is reprinted as an omnibus. If you’re interested in the history of hip-hop. Also, “The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop” by Jonathan Abrams has been published last year. If you read it, tell me what you thought of it.
For now, I didn’t write a lot about music, but if you’re interested, I published an article about the invention of the Piano.