Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Rap Music in the 1980's

South Bronx 1982

Every so often a new style of music emerges that takes America by storm and comes to represent the generation that grows up with it. In the 50's it was rock'n'roll, followed by the Motown sound of the 60's. The 1970's brought folk music and disco, and in the 80's it was rap. Perhaps no other form of music has crossed as many boundaries and become a bridge between America's many cultures as rap has. The first recording of rap was made in 1979 and the genre began to take notice in the U.S. in the mid-1980s.
"Rap music is a black cultural expression that prioritizes black voices from the margins of urban America. Rap music is a form of rhymed storytelling accompanied by highly rhythmic, electronically based music. It originated in the South Bronx in New York City as a part of hip hop, and African-American and Afro-Caribbean youth culture composed of graffiti, breakdancing, and rap music. It was first recorded by small, independent record labels and marketed towards, mostly to a black audience. From the outset, rap music has articulated the pleasures and problems of black urban life in contemporary America. Speaking of personal experience, rappers often spoke from the perspective of a young man who wants social status in a locally meaningful way. They rapped about how to avoid gang pressures, drugs etc.”

However Rap music became the first cross-cultural product, to emerge in 1980’s America. In 1979 the first two rap records appeared: “King Tim III” by the Fatback Band, and “Rapper’s Delight,” by Sugarhill Gang. “Rapper’s Delight” became a national hit, reaching number 36 on the Billboard magazine popular music charts. The spoken content, mostly bragging spiced with fantasy, came largely from material used by the earlier rappers. The background for “Rapper’s Delight” was supplied by studio musicians, who copied the basic groove of the hit song “Good Times” (1979) by a disco group Chic.  This new style of music soon attracted white musicians that began performing it. For rap it was a young white group from New York, the Beastie Boys. Their release “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” (1986) was one of the first two rap records to reach the Billboard top-ten. Another early rap song to reach the top ten, “Walk This Way” (1986), was a collaboration of Run-DMC and Aerosmith. Soon after 1986, the use of samples was influenced in the music of both black and white performers, changing past thoughts of different cultural sounds.

Sampling brought into question the ownership of the new sound. Some artists claimed that by sampling recordings of black artist they were challenging white corporate America and the recording industry’s right to own black cultural expression. Rap artists were also challenging other musicians’ right to own, control, and be given credit for the use of their creations. By the early most artists requested permission for the use of samples. Some commonly sampled released CDs containing dozens of sound bites specifically for sampling. One effect of sampling was the sense of musical history among black youth. Earlier artists were celebrated as cultural heroes and their older recordings were reissued and re-popularised. Causing both African Americans and white Americans to recognise and celebrate the achievements of black music.
In the late 1980s rap became highly politicized, resulting in the most mediated social agenda in popular music. The groups Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions condensed this political style of rap. Public Enemy became noticed with their second album, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” (1988), and the theme song “Fight the Power” from the motion picture “Do the Right Thing” (1989). Stating the importance of rap in black culture, Chuck D., of Public Enemy, referred to it as the ‘African American CNN.’

Next to hit the scene was “gangsta rap, which attempts to state an outlaw lifestyle of sex, drugs, and violence in the city. In 1988 the first major album of gangsta rap was released, “Straight Outta Compton” by the rap group NWA (Niggaz With Attitude). Songs from the album created an extraordinary amount of bickering for their violent attitudes and hatred towards a number of organizations, including the FBI. However, attempts to censor gangsta rap only served to publicize the music and make it more attractive to both black and white youths.”

Since the mid-1980s rap music has influenced both black and white culture in America. Much of the slang of hip-hop, like dis, fly, def, chill, and wack, have become standard parts of vocabulary for a number of young people of various backgrounds. Many rap enthusiasts claim that rap is used as a voice for a people without access to the mainstream media. According to supporters, rap serves to provoke self-pride and self-improvement, passing on a positive and fulfilling sense of black history that is missing from other American institutions. Gangsta rap however has been severely criticized for its lyrics that many people interpret as praising the most violent and misogynistic (woman-hating) views in the history of popular music, with references to drugs, sex, gun, gang crimes, disrespect for the law, and other racial groups/cultures. Defenders of gangsta rap argue that no matter who is listening to the music, the raps are good because they precisely show life in inner-city America, and therefore have the truest representation of America at that time.


- http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=1&fid=61725&jid=PMU&volumeId=19&issueId=01&aid=61724

- http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/adam-yauch-twitter-tributes-musicians-819103#.UvD4svl_s24 


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