Part 2 – Rap is Born
In the mid 1970s, DJs still owned the parties and were held in reverence. DJs such as Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grand Master Flash quickly became legends. They all strove to improve their DJ skills and soon employed MCs (masters of ceremony) to help them run the parties. An MC’s job was to hype up the crowd and introduce the DJ. This allowed the DJ to concentrate on the technical aspects of delivering a good set.
MCs used the toasting style that Kool Herc had made popular. They started off the DJ introductions with slick rhymes. The toasting started to become more intricate and eventually ended up with the MC rapping verses. At this point the raps would not be considered songs, but it would not be long before rapping became an element all on its own.
The first rap record recorded was by the Fatback Band and it featured King Tim III and was released in 1979. Shortly thereafter The Sugar Hill released “Rapper’s Delight”. They rapped over the break to Chic’s “Good Times”. This record was really just a reflection of what had happened at the block parties.
Songwriting took a step up in 1980 when Kurtis Blow released “The Breaks”. He spoke about issues of poverty but the record still had a party-type vibe and didn’t delve into the topic too deeply. In 1982, Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five released a record that really dealt with the daily life and socioeconomic realities of the black neighbourhoods. This record was called “The Message,” and this is the record that really convinced people what the power of rap had to offer.
It wasn’t long before the DJ, who had been the focus and creative force behind hip-hop was regulated to the back while the rapper took the forefront. I think that this is something that is often overlooked in the culture today. Rap music used to be about the DJ. We cannot forget this important part of our history and culture.