The night before last, I was watching Jeopardy as I often do. The Final Jeopardy category was sports documentaries. The clue said something to the effect that “He was cited as creating “rap” in the 1960s in an ESPN documentary .”
I know the history of hip hop and I know where it came from and when. I sat there dumbfounded because I could not figure out what the question was to this clue. My roommate got the answer right away and said, “Who is Muhammad Ali?”
I thought about that for a minute. It made sense, in a way. He did trash talk his opponents in a rhyme singsong style. He had quite a persona and he was always poetic. But come on! He didn’t create rap.
Yesterday I did a bit of online research on this documentary that the sports channel aired. Quite a few influential rappers spoke on the documentary and in the book about this sports icon.
Chuck D is a legendary hip hop artist and historian. This is what he said about Ali, “He was able to engage his social surroundings into his whole persona. That’s what hip-hop was able to do — to be an antenna for social reflection. He’s one of the few black people to get on TV in the ’60s and speak their minds — thank God – and also back up what he talked about.”
So, while I don’t think anyone can truly say that Ali created rap, he sure was an influence. I never really thought about this before. I had never heard about this documentary until the Jeopardy clue. I think I will have to get a hold of it someday and watch it. It sounds interesting.
Hip Hop cannot be ignored. The music genre has been around since 1974 when Kool Herc created it in the Bronx. That is when the movement began and it shows no signs of letting up. Hip hop is here to stay and it is significant. It showing up on Jeopardy is a sign of that. This was not the first time hip hop has been on Jeopardy and I guarantee that it will not be the last either.