Know Your History: Episode 5 – Rap is Born (Part 2)

This is the conclusion of the transcript for Episode 5 of Know Your History. If you missed reading Part 1 you can go back and read it now. You can also download the radio show for free or stream it with the player below. 

In 1978, the term “rap music” came into existence. Most people didn’t mind the new term and actually started calling themselves “rappers.” So now, not only did we have a new term that helped shift the focus to the emcees, we also had rappers stepping up their game with the lyrical content and delivery. This kind of relegated the DJ to the back.

Also shortly around this time, rap radio was born. The first show was Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack on WHBI. This also helped signal the shift because it was no longer about a DJ heading up a party. It was now about the song and what the MC was saying.

Another interesting thing happened in 1982. There was a battle between Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee. Busy Bee was one of those old-school party rappers who didn’t really say much in his lyrics, and Kool Moe Dee was more like the Furious Five there. Kool Moe Dee’s delivery was harder and he said more things in his lyrics. Anyway, he actually crushed Busy Bee in this battle. He just knocked him right out. Since then, battling has become part of the culture as well.

I will be producing an upcoming show that focuses entirely on battles and this particular battle will definitely be highlighted in it because it is one of the most famous of all rap battles.

One year later, Run-DMC did their own take on the same issues that were reflected in “The Message” with their song “It’s Like That.” Much like Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” it talks about poverty but it’s much harder and has more of a street sound that the flashy Kurtis Blow. I would even argue that it’s a little harder than Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s take as well.

It’s even more evident on the B-side, “Sucker MCs.” which was quite literally a battle song where Run rips through any would be MC. It’s a great song with an edge to it unlike anything else at the time.

The interesting thing, too, was that Run-DMC knew that this shift was happening. You can hear it in their lyrics. They say, “All brand new. Never, ever, old school!” Run-DMC is basically saying, “Look out for us. This is brand new. We’re not doing to old stuff that you’re used to. This is for the street. This is hard. This is the voice for the people. Rap has something to offer.”

So we started with hip-hop culture just being about the DJ trying to get the crowd to dance, figuring out that the crowd like to dance to the breaks, and looping up that break part. DJs then tried to outdo themselves by using the turntable as an instrument so much so that they were too busy to get on the mic anymore to hype up the crowd. They then employed MCs to do it. The MCs hyped up the crowd and introduced the deejays. MCs quickly started to take it a little bit further and started telling stories, making their raps longer and formatting them into actual songs. This was quite a shift in hip-hop culture.

In this next episode, we will explore how rap became popular because at this point in time, rap was pretty much relegated to New York City. But with radio and video, that was all about to change.

I hope you enjoyed the program today. Remember to tune into DOPEfm each and every Saturday overnight for all the best in underground hip-hop, dope mix sets, artist interviews, and history segments. Listen live at and subscribe to the podcasts at Thanks!

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