Lots of folks don’t realize how far back rap music goes.
In fact, rap overlapped the dying days of disco in the 1970s.
The genre owes a lot to earlier styles, including spoken-word calypso, reggae, the “dirty dozens”, ad hoc rhyming competitions full of bragging and insults, and groups like the Last Poets, who shouted out political poetry over music in the 1960s.
Their biggest hit, by the way, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, was recycled in the 1990s as a commercial for an amusement park.
At first, rap went through a gestation period in New York City in which turntable-spinning, rapping DJs competed against each other in city parks, their sound systems powered by hot-wired street lamps.
Finally, the first rap recordings were released in 1979: “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” by the Fatback Band and “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang.
Unlike most rap groups of the time, the Sugarhill Gang actually hired a band instead of using prerecorded material on a turntable, replicating the basic groove of the hit song “Good Times” by the disco group Chic.
“Delight” reached number 36 on the Billboard charts and inspired a host of imitators.