By Jacob Maslow — Branded Content
Even the most casual music followers can distinguish ‘old school’ rap from its more modern releases. The ‘boom bap’ drums and simple, catchy samples are hallmarks of rap’s infancy period, and the era of the genre’s so-called Golden Age is still held in high esteem by listeners and RapTV readers.
Although rap music saw its largest boom period on the West Coast, its origins can be traced back to the other side of the country, to the Bronx. African-American and Caribbean youth joined artistic forces to create a platform and outlet for society’s disenfranchised and underrepresented.
This novel form of artistic expression was inclusive to everybody regardless of musical ability or financial status. You didn’t have to go to music classes and learn complicated musical theory, nor did you have to shell out hundreds of dollars on musical instruments. This new, rhythmic form of music required only verbal charisma and an awareness of society’s many issues at the time.
How Was Early Rap Different From Todays?
Although themes of societal oppression, racial inequalities, and ‘humble brags’ about material wealth have been ever-present themes of rap, its ancestor was still radically different from today’s product.
Production techniques were still in their infancy, and creators had to make do with the limited equipment at their disposal. Drum machines and samplers came into the fold shortly after the success of Sugar Hill Gang’s 1979 song Rapper’s Delight, the first mainstream hit from the new genre.
The Legacy of 80s Rap
The following decade unfolded, with Run DMC and Eric B ; Rakim lighting up the charts. The hip-hop revolution was now in full swing, and its mecca was New York City. Where Run DMC dealt in mainstream, club-oriented hits, other artists were using rap as a vehicle to express their most profound thoughts.
De La Soul’s 1989 album Three Feet High and Rising was a turning point in the genre’s development. Considered rap’s equivalent of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, the album’s rich tapestry of samples and eclectic array of musical interludes marked one of the first times rap music was considered a legitimate artistic force.
Rappers today still use art to express their most vulnerable thoughts. Although production techniques and studio capabilities have evolved enormously since the ’80s, the lyrical themes have always been relevant.
Gangsta Rap Changed the Game – Both for Better and Worse
Rap music’s first full decade culminated in its most controversial record yet – N.W.A’s Fuck tha Police. As the 1990s unfolded, rap’s mainstream status moved from the East Coast to the West seemingly overnight.
The rap music of that decade is considered by many to be its greatest. Although the East Coast still churned out classic albums by Nas, Jay-Z, and The Notorious B.I.G, California had become hip-hops’ most fertile breeding ground.
The Gangsta Rap explosion marked the end of introspective lyrics and pacifistic life viewpoints and popularized depictions of guns, women, drug use, and life in economically deprived areas. Spearheaded by slow, heavy beats and 1970s funk samples, Gangsta Rap became one of music’s most profitable genres.
The Legacy of G-Funk Production Lives On
Listeners found themselves being increasingly alienated by Gangsta Rap. Unable to relate to the lifestyle anymore, the genre was in danger of becoming a parody.
Although the lyrical content became more and more ridiculous, Gangsta Rap’s production techniques continue to be enormously influential. The arrival of artists such as Kayne West resurrected rap and propelled it back into the mainstream.
West’s philosophy of using hip-hop to create diverse aural collages gave way to a new generation of rappers. As music software became cheaper and more available, Soundcloud Rap began to make waves with the youth of the 2000s.
Now, artists such as the departed XXXTentacion and Juice WRLD have brought hip-hop back to its introspective roots. Where will it go from here? Only time will tell.
Photo Courtesy of Jacob Maslow // Cosmic Press