old/new/blues/rap

Martin Adamson MARTIN@srv0.ems.edinburgh.ac.uk
Thu Mar 31 09:42:04 EST 1994


>         When I listen to older acoustic blues - I'm thinking of some sides I
> recently listened to by Mississippi Joe Callicot and R.C. Smith - it seems
> that they structure their lyrics to the beat in the same way the rappers do -
> getting in as many words as possible but it all fits somehow. I would say
that
> the beat and instrumentation of rap is new, but what they're doing with the
> words and how they're doing it is as old as the hills. It's an African-
> American cultural thing, it would seem to me.

I think you can hear a lot of the origins of rap in some of Bo Diddley's
records, like Say Man and  Cops and Robbers.  The emphasis is rhythm
rather than melody, the words are spoken, not sung, and there is the same
kind of bragging and dissing you get in a lot of rap records.

You can also hear some of the roots in late 60s/ early 70s soul.  Artists like
Isaac Hayes, Gil Scott-Heron, Laurie Lee and Millie Jackson would begin a
song with a spoken introduction, which gradually extended until the song
itself was forgotten.

Jamaican music (as someone else pointed out here) was also important.  In
the early 70s Jamaican labels, seeking to save money, would put a song on
one side of a single, and the instrumental track on the other.  Some
producers, notably King Tubby and Lee Perry, would remix the instrumental
track introducing sound effects and distortions, and stripping out all melodic
elements until the bass/drum foundation was revealed.  This became known
as Dub.  DJs from rival sound systems would talk over these tracks to
advertise their own skills and to put down their rivals, a style called
toasting.  Of course, early Jamaican ska and reggae music sprung from New
Orleans R&B.

According to Albert Goldman, in an essay in his book Sound Bites, mixing
and scratching originated in the gay discos of New York in the early 70s,
as DJs sought to keep the clientele dancing without a break.  They would
find a beat on a track that worked, and, using twin turntables and two copies
of the same record, would mix it together and extend it almost indefinitely.

So, yes, I would agree that rap and hip hop are part of the wider tradition that
springs from the blues.

Martin




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