Rap music has been around longer than we thought. In the arts everything is recycled (many times stolen and recycled). We have had bell bottoms make a return in fashion, the bringing back of muscle cars on the road, big haired metal bands making come backs in concert and Neo-soul music which is…new soul music. Of course many are aware that the Hip hop culture and its music started in the boogie down Bronx in the 70’s but the style or monotonous melody delivery may have been grand fathered even further back. The likes of social movement groups such as the Last Poets who released a Billboard Charting album in the 1970’s, rhythmic vocals precedes the combining of lyrics over DJ breaks by delivering a lyrical flow of poetry to the beat of ethnic drums and instrumentation. The style which resembles closely the current Def Jam Poetry series or other earlier African American poets is not far off the beat of rap. You can link traces of both to the African Griots oral tradition.
Years ago rap music was considered a fad to vanish like the cabbage patch kids. The genre of rap music has thoroughly spread throughout the entire world and not only reaches, but affects and relates to every culture. Many cultures histories are connected and deeply rooted in some influence of music, and the gap may be bridged closer. Before attending the University of Southern California, I grew up in Long Island, NY. I was a product of the renaissance age of rap music. I grew up along side many earlier influential names of hip hop icons such as Rakim, Groove B Chill and Sweety G. Rakim himself was fond of jazz music and played Baritone sax along side me in marching and jazz band. My own interest and love for music ironically (’cause that’s a whole ‘nother saga explained in the future) lead me to study music at U.S.C. as an undergrad taking a few classes in jazz and classical music history. I once had a debate with a professor and chairman of the Jazz studies program, who refuses to believe and admit that rap is music. On the other side in classical history, I had just learned that Arnold Schoenberg’s Sprechstimme is similar to a monotonous chant rap style flow in which there was no present melody just like that of rap. This style of music dates back to the early 1900’s and is thoroughly supported to be music so much it was kept record of, appreciated, analyzed and taught throughout out the years as part of the expressionist movement in German poetry and art.
Music is studied and broken down. Many composers and musicians learn to write scores of music by dissecting, studying and analyzing music of other composers and musicians. Music theory is derived from the analysis of common practices of that music’s time and genre. Typical elements that are analyzed in music is it’s form, such as intros and cadences, harmonies, rhythm patterns, tempo changes tonality or atonality and melody which are all present in rapping. My highly educated world renowned professor tells the class that Rap is not music because it does not contain a melody. Rap is certainly not musically dissonant as the likes of Pierre Schaeffer’s Mosque Concrète, whose genius attempt at innovated music technology was difficult to notate on paper like traditional classical music, but it may resemble more the expressionistic era as that of music theorist Arnold Schoenberg. Schoenberg’s Sprechstimme was singing in a restricted way to maintain a constant pitch unlike the ups and downs melodic contour most melodies would have when they are played or sung. An example of this would be in Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder or later works by Pierrot Lunaire. Rap can be notated the same as Schoenberg did for Sprechstimme. However, rap actually has inflection in its speech delivery. This is relative to some exotic scales in which a micro tonality exist like Burmese or Indonesian music. Today’s rappers like 50 cent and Ja Rule have distinctive melodic flow. Groups like Bone Thugs and Harmony are actually harmonizing in their rap flow. Rappers like Nelly are practically borderline singing or sprechgesang-ing. Not to mention, the entire above named have been Grammy nominated. It is always said “to know where you are going, you must know where you are from.” Rap is today’s urban music. Its techniques are deeply rooted for over 100 years in American music.
History serves as a blueprint that has been forged for us to learn from. Does this mean that Germany is the birthplace of rap music? Not quite, though Schoenberg is Austrian he is a well known early American composer, but it puts an end to the debate for historians or ignorant professors on whether the fad of rap is indeed at all music. In a world in which music is a huge part of every one’s life, many cultures have been influenced by and incorporate rap into their own native language and music. Billions of profitable dollars have been earned from rap, it is not only grandfathered in as a style of music to last, but worthy of and honorary degree in which the success of hip hop can now afford to buy.
Copyright 2008 JackDazey free to reprent maintain credit to author and article intact
About the Author:
JackDazey is a music industry veteran whom attendend U.S.C. Currently he works as a entertainment consultant. He is now working on the JackDazey Project E5, due to release early 2009. See his blog at www.jackdazey.com
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