The ‘rap game’ has a history that can be traced all the way back to the 14th Century Mali Empire in Africa, where each warrior king had their own professional poet/singer known as a griot. Griots functioned as wandering bards, ‘rapping’ to the people about the going-ons in the empire. A good griot had to be able to sing traditional songs, but more importantly, he had to be able to extemporize about current events, politics, love, and history. Soon every town had their own griot, and this was how information spread.
Rap stems from this griot tradition, but in modern music it’s considered a subgenre of the Hip Hop Culture that began in the Bronx, a by-product of racist urban planning. In the late 1950s, Robert Moses decided to build an expressway through the heart of the Bronx. Almost over night, the middle class Italian, German, Irish, and Jewish neighborhoods disappeared. Businesses and factories relocated and left. By 1969, most of the remaining middle-class had fled the Bronx and slumlords began taking over buildings renting to poor black and Hispanic families. Poverty became a way of life, and gangs began to rule the streets. Graffiti emerged from the gang culture, became a way of life with its own code of behavior, secret gathering places, slang, and esthetic standards. Continue reading