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I didn't think this term was a thing. It was just HipHop. But I'm starting to feel maybe it does have some validity. To talk about the specific vocal style and its influences / implications. Perhaps as "hip-hop" fragments into subgenres. But also because it does say something different.

Some links :

Quora Answer : How far does rap music actually go back to?

Mar 10, 2020

You can find elements of "rhythmic talking over music" more or less forever.

Here's the Jubalaires from about 1941 :

And here's Woody Guthrie doing talking blues in 1944

and 1947

By the late 1960s you started getting musical / poetry groups like The Last Poets.

This is 1970.

And here's Hustler's Convention from 1973 :

Once you've heard that, you realize there's nothing much new or surprising in rap.

Basically hip-hop is nothing but this kind of poetry over electronic beats plus innovations in flow.

Flows continue to evolve over time. Early to mid 80s rap flows are as different from 2010's triplet and mumble-rap flows as either are from Jalal Mansur Nuriddin.

Quora Answer : Why can't I understand the words to rap music? I understand when poetry is read out loud, but I just can't understand rap.

Jan 29

Because it's largely slang from a particular culture and generation.

You have to remember that most rappers are kids in their late teens to late 20s.

Unless you are from the same generation. Went to the same schools as them. Watched the same TV shows and listened to the same music and read the same social media and grok the same memes, then probably 90% of the references in their raps are flying right past you.

And most of their slang is about common, everyday, "street" types of things. And think how the slang vocabulary for that evolves pretty fast, year by year (and probably region by region)

Take something that most of us might just about have heard of. Slang for things being "cool".

Well, they were "cool". But when I was a kid they were "wicked". Then "dope". Then "sick". Then "lit". And "fire" (as long as you are talking about music)

All those words have "normal" meanings that are only very tenuously connected to an utterance of appreciation. I have no doubt that a kid in school in 2021 knows half a dozen more obscure and more geographically and temporally localized words for the same thing. (And subtle gradations of the same thing.) And if I, a 50-something white Englishman from Surrey, listen to music from the Brooklyn drill scene, how would I even begin to pick them out?

The answer is I can't. You just have to accept that this is music in a more or less different language. Or be prepared to do serious research if you want to understand the fine-grained detail.

What we shouldn't do is assume that because we can't understand something, that makes it "meaningless".

Update : Something else just occurred to me, OP. You say you understand poetry. But you probably had to learn to do that. Schools make an effort to teach some poetry because it's not immediately accessible. Would you really know what the hell T. S. Elliot or even Yeats was on about without having to do some serious homework? And that's comparatively recent.

Quora Answer : Why has pop/rap music become so upsetting and political? Just a few years ago, songs were more upbeat and political themes weren't that common.

Jul 12, 2018

When did rap become so upsetting and political?

Rap has ALWAYS been upsetting and political.

Quora Answer : Why have rap music endured and flourished? Can one see it evolving as our times evolve?

Jun 29, 2018

You can certainly hear it evolving :


Even the infamous "mumble rap" (which half of hip-hop fans seem to hate) has been evolving :

There are a few observations :

in the 80s rap was largely "party music". With the beginnings of social commentary and "gangsta" style.

in the 90s rap flowered into a far more complex cinematic, story-telling art. Rap flows got varied and sophisticated. As did the soundtracks. During the 90s there was "pop" rap. But it was largely still party style pop. With some odd melodic and sentimental duets between rappers (very masculine) and r'n'b singers (think Fugees "Killing me softly", Puff Daddy's "I'll be missing you")

in the 90s music was heavily based on "crate digging", samples of earlier styles of music. Often a lot of jazz, soul and funk influences.

in the 90s videos started to get slicker and more expensive. By the end of the 90s, you start to see more and more "ostentation" invading hip-hop. More bling, more expensive brand-name stuff, more trophy girls.

in the 2000s, you start to get the influence of Atlanta and the South of the US invade mainstream hip-hop. This comes in the form of a) using more drum machines and synths to make beats rather than rely so heavily on sampled breaks. b) different flows coming in. Including precursors of the triplet flow.

I've never been much of an Eminem fan, but looking back, it strikes me that Eminem is the rapper who broke down the doors in the early 2000s for a kind of "emo" in rap. He's the guy that made it OK for rappers to claim to be emotionally fragile and damaged. Before him, while many rappers talked about hardship, they almost always talked about themselves as transcending it, more or less unscathed. Today rappers still talk about transcending hardship, but they are far more likely to talk about, and obsess over, the psychic damage it did to them.

Another thing that happens in the 2000s is more cross-over with pop and r'n'b. Rappers willing to sing. (Often with the help of autotune). To be soul-singers. People like Usher, Drake, T-Pain etc. There are pathetically few women in hip-hop in the 2000s, particularly after Missy Elliot's heyday in the early 2000s. But where they are, like Beyonce and Nicky Minaj they cross easily back and foreward between hip-hop, r'n'b and pop.

By the late 2000s I think the stereotypes / tropes of rap : the obsessive consumerism, the residual gangsterism etc. are collapsing in on themselves. So in the 2010s, something else happens. A new generation of rappers appears who don't so much reject that as embrace it to a degree of manic absurdity. When Jay-Z raps about being rich and consuming expensive stuff, you know he's in earnest about it. He wants to show off his achievement. When the kids of 2017 and 2018 are rapping about it, you know neither you, the rappers themselves nor their fan-base can really believe in it. This whole thing is just rented scenery for the video.

What's happened instead is that rappers in the 2010s have got seriously weird. Look at the way they dress. The videos they make. The nonsense of mumble rap. There's a strong sense, I think, that this generation is literally trolling the older generation and whole hip-hop establishment. Thumbing its nose at hip-hop's pretension to verbal dexterity and serious commentary. And yet going crazily overboard on the "I'm fucking hoes" and "I'm getting rich" clich\xc3\xa9s.

I often say that mumble rap is hip-hop's "punk" moment. Same as when the new generation of musicians in the 1970s rebelled against the rock music that had become the new establishment. They also dyed their hair funny colours and wore outlandish clothes. They rejected the values of their elders : the people who called Eric Clapton "God" just because he could play the guitar well; the prog rockers aspiring to the condition of classical or jazz through more sophisticated chords and elaborate arrangements. Instead the punks lionized those who couldn't play instruments, declared that three chords and two and a half minutes of explosive energy were enough for anybody.

This is exactly what mumble rappers are doing by rejecting hip-hop's cardinal virtue of verbal dexterity. Instead they're embracing their notion of "authenticity". An emotional authenticity, obviously, within the obviously artificial house of mirrors of fake wealth and social media brags.

The main effect of punk was to destroy "rock music" as a unitary thing. While punk itself was fairly restricted, it cleared a space for something else. But not a rebirth of rock. Instead rock fragmented into many different trajectories, which wanted little to do with each other : there was post-punk / New Wave; goth; various kinds of metal; synthpop; industrial; "indie" and then grunge, emo, "post-rock", various kinds of electronica etc. Sometimes they've interacted, but rock has never come back into a single thing in the way we think of "classic rock" as a single thing. My prediction is that after this mumble rap phase, "hip-hop" is going to be similarly fragmented into half a dozen different descendent lineages which aren't really on speaking terms with each other. Rap will "speciate" by different, incompatible flows and rhythms, subject matters etc.

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