The Evolution of Rap Music


Kendrick Lamar

Rap/hip-hop is a complex subject when it comes to music, and it has become the biggest and the predominant genre of music at the moment. But it is important to take a look at where it started and how far it’s come.

The Beginning

Sugarhill Gang

Rap music got started with the Sugar Hill Gang back in 1979, with their song called, “Rapper’s Delight”. This song was revolutionary to the world of music. This was something new that most citizens weren’t familiar with, and although it may sound nothing like the rap music that the newer generations are accustomed to today, it still was the spark for everything that we hear now. Rap music brought something new that people could enjoy and was more of a fast beat, get-you-out-of-your-seat type thing. It has obviously come a long way from that. The origin of the word “rap” came from black people in America in the 1950s, which meant to talk about or discuss something. It sounded pleasing to people and that’s how the name became “rap”. The 1980s brought some great rappers and rap groups such as LL Cool J and NWA. The later part of this decade was also the birth for rappers such as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Lauryn Hill.

The 90s

Tupac Shakur

The 90s are what people often refer to as the “Golden Age” of rap music. This decade was famous for East vs. West Coast rappers. The biggest form of that being Biggie Smalls and Tupac. The decade also featured rappers such as Nas, Eazy E, Snoop Dogg, and many more. The late 90s was also the kick start for some legendary rappers, such as Jay Z, Eminem, and Lil Wayne. Rap/hip-hop music in the 90s was different than any other era. It has a distinct enough sound that when any 90s song is on, I can easily tell it is from the 90s. This was the introduction to gangster rap, as rap music has been featuring heavy violence ever since then. Gangster rap was big because it applied to life at the time for people who had to go through gang violence in their lives. Tupac was such an influential part of this decade because he rapped about the more “real” things in life, such as the struggle for young black kids, including himself when he was younger. He also rapped about how society was going downhill. Rappers like this tend to be the more respected rappers in history.

Lil Wayne and Kanye West (Getty Images)

The 2000s

The 2000s is an interesting time for rap music. The beats were “bigger,” and this was truly the era of “club” songs. It fits well, considering one of the biggest songs of the decade was, “In da Club”, by 50 Cent. 50 Cent being one of the bigger rappers of this decade, but others would also be Lil Wayne, Eminem, and Kanye. The 2000s doesn’t get enough respect, rap wise. It is remarkably slept on, as this decade was the prime for Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem, who are four rappers that I believe are in the top 10 all time. Rap music has always been a big part of black people’s culture. A big part of that being how rap influenced clothing in the 2000s. The attire consisted of sideways hats, wife beaters, and jean shorts.

The Modern Era

Drake and Lil Baby

The modern era of rap is a confusing era for the history of rap music. You have artists like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Lil Baby who are all very different types of rappers. Yet these three still found a way to dominate the rap industry this year and over the last several years. The listeners of rap music have gotten so diverse lately and that affects why the artists, such as the ones I named, are on top. Rap music has changed so much, that someone may get asked, “what kind of rap music do you like?” For years and years, it was generally the same type of rap music, but that has drastically changed. You have music from rappers like Lil Baby, Future, and NBA YoungBoy being called mumble rappers by some people. Then you have people calling rappers like Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, and Drake, “boring.”

The point is, though, that everyone can enjoy some form of rap music. Rap has changed so much over the years. It has become more diverse than people who listened to it when it first started could have ever imagined. This new level of diversity has led to rap/hip-hop becoming the most listened to genre of music in the US.