In an addendum to my new book, “HOLLYWOOD HOUSE”, I take a look at how far rap music has become in a worldwide setting since the late 1970’s.
I’ve been a follower of the hip-hop music scene from it’s very beginnings in the late 1970’s. But in the early 90’s, I began to concentrate more on my work as a broadcaster of an internet radio station that programs the smooth jazz format. I didn’t realize how far rap music had gone until a very dear friend of mine exposed me to an artist by the name, Scriptonite. Upon listening, I was stunned to hear that he was rappin’ in his native language…Russian!
Scriptonite (real name Adil Oralbekұly Zhәlelov) was born in a village in northern Kazakhstan a year before the breakup of the Soviet Union. He got involved in rap music by selling his own beats CD’s through social networks, all the while, working at a gas station in his native country.
He began to focus on rap music in 2009, with content that relates to the problems many young people in his native country experience. They include alcoholism, drugs, crime and domestic violence. His debut album in 2013 entitled, “House with Normal Phenomena”, became one of the most successful Russian-language rap albums.
His message caught on in Central Asia and expanded into Russia, where his first three album releases hit #1 on local iTunes and other music charts. His music videos on YouTube and Russian social media sites have amassed more than 50 million views.
Rap music has come a long way since a guy from the Bronx by the name of Kurtis Blow (shown left) released “Christmas Rappin’” in 1979. Released on the Mercury Records label, it sold over 400,000 copies, becoming one of the first commercially successful hip hop singles.
The Sugar Hill Gang (shown right) would follow along that year with their own breakthrough hit, “Rapper’s Delight”. Receiving heavy airplay on WBLS-FM in New York, it became the first rap single to make the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, peaking at number 36. In the years that followed, rap music slowly took shape on FM radio and in dance clubs around America.
Run DMC became one of the first rap groups that had heavy airplay on Top 40 stations with multiple songs released. Afrika Bambaataa, Houdini and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five also had success early on. MTV finally noticed the genre, when in 1987 the network aired “Yo MTV Raps”, highlighting music videos by rappers and hip-hop artists.
Public Enemy was also a huge influence in rap music, concentrating it’s message on addressing racism, bigoty and justice in America. Spike Lee would utilize the group by having them record the track, “Fight the Power” in his groundbreaking 1989 film, “Do The Right Thing.” But it wouldn’t be until 1990, when rap music cemented its finally unignorably mainstream influence with its first-ever No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.”
In the 30 years that followed, rap music had evolved from an urban setting to an international spectacle. It’s brought together legendary names, such as Biggie, Tupac, Diddy, Eminem and Kanye. It also had it’s share of controversy for it’s glamorization of crime, sexuality and violence. N.W.A. was noted for this contantly as part of the West Coast Rap scene. In spite of this, the genre has developed rappers from every part of the world, showing their own style, influence and language.
But international rap artists have burst onto the music scene in the last two decades. It was not uncommon to hear rap music in Spanish early in the genre’s infancy. That same year, a group named “La Familia” began rapping to disco music. It didn’t quite catch on until Reggaeton, a blend of rap, Latin and Caribbean. came on the scene in the mid-1990’s. It became popular in countries such as Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Panama. Artists such as Daddy Yankee have expanded its reaching throughout the world.
In Europe, rap music had slowly taken hold of the music industry there, mostly in England, Germany, Spain and Portugal. One of the most notable was from the Belgian hip-hop group called Technotronic. Their lead emcee was “Ya Kid K” who hailed from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They hit it big in the late-80 with hits like “Pump up the Jam” and “Shake That Body”.
Despite the emergence of K-Pop in the 2010’s, Asian rappers still had a foothold on the hip-hop scene. One of the first was Fresh Kid Ice (shown left), a Chinese Trinidadian-American rapper who was part of the controversial group, 2-Live Crew during the late 80’s. Other Asian rappers were Traphik, Jay Park, Rich Brian, The Fung Brothers, Far East Movement, Dumbfoundead, Heems, Anderson. Paak, and Awkwafina.
It was astounding to hear how rap music has evolved over the years. 40 years from now, we may hear a completely different sound from rap music. By then, I’ll be either dead and buried, or listening to it on my hearing aids.
“Hollywood House” is available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle. You can also read the book for free if you subscribe to Amazon Kindle. A hard copy book will be available for purchase after March 16.
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