The Bronx Phenomenon
For the first few years after its inception Hip Hop remained an isolated neighborhood phenomenon in the Bronx, in fact the first Rap song released was Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, released in 1979.
However, there was still a total lack of attention. media coverage of this musical phenomenon: it is in fact in 1984 that rap takes on mainstream visibility with the reworking of the Run Dmc of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”. Thus began to be the first record productions of Hip Hop artists, and radio and television stations began to be interested in this musical genre.
Soon came the intuition of the economic potential that record companies could have in investing in this music and so the market started looking for these new rappers and DJs that it had heard of. Thus began to spread the first names, which would later become part of the Hip Hop Olympus, such as Rakim, Public Enemy, NWA (from which the famous Ice Cube and Dr. Dre will later come out), Beastie Boys and many others.
MTV introduced Rap
Given the growing interest from young audiences, the media devoted more and more space to this genre and in 1988 MTV introduced “Yo! MTV Raps” in the schedule: thus the first television program completely dedicated to this music was born, which definitively marked the advent of Rap first in America and then in the world.
The great visibility that this music acquired thanks to its encounter with the record industry and with the show business meant that Rap (now understood only as a musical genre) began to deviate from some fundamental values for Hip Hop culture: the topics covered the lyrics thus began to undergo changes, largely dictated by the contact with the world of the music market.
Despite the compromises that the genre had to make to make itself marketable, it is nevertheless important to remember the contribution of these processes that allowed the spread of Hip Hop, which without the support of the media and the record industry would have remained a small movement confined to his neighborhood of origin.
Furthermore, although the more commercial products have had greater visibility, the spread of Rap has also allowed the pioneers of the genre to have their moment of glory, and although this genre has been repeatedly accused of “having sold” they still exist today. figures who, despite their fame, decide not to betray the musical canons and ethical principles of this culture.
First Rap Song Released
These evolutions that rap has found itself facing as a result of its interaction with the record industry can be observed in the sub-genre of “ Gangsta Rap ”, which over the years has unfortunately become the most popular and famous aspect of Rap. It starts from the narrative of the difficult social situation of the Afro-American communities in the suburbs, but it detaches itself from all those issues oriented to the help of the community and linked to the values of the Hip Hop culture.
If Rap originally dealt with hard and difficult topics, it did so in a similar perspective to that of Verghian realism, in which the listener-reader is confronted with real facts characterized by strong injustices to lead him to reflect on these sad issues.
If in Hip Hop it was customary to talk about weapons and drug dealing, it was done to make the community aware of what was wrong and to help the younger ones not end up on the wrong path: the aim was to unite one personal outlet, given by a difficult experience, to a message aimed at helping society.
In Gangsta Rap this propensity to help the community gives way to materialism, misogyny and the use of violence as a means of socially affirming oneself within one’s own group (which then led to historical feuds between Rap movements, the most famous of which was the confrontation in America between East Coast and West Coast).
Media Spread of Rap
The introduction of Hip Hop in the recording market and the attention of the media towards it have therefore proved to be a double-edged sword, fundamental for the preservation and diffusion of the genre but at the same time complicit in the loss of ethical values to the base of Hip Hop (and over time also of the loss of musical canons: today’s Rap has nothing musically to do with the original one, and in fact it is leading to a new genre, the “trap”.
Another trend derived from the media spread of Rap (and totally in contrast with the principles that founded this movement) is the “bling-bling”: this term became part of American slang in the early 90s and indicates the reflex created from gold jewels struck by light, which basically represents the attitude to materialism and the ostentation of wealth. It was born on a social level as a means of self-affirmation and materialistic ostentation to reiterate the fact that thanks to one’s music (and therefore thanks to the support of the recording industry) one has come out of a difficult situation and become rich, reaching the goal of social redemption.
In combination with MTV this has led to the birth of the Rap video clips we are used to, in which they are represented in an almost grotesque set of mountains of money, prostitutes, weapons, drugs and scenes of violence and discrimination: once again we can highlight how, through the worldwide diffusion of this genre, the expressive medium of Rap has completely detached from its Hip Hop roots and has in a certain sense betrayed them.