Rapping is a vocal technique most commonly used in hip hop music, but also used in the Latin music genre of reggaeton, and in contemporary R&B as well. It originated from the 1970’s in big urban centers in the United States. It is derived from the habit of “toasting” in Jamaican dancehall music.
Decades before hip hop music, in the 1950’s, musicians engaged in a practice that sounds very similar to modern rapping. It was the so-called jazz poetry, in which the vocalist would deliver rhymes to the rhythm of one of the beats in the polyrhythmic music genre of jazz. However, rapping only became widespread with the emergence of hip hop music in the 1970’s.
During that decade, in big urban centers in the US, especially in New York City, minority residents started to form block parties in neighborhoods. It was a communal pastime where one person would share their sound system to play music for the whole neighborhood. The person controlling the sound system was the DJ. One DJ from Jamaica, DJ Kool Herc, brought with himself from his Caribbean home country the habit of “toasting”. Toasting is when the DJ yells out a few rhyming lines to the rhythm of the music playing in the background. This soon evolved into modern rapping, the primary form of vocal performance in hip hop music. Artists in reggaeton, a genre of Latin music that emerged in the 1980’s and got mainstream popularity in Latin American countries in the mid-1990’s, also started using the technique of rapping often.
Today, hip hop is one of the most popular musical genres everywhere in the world.
Rapping is the technique of switching between stressed and unstressed syllables so that it matches up with the four beats in the bars of the musical backdrop. In that regard, the artists are mimicking a percussion instrument with their voice. Most rap songs are written in 4/4 time signature.
Most of the songs that feature rapping are in the hip hop genre. In these songs, the most common themes are love, sex, relationships, bragging about the artist's lifestyle, a criminal life, and bragging about the artist's rap skills.
Snoop Dogg rose to prominence in the 1990’s. He originally started out as Snoop Doggy Dogg, switched his stage name to Snoop Dogg, was performing as Snoop Lion for a while, before getting back to being Snoop Dogg. His biggest hits to date are “Gin and Juice” (1993), “Beautiful” (2002) featuring Pharrell Williams and Charlie Wilson, “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (2004). He was discovered by fellow African-American rap star and music producer Dr. Dre. Dre also “scouted” Eminem from Detroit, Michigan early in his career. Eminem went on to become one of the most iconic figures in music in the early 2000’s, with such hits as the “The Real Slim Shady” (2000), “Without Me” (2002) in a comedic style; then later switching to a more serious tone, with such smash singles as “Love the Way You Lie” (2010) featuring Rihanna, and “Not Afraid” (also 2010).
Kendrick Lamar had huge success in the 2010’s, with such classic albums as “To Pimp a Butterfly” (2015) and “Damn” (2017). The best known tracks on those records are “Alright” and “Humble”, respectively. Cuban-American rapper Pitbull has been regularly putting out American and Latin hip hop hits since the early 2000's From the Latin genre of reggaeton, the Puerto Rican Daddy Yankee is the most successful rapper from this era, with songs like “Limbo” (2008), “La Rompe Corazones” (2017), and “Con Calma” (2019). Alas, he announced his retirement from music at the end of his 2022 concert tour.