History of Rap Music

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Rap music is truly an American minority artist creation of which students need to be proud. Unfortunately, rap music is not perceived by many Americans as an art form, but as a fad which they hope will soon fade away. One of my intentions with my unit is to show that rap music is not a fad, but a musical art form that has been around for over 20 years in the United States. In fact, one can trace the history of rap back to the West African professional singers/storytellers known as Griots. However, it is not my intention to discuss in my unit the connection between the Griots and American rap music. Although, I will assign my students the task of doing a brief report on the African Griots prior to beginning my unit to help illustrate to my students that rapping has a long and illustrious history. I strongly suggest that anyone using my unit do the same. My unit is intended for middle school or high school students who are studying American history. One can not study American rap music without studying what is known as the ‘Hip Hop' culture. Rap is an integral part of this subculture that did not evolve or exist in isolation from its other major components. Thus, one of my unit objectives will be to not only discuss and study rap music but also the other major parts of this subculture. ‘Hip Hop' culture was also comprised of graffiti, break dancing, and the attitude and dress of the people who subscribed to the mores and traditions of this subculture. Another objective of my unit will be to examine the influence Jamaican music had on American rap music. Finally, I intend to examine some of the major American rap artists and their styles and the technology which played a major role in the evolution of rap music in the United States.

According to my research all sources seem to point to the Bronx in New York City as the origin for the ‘Hip Hop' culture. The first major component of this subculture I wish to explore is the graffiti aspect. Prior to discussing this aspect students need to know what conditions or events existed in the Bronx which fostered the development of the ‘Hip Hop' culture. Steven Haver in his book, "Hip Hop; the Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music and Graffiti," states that there were three major events which took place in the Bronx which led to the birth of this subculture. First, in 1959 Parks Commissioner Rober Moses began building an expressway through the heart of the Bronx. As a result, the middle class Italian, German, Irish, and Jewish neighborhoods disappeared overnight. In addition, businesses and factories relocated and left this borough. (I intend on having a map of New York City available to show my students where the Bronx is located at this point in my unit. I also plan on writing to the city of New York to inquire if a map exists which depicts the Bronx and the expressway construction back in 1959. I would advise anyone using my unit to do the same.) These exiting middle classes and businesses were replaced by poor black and Hispanic families. Accompanying these poor people were crime, drug addiction, and unemployment.

The second major event which occurred once again under the direction of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses would siphon off a majority of what was left of the middle class in the Bronx. This event occurred in 1968 with the completion of a 15,382 unit co-op apartment complex on the northern edge of the Bronx near an expressway. This project fostered and accelerated the Bronx middle class exodus from comfortable and well-kept apartments. As a result of the skyrocketing vacancy rates reputable landlords began selling out to professional slumlords. As a consequence of this action the Bronx deteriorated into a neighborhood with many unkept and vacant buildings.

The Bronx in this deteriorating condition fell prey to the third major event which led to the direct development of the graffiti aspect of the ‘Hip Hop' culture. This event occurred in 1968 and coincided...
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