What does that have to do with rapping? Are we even trying to rap today? How many different kinds of rap are there? All you gotta do is look up rap records. You have to. You can be from Baltimore, you’re not going to get caught doing a record in New Jersey when you’re there and you could just as easily go to Newark. When you’re down in the hood, you can say whatever you want to say. You get to live like that. You have the freedom to create and live it like that. You will not make no money.”
That, it seems to me, is what a lot of white boys don’t understand about the inner lives of urban Blacks–an entirely white culture that was at the root of hip-hop, the basis of culture of the West and the very essence of the Black power movement. The West was an empire, and the rap movement emerged from that empire, the rebellion that emerged out of it. If you consider this to be the first period of music that really came from the ghetto, or something like this: The first time you’re hearing a Black person singing with a white audience to this extent is really the dawn of the Black power era.
It’s also important to consider in context that the Harlem Renaissance really did begin when a band of white musicians led by Paul Robeson–whose wife, Grace Robinson, was a slave–visited Harlem for a recording session and went to the Black section in the New York Public Library on a Tuesday and walked back to the library Wednesday. By the time they returned with a sound recording, Robeson had started to play the parts of the songs he had written with all the color that he needed in his band. The result was something that was so popular among African-American children that children everywhere asked “how can you play that??”
When African-Americans started to play instruments, they weren’t just making music for pleasure. They were playing music to express the anger they felt. When Black musicians started writing songs about Blackness, they were writing songs that were being sung by Black people, so we’ve seen a Black Renaissance. But we’ve also seen a lot of rap rap come out of New York City, so you’re seeing rap pop out of New York City but then you have some of the earliest examples of rap music being written by Black people in Harlem. That’s a whole other set of influences, and it’s something that has occurred at different moments.
Black folks were in
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