Spotify Rapped: The Ongoing Legacy of Rap Music

The history and influence of rap music and its most well-known artists.


Matt Teplitz, Contributor

The timeless genre of rap has been ever-evolving since the ’70s, with the first-ever record Rappers Delight by Sugar Hill. Although many consider rap to be spoken word, one of the main components of rap is “flow” which is defined as the pace, delivery, and rhythm that the rap is spoken in. Rap has had one of the most exciting evolutions in the music industry, with roots in the staccato, speech-like form of jazz. As an evolution from jazz, rap is greatly linked to African-American culture. However, the history of rap can be traced back centuries before its first appearance in America, as it originates from griots: African poets who told their stories rhythmically.

As rap steadily gained popularity, rap groups such as N.W.A also started to gain recognition in the heat of racial protests. The controversy that surrounded N.W.A boosted their prominence; songs such as Straight Outta Compton and **** The Police served as a protest against police brutality, inspiring people in L.A. to fight back against the corrupt policing system. Although constantly antagonized and threatened by the police, N.W.A never backed down, consistently spreading a message of protest and challenge. They were an essential part of the revolution and movement against police brutality. Their music even brought together rival gangs, who shared the common interest of fighting for their rights.

The members of N.W.A didn’t stick together for very long. Yet despite the short lifespan, N.W.A remains one of the most powerful and influential rap groups of all time. Today, Kendrick Lamar is known and widely accepted as one of the best rappers of all time. Through his music, he shares stories of gang violence throughout his upbringing. Kendrick’s two most influential albums, To Pimp a Butterfly and good kid m. A.A.D. City his experience of growing in Compton. One of Kendrick’s well-known songs, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” is an incredibly intricate storytelling song told from the perspective of Kendrick’s friend. In the song, the friend asks Kendrick not to forget about him when he’s gone and to share his story through his songs. The final lyrics are,”if I die before this album drop, I hope-” followed by three startling gunshots, symbolizing his death. Although Kendrick was never personally in a gang, he shares the stories of the people he grew up around, immortalizing and preserving their memories in his songs. Kendrick’s ability to story-tell is unparalleled in the rap industry, and he will forever be known as one of the greatest musical artists of all time.

Kanye West is yet another one of the best rap artists in the world. He is known for being one of the most influential creative geniuses of all time, highlighted by his album 808’s And Heartbreak, which revolutionized the rap industry. 808’s was the first highly successful album to introduce more lyrical, singing elements to rap. After the album’s release, many other rappers began to include song-like lyrics into their own music, which transformed the way rap music presented itself. Although this trend in rap music is relatively new, Kanye has been changing the rap game since 2005, with the release of Late Registration. Kanye’s discography has inspired many, and the rap industry wouldn’t be the same without him.

Though rap is often portrayed as crude and lacking meaning, the history, culture, and legacy of famous artists from N.W.A to Kendrick Lamar have proven it as one of the most influential and important musical genres, continuing to impact and hold space in today’s music industry and likely, for many years to come.