Can We Really Say Rap Music Is Music?
A lot of the youth today is consumed by rap music and many of them seem to enjoy it. Others do not and that could be for a number of reasons. It could be that it is simply not your taste in music, it could be hard to accept the new wave of music, or you do not consider it to be music at all. What is music and how do we even categorize it? First of all, music stems all the way back to the 1st century. Though there is no record of well known composers at the time, we know chants were produced for the church setting by some kind of musician. The most well known early works from this time is the collection of chants from The Mass of Christmas Day. It consists of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei which are still used in Ordinary Mass in churches today. Even though these were sacred chants that had no harmonic or music sense as we know it today, they considered this music.
In order to investigate whether rap is music, we must look at both proper definitions of music and rap. A later, but early 13th century definition of the word, music states, “a pleasing succession of sounds or combinations of sounds; the science of combining sounds in rhythmic, melodic, and (later) harmonic order.” The definition of the word, rap says, “talk informally, chat,” 1929, popularized c. 1965 in African-American vernacular, possibly first in Caribbean English and from British slang meaning “say, utter” (1879), originally “to utter a sudden oath” (1540s), ultimately from rap (n.). As a noun in this sense from 1898. Meaning “to perform rap music” is recorded by 1979.”
By reading these two definitions, there could be one similarity to the background information of music, but let’s look into this a bit deeper than comparing that the music definition of combining different sounds in a rhythmic order just like the rap genre does. Connecting the background knowledge of music beginning with chants and then Gregorian Chants in the church, the answer is clear. The chants had one purpose only and that was to deliver the messages from God in the church through another medium, especially the Gregorian Chant. The origin of the Gregorian Chant occured in the 1st century when a dove representing the holy spirit sang a chant into Pope Gregory I ear. This was then considered the basis of all chant in the church since a form of God said so. The chant was never something to enjoy rather something to get a message from while attending mass. Eventually it evolved into a more harmonic sound.
By studying the rap definition, it is easy to see that the term originally meant to utter an oath, something of distinct meaning. The meaning then evolved into something slightly more modern by the 1929 definition which was an informal chat. Though the meaning went from something as important as an oath to just chit-chat, there is still a message that is being conveyed in both senses. Eventually, the most recent definition of rap came to be because of the early productions of what is known as the rap music genre. Most rap songs consist of some type of message that they want to convey to their audience. Whether it be about a hardship, a political statement, or a positive message, it is all about the flow of poetry in a catchy rhythmic sense.
When it is all said and done, rap seems to be the one genre that is the closest to what the origins of music entailed. Just like Gregorian chants, the purpose of rap music is to spread a message to a large group of people. The music element comes in when the rhythms are added to the words as well as some kind of melodic construction as the backing track. From exploring these definitions, the answer becomes transparent. Can we really consider rap music, music? Yes, and it seems to correlate to what the true origin of music is.
History and Literature of Western Music I (Textbook)