Rapping can be traced back to its African roots. Centuries before hip hop music existed, the griots of West Africa were delivering stories rhythmically, over drums and sparse instrumentation. The spoken word jazz poetry of the United States was a predecessor for beat poetry, as well as the rapping in hip hop music. Gil Scott-Heron, a jazz poet/musician who wrote and released such seminal songs as The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, H2OGate Blues Part 2: We Beg Your Pardon America and Johannesberg, has been cited as an influence on many rappers
During the mid-20th century, the musical culture of the Caribbean was constantly influenced by the concurrent changes in American music. As early as 1956, deejays were toasting (an African tradition of "rapped out" tales of heroism) over dubbed Jamaican beats. It was called "rap", expanding the words earlier meaning in the African-American community—"to discuss or debate informally." One of the first rappers in the beginning of the hip hop period, in the end of 70s, was also hip hops first DJ, Kool Herc. Herc, a Jamaican immigrant, started delivering simple raps at his parties, inspired by the Jamaican tradition of toasting.
From the 1970s to the early 1980s, Melle Mel set the way for future rappers through his socio- political content and creative wordplay. Hip hop lyricism saw its biggest change with the popularity of Run-D.M.C.s Raising Hell in the mid-1980s, known especially for the rap/rock collaboration with rock band Aerosmith in the song "Walk This Way". This album helped set the tone of toughness and lyrical prowess in hip hop; Run-D.M.C. were almost yelling their aggressive lyrics.
Rap in the 1990s saw a substantial change in direction of the style of rapping. While the 1980s were characterized by verses mostly constrained to straightforward structures and rhyme schemes, rappers in the 1990s explored deviations from those basic forms, freeing up the lyrical flow and switching up the patterns to create a much more fluid and complex style. The style on the East Coast became more aggressive, pioneered by artists like the Wu-Tang Clan and Notorious B.I.G., while West Coast hip hop became more laid-back and smooth, as made popular by artists such as Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and 2Pac. In terms of subject matter, the 1990s saw a shift from personal promotion and glorification to narratives of street experience and darker social observation, although this shift was more pronounced on the East Coast than the West.
N.W.A (1986) consisted of Eazy–E, Ice Cube, Dr Dre, and was overseen by producer Suge Knight. Following a dispute between Eazy-E and Dr Dre, Dr Dre set up his own label, Aftermath, in 1996 The style of the music in N.W.A was full of aggressive lyrics promoting crime and violence and exploring the reality of street life Major success came with the record ‘F*** the Police
2Pac was the major young talent signed to the Aftermath label He was shot in 1996 following disputes between the West and East Coast rappers Rivalry between 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G. was said to be responsible for their deaths
New York’s Bad Boy entertainment was established by Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Coombs and his friend Mark Pitts in 1993. Due to the dominance of the rap scene by West Coast rap, rivalries emerged and much of the content of both scenes became specifically targeted ‘diss’ songs (such as Hit em up)
Notorious B.I.G. was the major talent signed to Bad Boy records. He was shot after 2Pac in 1997 He enjoyed posthumous success
Dr Dre signed Eminem, diversifying the racial profile of rap Puff Daddy refused to sign 50 cent after he arrived in the studio with a gun 50 cent was signed to Dr Dre’s label The content of rap has become less aggressive, with fewer rivalries and more mainstream musical themes and ideas
Britishmusic was also developing its own subgenre, based around rap With proponents such as Dizzee Rascal, The Streets and N-Dubz, music became more British in content and delivery, although it took some stylistic features of the American Rap scene
Collaborations with pop artists, a greater focus on beats and lyrics and the reduction of more violent and urban themes has resulted in Grime going mainstream There is still an underground scene, with artists such as JME and Devlin producing more hard core Grime tracks