Another early article about rap music, this time from The Associated Press. It's dated August 28, 1981.
Music Makers: Not What You Say, But How You Say It
By YARDENA ARAR
Hey, baby, have you heard? The word is the rap and the rap is the word. It's a party kind of music, a tres hip thing, Any number can play, and you don't have to sing.
All right, it's admittedly a crude effort. But in rap music it's not so much what you say as how you say it, and with the right rapper and a good get-down disco rhythm track, there's a fair chance even Mother Goose could make it to the Top 40 these days.
There are rap records on almost every subject and, apparently, a market for almost every rap. Although rap music -- basically rhymes that are spoken, not sung, over a bare-bones dance beat -- typically is played anywhere people gather to dance, at least one radio station, Cleveland's WDMT-FM, features rap to rev up by every morning in a "Toothbrush Beat" spot.
All 120,000 copies in the first pressing of Kurtis Blow's "Christmas Rap" sold out within a week last December. New York comedian Russ Mason's strings-backed "Prep Rap" ("We don't wear designer jeans. While they fit rather well, they look like hell. We get khakis from L.L. Bean.") earned him a spot on Tom Snyder's "Tomorrow" show.
For the occasion, Mason says he wore an alligator shirt, khaki pants and Topsiders, "but I committed a grave faux pas by wearing socks."
A soap-opera inspired rap, "General Hospi-Tale" by Afternoon Delight, is a popular new entry, Teena Marie's "Square Biz" is a certified hit, and Record World magazine's resident rap authority, Nelson George, says that somewhere in his collection is a "Jewish Rap" by Steve Goodman and the Kosher Five.
And then there are the big commercial successes. "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang, which was credited with launching the rap rage when it came out two years ago, has sold 2.5 million copies domestically, and untold millions more overseas.
Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks," became the second 12-inch single to be certified gold, after the Donna Summer-Barbara Streisand smash "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)." And rap went white and mainstream in a big way with the 1.4 million-selling, No. 1 Blondie tune, "Rapture," Deborah Harry and Chris Stein's tribute to the form and the black New York-area disc jockeys who developed it by delivering their rhymed patter over instrumental tracks from disco hits.
One of the interesting things about rap music is that it's become a musical meeting ground for two traditional enemies: disco and new wave rock.
Miss Harry, for example, recently released a rap-laced solo album, "KooKoo," produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic fame. And Britain's The Clash rapped out socio-political commentary in "The Magnificent Seven" from the "Sandinista" LP.
"This is like street music to them," says Record World's George of the attraction of new-wavers to rap. "If they feel it's genuine black street stuff, they're willing to accept it."
Although accomplished rappers -- mostly DJs who go by such flashy sounding stage names as Kurtis Blow (blow being a slang term for cocaine), Grandmaster Flash and Deejay Hollywood -- make their rapid-fire delivery sound spontaneous, raps require as much if not more work than regular songs.
"You have to get a concept," says the Sugar Hill Gang's Master Gee, an 18-year-old whose given name is Guy O'Brien.
"Then after you get the best possible concept you start forming it into the lyrics which are the rhymes. Then when you have the most possible material and cleverness you apply it to a musical track. You edit, polish up different things with production staff and when push comes to shove you have a record."
O'Brien, who developed his craft working as a mobile disc jockey, was brought together with fellow Gang members Mike Wright (Wonder Mike) and Hank Jackson (Big Bank Hank) by Sylvia and Joe Robinson of Sugar Hill Records, an Englewood-based independent that has become the big name in rap records.
The Robinsons came up with the idea of using not one but all three talented rappers over the instrumental track from the Chic disco hit, "Good Times" for "Rapper's Delight."
"We didn't know each other until the night we made the record," O'Brien says. "We just applied what we learned on the streets."