When I first heard of Rap, I didn’t like it. They were taking something I liked, music, and creating a whole category that I had no respect for.
To be a musician, I thought, you either had to have the relatively rare ability to sing on key or you had to learn an instrument so that could be your voice. Rap didn’t require either. (I play three instruments which should give you an idea of how bad my singing voice is.)
Since Rap wasn’t going away, by the nineties Rage Against the Machine appeared with killer guitar riffs over which Rap was ‘sung’. For the first time I bought this ‘Rap’ album. But to my mind it was mostly about the guitar.
So I mostly didn’t like rap and I thought of it as “performance poetry done to a drum track”. Nothing in that phrase excites me. Indeed I think this description would turn off some Rap fans, describing what they like as performance poetry seems to take away street credibility.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve thought about Rappers themselves. Some of them grow up in poverty. If they can’t sing as a talent, they might be able to talk with a beat in an interesting sounding way. Practising can be done with little or no equipment.
I’m not saying Rap is done without expensive equipment. I’m saying you can practise and become good without most of the equipment. Maybe occasional access to a mike and recorder would help to objectively gauge yourself along the way.
But for learning most instruments it takes years of practise and you have to keep your expensive instrument without it being stolen, pawned or sold by your parent for rent or drugs.
As for practise with a drum line, the rapper needs only to get access to a drum machine and play with the beats and learn to Rap over top. Again, a little bit of access to a drum machine can go a long way.
In short, I think it’s more realistic for someone from a poor background to make it as a Rapper than as another type of musician. And it is this reason that I see Rap music as social engineering. It’s an artistic outlet with the potential to make an income.
So today I’m more sympathetic to Rap. However, I still only have that one album.