Rap Facts
Rap Facts

43 Fresh Rap and Hip Hop Facts

By Nathan James, Associate Writer
Published January 10, 2020
  • Rap music grew out of 1970s New York City block parties. Isolating the percussion elements of funk, soul, and disco songs, MCs began to lyricize to the beats in between DJs, thus giving birth to a new form of music.[3]
  • The first commercially successful rap albums were The Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight (1979) and Kurtis Blow's The Breaks (1980).[3]
  • Rap was forged by black and Latinx youth, largely as a response to poverty, urban crime, and cultural displacement.[9]
  • Scholars have referred to hip-hop, or rap music, as "polycultural," inasmuch as it grew out of a diverse blend of historical and ethnic traditions.[9]
  • Jay-Z is the most financially successful hip-hop artist. He reached billionaire status in 2019.[10]
  • One of rap's most influential early groups was N.W.A. Made up of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Yella, MC Ren, The Arabian Prince, and the D.O.C., N.W.A. explored the realities of life on the streets.[2]
  • Rap has faced social backlash since its inception, with many calling for censorship of its often violent, homophobic, and misogynistic lyrics.[9]
  • Dr. Dre is one of rap's most successful producers, having discovered Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and 50 Cent, and produced for artists such as Michel'le and Tupac Shakur.[2]
  • Women Rappers
    Women have broken into mainstream hip-hop in recent years
  • Rap and hip-hop have traditionally been dominated by men, with very few women able to achieve mainstream success. That is beginning to change, however, and notable female rappers include Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, and Nicki Minaj.[9]
  • The best-selling rap album of all time is Outkast's 2003 Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Eminem's The Marshal Mathers LP comes in at number two, with Life After Death by The Notorious B.I.G. rounding out the top three.[11]
  • N.W.A.'s song "F*** tha Police," released on their 1998 Straight Outta Compton, caused outrage; many feared it would spark violence against law enforcement agents, prompting the FBI to send a letter of warning to Ruthless Records, who released the album.[2]
  • Many rappers live a version of the lifestyle they glamorize in their lyrics and face corresponding legal trouble. Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., T.I., Ja Rule, and Lil' Wayne are just a few of the hip-hop artists who have spent time behind bars.[7]
  • Initially viewed as a fad, then as dangerous fringe music, rap and hip-hop have established themselves in nearly every aspect of contemporary American life, from professional sports to children's movies.[9]
  • Rap Street
    Asserting one's street credibility is essential to rap ethos
  • The concept of authenticity is a dominant theme in rap music, with rappers vying for status as being more legitimate, real, or expressive of true rap culture than other rappers.[9]
  • Hip-hop culture and music explores, among others, themes of racial identity, inequality, economics, masculinity, and violence.[9]
  • Modern-day rappers have some similarities with Viking Skalds—poets and minstrels who memorized oral traditions and recited them in order to pass on legends, histories, and codes of conduct. Much like rappers, Skalds often used humor, irony, obscenity, or boastfulness to get their points across.[12]
  • R&B and rap music are the most commercially popular genres of music (as of 2017), and their popularity is still growing.[6]
  • In their article "100 Greatest Artists of All Time," Rolling Stone magazine included rappers Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Run DMC, and Tupac Shakur.[1]
  • Nicki Minaj is the wealthiest female rapper, with a net worth of roughly 80 million dollars.[8]
  • The term hip-hop was likely coined by Keith Cowboy, a member of the group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, around 1975.[4]
  • Rap Money
    Hip Hop has grown into a very lucrative enterprise
  • The rap industry is estimated by Goldmann Sachs to be worth roughly 62 billion dollars.[6]
  • Rapping is also known as "MC-ing."[4]
  • Afrika Bambaataa popularized the term hip-hop, a term used lyrically by musicians like Love Bug Starski and Keith Cowboy in the mid-1970s, telling the media that the members of the emerging musical scene called the whole thing "hip hop."[4]
  • Hip-hop songs that focus solely on beatmaking, with no lyrics, are termed "instrumental hip-hop."[4]
  • The 1980s rap group Run-DMC was hugely influential in bringing rap into American popular consciousness.[9]
  • An infamous rivalry between East and West Coast rappers developed during the mid 1990s. It arguably began when West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur was shot by unknown assailants in 1994 at Quad Studios while East Coast rival The Notorious B.I.G. was recording an album.[9]
  • The distinction between "rap" and "hip-hop" is not always clear. Originally, "rap" referred to the specific activity of MC-ing over a beat, while "hip-hop" referred to the broader aesthetic culture.[4]
  • One early criticism of rap music was that rap songs had no melody. By those within the culture, this was seen as missing the point, as hip-hop has always focused more on rhythm and rhyme than melody or harmony.[4]
  • Early hip-hop culture embraced four distinct activities, identified and grouped together by Afrika Bambaataa: rapping, beatmaking, b-boying (also known as breakdancing), and graffiti art.[4]
  • Rap graffiti
    Graffiti art, or "tagging," was one of the central elements of the hip-hop movement

  • "Beatmaking" is the percussive side of hip-hop and can be done instrumentally, synthetically, or orally. The last form, where a person creates the beat vocally, is also called "beatboxing."[4]
  • Hip-hop music from 1973–1984 is generally termed "old-school hip-hop," with "new school" being 1984 onward.[4]
  • On July 18, 2017, hip-hop officially surpassed rock and roll as the most consumed music in America.[5]
  • Hip-hop music and culture are deeply steeped in African American racial identity. This has made it somewhat difficult for white rappers to succeed in mainstream hip-hop, though artists like Eminem and the Beastie Boys are notable exceptions.[1]
  • Hip-hop profits are projected to increase by more than double—around 131 billion dollars—by 2030.[6]
  • Global Rap
    Hip-hop culture has spread to every corner of the globe
  • Hip-hop music and culture have spread around the globe and have influenced culture and music in places as diverse as Egypt, Japan, and the Philippines.[5]
  • Hip-hop went from being a largely underground movement into the mainstream during the 1990s.[9]
  • DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash were among the pivotal players in the emergence of hip-hop in the mid 1970s.[9]
  • New Yorker Sheri Sher and seven other women formed the first all-female hip-hop crew, The Mercedes Ladies, in 1977.[9]
  • The Mercedes Ladies, the first all-female hip-hop group, faced sexism and difficulties in their attempts to make it, with clubs booking them and then refusing to pay them for their performances.[9]
  • Sylvia Robinson, a former R&B singer, produced the first rap album ever recorded, Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight (1979).[9]
  • The feud between East and West Coast rappers centered on a rivalry between NYC-based The Notorious B.I.G. and the West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur. Both were shot and killed—Tupac in Las Vegas in 1996 and The Notorious B.I.G. in Los Angeles in 1997.[9]
  • The murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. are still unsolved, though most people in the industry believe that they are linked to the rivalry existing between East and West Coast rap.[9]
  • The East Coast/West Coast rap rivalry was complicated, but it revolved around issues of money, record deals, and popular perception regarding the legitimacy of each expression of the broader culture.[9]
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