Jonathon Green slang at BLUEYONDER.CO.UK
Thu Oct 31 13:12:25 UTC 2002

[This seems to have returned itself at first sending to Dave Wilton, in
error. My apologies to him]

While rap qua rap, or at least hiphop, as it was first known, does indeed
begin in the mid-late '70s, the ethos that underpins it, whether in the form
of verbal games, male braggadocio or social commentary (which is there,
however much some of the language, especially of 'gangsta rap', springs from
what one might term the 'epater les parents' school of teenage boy,
irrespective of colour) is much older. On the one hand there is the
venerable tradition of the ritualised insults that is 'the dirty dozens',
which allegedly goes back to slavery; there is the super-macho world of the
pimp 'toasts' (narrative poems), which have been recorded from the
1930s-60s; and the social commentary central to the work of such as The Last
Poets, who flourished c. 1970. All this before rap, other than a word, was a
crackle on an DJ's 'wheels of steel.'

I would also agree wholeheartdly with Frank Abate's remarks on Ali and
doggerel, although, as the one whose mail (on the 'thrilla in Manila')
helped set this discussion in motion, I used 'doggerel' merely as a
reasonably pertinent description of the Ali poetic style, rather than as a
carefully reasoned critical assessment. And while it might be claimed that
Ali's style does have some links to the boasting and challenges that are
found in many 'toasts', I don't think that his poems as such can really be
seen as founders of modern rap.

Jonathon Green

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