Yesterday we saw what pop music is, its history, its derivatives and above all, its affiliation to rap. To complete the article "Pop is not in Weeknd 1/2", Grunge News comes back to the history of rap and its impact in today’s world with exclusive interviews on the creator of Universe Rap (on Instagram ) and Caden Kujawa, an American, collaborating with the some of greatest US rappers at the moment.
Rap is a musical genre, born thanks to hip-hop. It is an urban cultural and artistic movement created in New York, popular in neighborhoods like the Bronx, in the early 1970s. Hip-hop culture is made up of five disciplines: rap, Djing (the art of mixing , scratch on a turntable), break dance, graffiti / street arts and beatboxing. These disciplines appeared before hip-hop, but were directly integrated from the birth of the genre directly creating an important culture within this new movement. Hip-hop was born in the context of extreme poverty, where the only way out was by selling drugs. However, the Bronx had the reputation of a cultural melting pot. African-American, Puerto Rican music, etc., with registers including Mambo, Disco, Salsa, etc, were mainly played in these neighborhoods.
Picture from the Bronx in 70s
That's when Kool Herc enters the picture. He is credited with being the founding father of hip-hop. It all started when Kool Herc left Jamaica to settle in the Bronx in New York. He then developed a deep interest in DJing. Initially, he was eager to incorporate Jamaican musical culture into his neighborhood, to no avail. He was then inspired by other different musical styles on the streets. It was then in 1973, at a party he had organized for his sister, that he mixed all genres while including his own adapted style through street influences (Funk and Soul.) This is when a musical revolution occured; DJ Kool Herc adapted his style and developed a method so that the selected music would last longer (the music had an average duration of 15 seconds because there was only one deck at the time on a table mixing). It simply added a second turntable and in this way, it could easily link the pieces together.
Thus, Herc gained his popularity and with it came its own group of dancers to liven up the evenings: the B-Boys.
He didn't stop there, no, he continued and invented the concept of "Block Parties". "Block Parties" consisted of taking speakers and a mixer, settling in a place in the Bronx and simply playing music there. The goal was to just have fun and dance. Following the "BlockParty’s" crazy success, he decided to organize rap and dance battles. He would get two representatives of different districts to go onstage, and BAM the duel began.
DJ KOOL HERC mixed at a Block Party
The public loved these verbal conflicts which ultimately birthed the trend that spread throughout New York. The first MCs appeared and toasted. Indeed, the term "toast" in Jamaican meant "to rap". The word then disappeared to make way for a new word "To Deejay", also meaning rapping. Among the precursors of this movement, we can quote the famous Coke La Rock who was considered as the first MC.
The MC debuted with instruments and used a drum machine to replace the instruments. The character who revolutionized the mix is GrandMaster Flash. He reinvented the mixer and made sure there were no more breaks between musical transitions. In 1979 raps on discs began to appear, especially a famous song known as "Rapper’s Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang.
Rap then evolved and differed from other musical genres with their lyrics. The themes described through the lyrics are mostly about life in American ghettos, parties, including subjects of drugs and sex. The violence of this life is very often translated into insults. This musical genre is adopted by American gangs, and it is also them who popularized it (still seen to this day with rappers such as 6ix9ine, Cardi B, Trippie Redd, etc., being members of the Bloods, famous American gang rival of the Crips).
The lyrics were seen as obscene and controversial: labeled as "hardcore rap". Through him, the younger crowds living in the ghettos recognized and expressed themselves through this type of music, as they were living that lifestyle. An individual does not need to know how to sing to rap, he must know how to tell his life and therein lies the essence of this style of street music. It is this element that sets it apart from all other musical genres. Rap from the 80s is entirely different from today, but conquers the whole world. In 1982, Hip-hop made its way to France, Europe, Japan and Quebec.
Of African-American origin, this style will also touch the white population with the best known example: Eminem. This is what makes rap universal. Rap has become more and more popular, as each country sees the birth of its own rappers. Over time, the lyrics have become more aware, and the genre divided itself into sub-genres, with conscious rap, emo-rap ... The rise of this new style of music generated a huge inflow of money with the establishment of concerts, festivals and albums entirely dedicated to the genre.
Even today, gangs play an important role in the evolution of rap. If hip-hop is so successful, it is mainly thanks to these gangs.. Their intentions in crossing boundaries, going against, etc, is usually depicted through their lyrics. They tell their stories of experiences on the streets and their ultimate goal is to portray domination and strength. The rapper 6ix9ine, recently released from prison, was already exerting dominance with a so-called reputation of "The King of New York". The musical sub-genre of rap in which artists give in to lives of violence, drugs, sex, etc., is known as Gangsta rap; a sub-genre which has predominantly dominated the other sub-genres until the end of the 2000s.
So we saw yesterday the history of pop music and its affiliation to rap from 2009 with "I Gotta Feeling". This article in 2 separate parts therefore comes out on the occasion of the release of the Remix EP version of the album by American singer The Weeknd "After Hours" on April 3. Let’s take a closer look at this atypical singer...
The Weeknd (real name: Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) was born in 1990 in Toronto, Canada and is one of the most popular and listened singers of our time. Most of his success goes back and originates by his musical genre, something between R&B / rap, pop-music and Soul. Since the beginning of his career he has notably had the chance of receiving 3 Grammy Awards, 2 American Music Awards,...
Abel Makkonen Tesfaye grew up with his mother who raised him alone along with his grandmother. His childhood was lulled by the musical influences of artists such as Prince and Michael Jackson. He says there will never be a King of Pop again: Michael Jackson is and always will be on top! He chose to drop out of school at the age 17. It took a dark turn when he discovered drugs and fell into that dark path. After several months, he landed his first job in a large clothing store and it was then that he began to sing and record. He began his career in 2010 by anonymously posting his creations on audio and video streaming platforms like Soundcloud or Youtube. He hides his identity behind the pseudonym “The Weeknd”.
From then on, it was only a matter of months before his career was launched. He made himself known thanks to Drake who had mentioned his name on Twitter and thus attracted public attention. The Weeknd then decided to release a first album ("House of balloons") which received positive reviews. This was the birth of one of the greatest artists in the 2010s. His momentum was building, leading numerous projects, increasing concerts and feats with other artists like Ariana Grande in 2014. The same year Drake takes him under his wing and takes him with him on his European tour “Would You Like A Tour”, to do his first part.
Success is growing and the opportunities are numerous. He composed two songs for the film “50 Shades of Gray”, and released an album in 2015 (“Beauty Behind The Madness”) then another in 2016 (“Starboy”), including prestigious collaborations with Daft Punk or Lana Del Rey. Ten of his songs made their way to the top 10 on the Billboard hot 100 and clips from "Starboy", "The Hills" and "Can’t Feel My Face" have more than a billion views on YouTube. His success has become a worldwide phenomenon.
With the release of "After Hours" he dethrones everything and takes ranking of the most listened artist on Spotify :
Figures recorded on Monday April 20, 2020.
One month after the release, his album was still number 1 on the Billboard 200. Clearly, It was an unprecedented success. The previous record was held by Drake with his album"Scorpion".
His haircut had actually been inspired by the famous artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
The Grunge News team decided to interview for you the creator of Univers Rap, a media highlighting all the news of French rap on the social network, Instagram.
Grunge News: What do you think of rap today compared to 10 years ago, in its evolution ?
UR: For me rap has diversified a lot compared to that of 10 years ago. Today, we can only listen to rap as a style of music, because there are all styles, be it kick, atmosphere, sad, calm, ...
Grunge News: What do you think of the diffusion of rap, with platforms such as Soundcloud, Instagram where many artists are emerging ?
UR: Rap makes great use of current communication methods such as social media and streaming platforms, which is perfect for our generation.
Grunge News: What is your point of view on mixing rap and pop like the American singer “The Weeknd” can do ?
UR: Mixing rap and pop is a pretty good idea because it is a style of music that pleases other audiences rather than pure rap, so it brings new audiences into rap. That’s a good thing.
To conclude the article Grunge News also interviewed for you Caden Kujawa, an American working in rap. (You will find an exclusive interview with the artist in a few days on grunge-news.com)
He presents himself to us:
Caden Kujawa: My name is Caden Kujawa. I’m from Miami, Florida and I’m making music, making album covers, and overall, I’m just trying to make the artist I work with look better. Whether it's by styling or helping them manage their social networks. I am currently studying fashion as well, so I like to bring as much as I have to offer to the artist with whom I work and bring him my full vision. For the most part, I work with rap artists.
He then answers our questions in one answer :
Grunge News: What do you think of the mix of rap and pop, as The Weeknd does in many of his music ?
Grunge News : Do you think this mix of musical registers will last over time?
Caden Kujawa : I think it's certainly something we will see more of in the next few years. Rap is one of the most popular genres of music right now. When mixed with pop, it attracts an even wider audience. You can also be more experienced in the field by working your sounds. The last project of The Weeknd remains mainly in the field of rap and pop. He is capable of having a refreshing and diverse album. The mix of musical registers will continue to become very popular. Personally, I love punk and rock and I think these are some genres that continue to inspire rappers nowadays. Mixing different musical registers offers many unique possibilities for sounds and instruments. It also broadens the audience for artists.
Rap, therefore, has a whole story of its own, its strength lies in its texts and in the multitude of possibilities to rap, whether according to the registers (emo-rap, rap-conscious, gangsta-rap,... ) or in the mode of distribution (via social networks, etc.). Caden Kajuwa sums up rap and his pop mix very well. This affiliation of genres therefore isn't going to end anytime soon because it opens new doors for wider audiences, and new doors for new opportunities and experiences.