“There’s not a man that can’t be thrown, a horse that can’t be rode, a bull that can’t be stopped, there’s not a disco that I, Coke La Rock can’t rock.”

Quoted by Coke La Rock

And his most notable, “Ya rock and ya don’t stop!”

Ahoy ahoy my mates!! Yea you all got it right. This is what exactly the hustler, Coke La Rock used to spit on the mics at Cindy’s jams with DJ Kool Herc on the spinning the wheel. The first ever MC of Hip Hop Culture – Coke La Rock was Herc’s good ole buddy. I know, ya’ll have probably heard the story a billion times if you are a true hip-hop head, but bear with it. This time it’s about the Lineage of MCs / Emcees / Rappers.

When Coke La Rock spat rhymes….

On August 11th, 1973, at Cindy had written the invites, Herc was ready with his records and his father’s Shure speakers, their mom and dad served the snacks and beverages and recreation room was rented. The first hip hop party was set and finally happening at 520 Sedgwick Avenue. But, Herc was a bit worried on who was gonna take the mic as he would be busy on the panel. And something happened that night, Coke La rock was rapping. He had taken over the mic in an instant and began talking sporadic announcements in the mic. He docked the crowd with shout outs to his friends, hype the groove and to also tell his friend to move their cars or when someone’s mama was at the door.

La Rock recalls, “Our friends Pretty Tony, Easy Al, and Nookie Nook were all at the party. At first I would just call out their names. Then I pretended dudes had double-parked cars; that was to impress the girls. Truthfully, I wasn’t there to rap, I was just playing around.” His spirit of having fun thus rose into being an essential part of Hip Hop culture.

Sources – Davey D’s Archived Essential Hip Hop Articles

Hence the term “emcee” caught its roots in Hip Hop culture. The lineage of MCs
/ Emcees / Rappers started here. This term is derived from the abbreviation M.C. that stands for Master of Ceremonies and even some slangs like Move the Crowd, Mike Chanter, Microphone Controller and many more. An emcee is a person who raps to inspire people with clear, concise and compelling content. Thus, this art is called Emceeing/Rapping. Flow & Style, Delivery, Breath Control, Wordplay are the fundamentals that built to what it is today.

Nommo to Rapping

But like, DJing and Graf writing, Emceeing has a strong and beautiful history which goes afore hip hop. Aside from funk and disco, early hip hop was rooted in the western African griots who were responsible for keeping the oral history of the tribe or village and to entertain with poems, songs, dances, etc. This concept in western Africa is called “nommo”. Philosophically, nommo is the power of words to shape reality i.e. to give life to ideas. Hence, these griots used to slate all the knowledge and history in their minds to share it with their people who had no other sources of learning about the outer surroundings. This is exactly how people still chant or sing the verses of Quran, doha’s of Kabir, abhanga’s by Sant Tukaram and many more. All these are the mediums of spreading and preserving ideas in the hearts of commoners.

The Blues music found it’s way in the work songs and spirituality. It was influenced greatly by West African musical traditions, was first played by blacks, and later by some whites. In the late 1960’s i.e. the proto-hip hop era, this art of blacks attracted a large audience. In comedy clubs filled in skits in the form of a melody. 

“Sweet Poppa Pigmeat”, best known as Pigmeat Markham was a highly-skilled entertainer. His 1968 skit hit “Here Comes the Judge” is accepted as the first rap record. The skill of Pigmeat Markham is classified as an early form of the rap element. His band played the hyped up instrumentals of funky blues while the crowd would sit still for them to reach the rhythmical rhymes of art.

Hence these art forms such as spoken word jazz poetry and comedy records has influenced the rappers. Coke La Rock has often credited the Last Poets and comedians such as Wild Man Steve and Richard Pryor for influencing this art. While, Gil Scott-Heron, a jazz poet/musician, has influenced rappers such as Chuck D and KRS-One .In 1970–71, Comedian Rudy Ray Moore recorded three albums, “Eat Out More Often”, “This Pussy Belongs To Me”, and “The Dirty Dozens”, where with jazz and R&B musicians playing in the background, he would recite raunchy, sexually explicit rhymes that often had to do with pimps, prostitutes, players, and hustlers. He was better known as Dolomite and The Godfather of Rap due to his blueprint of hip hop’s storytelling achieved from his raw rhymes and graphic comedic sketches.

Subsequnetly, the art of chanting and rhyming also became a main element for club entertainers. The houserockers Eddie Cheeba and DJ Hollywood dominated the discos. In the late to mid 70s Cheeba became the next level strategic crowd and response master, he used to engage with the audience in his own raspy voice – Who makes it sweeter? Crowd: Cheeba, Cheeba,Cheeba!

DJ Hollywood on the other hand, through his the style, charisma and chanting skills, crafted the most memorable house rocking phrases of all times – Throw your hands in the air! and Somebody say ho!.

Thus, as the times matured, the MCs ranged from party rockin’ MCs like DJ Hollywood, Eddie Cheeba, Cowboy, Lovebug Starski, Busy Bee Starski to early 80s MCs like Melle Mel, Kool Moe Doe, Grandmaster Caz, Kurtis Blow, Run D.M.C. to golden age hip hop MCs like Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Rakim, Kool G Rap, Slick Rick to 90s MCs like Redman, Tupac Shakur, Ghostface Killas Nas, Biggie Smalls to millennium rappers like  Eminem, Jay Z, Mos Def, Kendrick Lamar, Rapsody, J Cole and many more.

This is the lineage of MCs / Emcees / Rappers known today in world of hip-hop. For more technical aspects of this art form, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapping#Flow. As each era of the culture emerged, we have witnessed this art evolve and spread into many different dimensions. The key to respect its authenticity in hip-hop culture is to have awareness of its lineage. So hip-hop heads, let’s VIBE!!

We kids are lucky to have inherited this will of art and culture. Again a big thanks to all our sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers. Also, a big thanks to all your support. It means a lot.

Until next time then. Stay connected.


One thought on “#DecipherIt – Lineage of MCs”

Comments are closed.