Was King Tim III the First?
Many articles have been written claiming that King Tim III (Personality Jock) was the first rap song released, some articles have been more cautious and stated it as the first commercially successful recording released on a major label, but even this is questionable
This has been further misconstrued to form claims that King Tim III was the first rapper ever. These claims are misguided and inaccurate. It was only after realising the potential of early doors hiphop movement in NYC, that The FatBack Band, a non rap group, hire radio DJ Tim Washington (aka King Tim III) to perform a novelty rap song for their 1979 album XII. It must be also added that King Tim III (Personality Jock) was the first and last rap song that the Fatback Band recorded.
Shottsman went on a fact finding mission to discover that ellusive Holy Roller grail: The Original Rapper and not surprisingly uncovered a world of related issues along the way. But we had to start with the basics. The first rap song released definately WAS NOT Rappers Delight! It was surprising to hear Grand Master Caz state very clearly in an interview that it was.
Grand Master Caz Mis-information No.1:
Rappers Delight by The Sugar Hill Gang, released in 1979, months after the King Tim III release – is officially the first pop rap hit.
It is common knowledge that some of the verses of Rappers Delight were in fact written by Grand Master Caz aka Casanova Fly of the Cold Crush Brothers. Caz claims he wrote near everything that Sugar Hill rapper Big Bank Hank said, apart from some ‘little phrases’. Caz gave the credit of one phrase in particular to Raheem of the Furious Five. The rhyme in question was actually traced to much further back. It was originated by Chitlin Circuit performer Jimmy Lynch The Funky Tramp at least eight years prior.
Grand Master Caz Mis-information No.2:
It is plain to see that the recurring issue of ownership and plagiarism has hurt hiphop from the very beginning .
With that being said, it comes as little surprise to find that hiphop in 2010 is in a state of confusion.
Rap and Hiphop are separated into two opposing factions. Rap is perceived as a dumbed down decadant mainstream incarnation in the eyes of Hiphop, which pitches itself as the righteous continued movement from the real lineage, with founding fathers Kool Herc, Bambaattaa, KRS 1 and Co. at the helm.
Corporate involvement in hiphop music turned it into a billion dollar industry, but has equally reduced hiphop to a shell of its former self struggling to find a common collective identity. It’s mainstream players, portayed as empty rap clones of each other, glorifying guns, sex, drugs and money, while Real Hiphop postures as the upholders of the one truth, carrying a vendetta against the same mainstream that it was once happy to be a part of. The constant bad mouthing of it’s mainstream rap counterpart is done at every occasion possible.
Although the apparent disunity within hiphop and rap music, there IS a positive outcome.
The resiliance of hiphop is astounding, its ability to survive and bounce back from the edge laughs in the face of the mainstream hype machine, that has been flippantly proclaiming hiphop as dead since the 80′s.
The original question still stands but now comes even more questions.
- If King Tim III isnt the 1st rapper, then who is ?
- Are Hiphop’s Powers That Be, THE authority on rap and rhyming on rhythm tracks. And do they have the final say on what actually passes as rapping?
- Even if King Tim III was first rap recording released, should the credit be given to him for launching rap into the world as the first rapper?
- Is there a difference between rapping (i.e. rhythmical talking over music) and songs that were templates for the burgeourning Hiphop scene of the late 70′s?
- Did the early stages of the hiphop movement adopt a form of rap that was already an established style?
- Is hiphops distancing itself from rap music more proof that rap existed before hiphop?
- If this is the case then surley Hiphop is the offspring of rap as opposed to Rap being the offspring of Hiphop ?
When Chitlin Circuit performer Pigmeat Markham recorded Here Comes The Judge in the early 70′s his performance appeared to be an authentic rap flow over a funk beat. When another Chitlin Circuit performer Skillet, partner of Leroy Daniels, performed on the Johnny Otis show (Johnny was the father of the legendary Shuggie Otis) he recited the Insect Ball. Skillet also appeared to be rapping to a beat.
Does this mean that not only did rap exist before that miraculous year of 1979, but it was being recorded and released as well?
insect-ball-skillet Skillet Insect Ball
Pigmeant Markham Here Comes the Judge
Doesn’t crediting a commercially successful rap song released 1979 on a major label as the first rap song, overlook all the other rap songs released that very same year on independent labels, and every rap track released before 1979?
Should the perception of the birth of rap be determined by a major label release? The song We Rap More Mellow by The Younger Generation was released in 1979. When we listen closely we realise that the Younger Generation are the rappers from Grand Master Flash and the Furious 5. The very same Furious Five also released the classic Super rappin’ in 1979.
The Younger Generation We Rap More Mellow
Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five Super rappin’
Around this time the Cold Crush Brothers were formed, the Herculoids were already party rocking, Afrika Bambaata was already forming his Zulu Nation, and a growing entourage of mc’s representing hiphop were stepping up to the recording plate.
In the official hiphop lineage, Coke La Rock is the original rapper, side kick to the legendary Kool Herc since 1973. But what were their rap influences? It must be noted that Kool Herc had come to New York from Jamaica as a child. The Jamaican sound system along with toasting (a form of rhythmical talking or rapping over Reggae Dub) made popular by U Roy and King Stitt was very much at the roots of Herc’s house party style.
The Holy Roller Unofficial Rap Lineage has many ‘Godfathers of’, these vintage MC’S may not fit into the genealogy touted as the Official History, but as one joins the dots, it becomes apparent that they cannot be discounted.
Holy Roller Unofficial Rap Godfather 1: Gary Byrd
More than 20 years prior to the likes of Dead Pres, Poor Righteous Teachers and hiphop super group Public Enemy was Gary Byrd. In 1972 The Gary Byrd Exerience dropped a rap cut Every Brother Aint a Brother along with ‘Are you Really Ready for Black Power’ on the flipside. James Brown mentions the GBE in his ‘rap’ classic Mind Power, is this rap or funky poetry or is it all one and the same?
The Gary Byrd Experience Every Brother Ain’t a Brother
Chuck D opens up the first verse of Public Enemy’s Welcome to the Terrordome with the line “Every Brother Aint a Brother”. One can say that technically, the Presenting the G.B.E Album released 1970 on RCA is a candidate for the first rap album released on a major label.
Gary Byrd resurfaced in the 80′s with the rap hit The Crown, also as rapping narrator in Beat this! A Hiphop History a film by UK director Dick Fontaine.
Holy Roller Unofficial Rap Godfather 2: Rudy Ray Moore
We credit the Late Rudy Ray Moore aka Dolemite as the original Parental Advisory rapper. In the film The Disco Godfather, Rudy Ray Moore coins the phrase ‘Put your weight on it’. The same phrase was adopoted by 80′s rap don Big Daddy Kane. Kane also battled Dolemite on a song taken from his 1990 album a Taste of Chocolate.
From the early 70′s Rudy Ray Moore recorded countless albums Rapping on funk and jazz, some of Ray Moore’s lyrics have been used time and time again in hiphop. ’I stick my thing in the ground and turn the whole world around‘ is THE line from 1995 classic Keep it Real by the rapper Jamal. Big Daddy Kane also adapted the lyric and started a whole lyrical craze on this particular subject. While Rudy Ray Moore was the king of adult-rated rapping style, there where many Chitlin Circuit performers of the genre, Reynaldo Ray, Tina Dickson, Tommy Brown, Tangerine, Pretty Bop, Richard and Willie, Slappy White, Redd Foxx, Jimmy Lynch aka the Funky Tramp, Wildman Steve,The Madam, Leroy Daniels, Skillett and Lawanda Page.
Performers like these have been the inspiration for samples for many hiphop artists From 2 Live Crew, to Otis Jackson aka Madlib.
Holy Roller Unofficial Rap Godfather 3: Melvin Van Peebles
Madlib began a hiphop sample relationship over two albums with the rap of Melvin Van Peebles (Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song) the underground hiphop classic come on feet had the Madlib mini me Lord Quas rapping along with Van Peebles
Mario Van Peebles, Melvin’s son tried but failed in an attempt to follow his fathers footsteps in the 1985 disaster Rappin’. The younger Van Peebles plays Rappin’ Hood ex-convict-turned-rapper in a very sketchy ‘Rap Musical’.
Melvin Van Peebles recorded a number of albums rhyming on beats from as early as 1971, and definitely qualifies as an unofficial hiphop godfather.
Holy Roller Unofficial Rap Godfather 4: The Last Poets
The Last Poets must be considered to be the original ‘conscious rappers’ pre-dating Public Enemy by at least 15 years. The first line up of the Last Poets formed around 1969 included Felipe Luciano, Gilan Kain and David Nelson.
The second line up featured Jallaludin, Bin Hassan, Abiodun Oyewole, and Suliaman El-Hadi. Jallaludin AKA Lightening Rod recorded The Hustlers Convention in the early 70′s, this recording was Gangsta Rap well before Snoop and NWA. It was no coincidence when Grand Mixer DST recorded Mean Machine with Jalaludin in 1985, the rhyme ‘Automatic push button remote control synthetic genetics command your soul’, remains an all time hiphop quotable. Also used by many reggae toasters such as Big Youth and Ranking Joe.
Grand Mixer Dst feat Jalaluddin Mean Machine
Lightening Rod The Hustlers Convention
Other socially concious Rap poets of of that era include Gil Scott Heron, Leroi Jones aka Amiri Baraka, and the Black Voices aka The Watts Prophets.
Holy Roller considers the Last Poets debut album released in 1970 as one of the first rap albums ever. Some prefer to call the Last Poets ’Spoken Word’ in genre.
Another early 70′s group of rap poets The Watts Prophets clear up all doubt that at that particular time spoken word and rap were one and the same, having named their 1970 album Rapping Black. Amerikkka a track taken from Rapping Black album was 25 years ahead of Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted album. We also considered this group as candidates for first rap album release.
Sell your soul (rappin’ black)
Holy Roller Unofficial Rap Godfather 5: James Brown
The late Godfather of Soul James Brown can be placed at the scene of the crime of hiphops birth on numerous counts.
As well as being on of the most sampled artists of all time, (The Funky Drummer must be in the top 5 most sampled breaks!) and one of the most influential dancers ever (Brown is credited as THE significant inspiration in b-boying), his music shows that he was rapping from the late 60′s into the early 70′s. Brown recorded scores of rap songs, King Heroin, Funky President, Escapism, Mind Power, Hell, Get on the Good Foot, The Boss, Sex Machine, Can’t Stand It, Payback, Papa Don’t Take No Mess and Soul Power where he says:
/ I may lay in the cut and go along / And I’m still on the case and my rap is strong.
The song Brother Rapp Parts 1 and 2 was released in 1970 on King and Polydor make James Brown a possible favourite for first rap release.
Holy Roller Unofficial Rap Godfather 6: Sun Ra
We add Sun Ra as honorary Jazz Rap godfather, our most unlikely rap pioneer with his cosmic rap songs Rocket Number 9, After the End of the World and the song Nuclear War where he raps, ‘nuclear war/ its a mother fucker/ if they push that button /your ass is gonna go’.
The Sun Ra rhyme book The Wisdom of Sun Ra is a collection of ideas, spoken word, equations and raps written in the mid 50′s. Otis Jackson aka Madlib again harks back to the past by biting Sun Ra rhymes and incorporating them into his Madvillain Shadows of Tomorrow. He brings Sun Ra’s cosmic rap message INTO tommorow.
Today is the shadow of tomorrow /Today is the present future of yesterday
Yesterday is the shadow of today/ The darkness of the past is yesterday
And the light of the past is yesterday/The days of yesterday are all numbered in sum
In the word “once”/Because once upon a time there was a yesterday
Yesterday belongs to the dead/Because the dead belongs to the past
The past is yesterday/Today is the preview of tomorrow but for me
Only for my better and happier point of view/My point of view is the thought of a better or try/Reality is today is eternity
The eternity of yesterday is dead/Yesterday is as one
The eternity of one is the eternity of the past
The past is once upon a time’Once upon a time is past
The past is yesterday today/The past is yesterday today
While we’re searchin for tomorrow
An Official Rap Godfather: Coke La Rock
Coke La Rock is credited as the first rapper who is a blueprint of what became known as hiphop. Many ‘La Rocks’ came after him, including the late Scott La Rock and T La Rock.
Coke la Rock said of the time: ”It wasn’t hiphop then, it was what me and Kool Herc had created so therefore afterwards, they put the title of that,but we didn’t even know what we was doin but everybody wanted it, as you see it went from the recreational room to around the world”.
Coke La Rock gives props to those who were the nucleus of what formed hiphop, the guys who where true artists not the “claim jumpers” as he described “Guys who pretend to have had a role in hiphop and they didnt, they just was followers.”
That takes us back to the original question, was King Tim III (Personality Jock) the first rap song ever released? Apart from that we’ve mentioned above, many recordings are entitled to stake the claim for the 1979 first recorded rap song ever. The tracks listed below are all the rap songs released that year.
Sugarhill Gang: “Rapper’s Delight” (Sugarhill)
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious 5: “Superrappin‘” (Enjoy)
Kurtis Blow: “Christmas Rappin‘” (Mercury)
Funky 4 + 1: “Rappin’ and Rockin’ the House” (Enjoy)
The Younger Generation: “We Rap More Mellow” (Brass) [Grandmaster Flash & the Furious 5]
Paulette & Tanya Winley: “Rhymin’ and Rappin”
Tanya Winley “Vicious Rap” (Winley)
Sequence: “Funk You Up” (Sugarhill)
Lady B: “To the Beat, Y’all” (T.E.C.)
Jazzy 4 MCs: “MC Rock” (Razzberri Rainbow)
Lady D: “Lady D” (Reflection)
Funky Constellation: “Street Talk (Madame Rapper)” (Funky Constellation)
Solid C, Bobby D & Kool Drop: “Wack Rap” (Wackie’s)
Ron Hunt: “Spiderap” (Reflection)
Xanadu & Sweet Lady: “Rapper’s Delight”/”Rocker’s Choice” (Joe Gibbs Music) Fatback: “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” (Spring)
A Holy Roller Conclusion
We believe that the first rap song ever released ON VINYL to resemble a template for the true school hip hop movement of the late 70′s ARE NONE OF THE ABOVE!!
Instead, it is an obscure rap track recorded and released in 1978 called Enterprise. Enterprise contains the full hiphop essence, breakbeats and dope rhymes, flows and street themes. If you disagree with this or have an earlier track than this please let us know.
Dizzy Heights is credited as the UK’s first rapper, but its possible that Jive junior would dispute that. Newtrament’s London Bridge is Falling Down was officially the first UK rap recording released in 1983…