AND GOD BLESS THE BLACKOUT WHEN IT COME

I always thought it was pretty much common knowledge, not even anything that was in any way up for debate – The Fatback Band‘s “King Tim III” was the first and the Sugarhill Gang‘s “Rapper’s Delight” was the second rap record ever. Case closed. Well, that case has been reopened, examined and smashed to splinters in recent times. Lately I’ve heard a number of claims that other records featuring rappers actually predate both King Tim and the Gang. The ones I’ve heard the most have been discs by Tanya Winley, PJ Laboy and I think there was another Winley record that was discussed. Personally, I have always been EXTREMELY skeptical of these claims, mostly because I was around during that period and most definitely had my young ear to the street. You gotta remember, there hadn’t been any rap records being made at this time but I was absorbing a lot of rap music on the street level, either live at parties or on tapes recorded from these parties. So any knowledge of emceeing being done on record at this time would’ve been a major deal, not something that would’ve easily missed my attention.
I vividly remember hearing King Tim for the first time, on a college radio station. Far from a great record IMHO, but again, this was so new at the time that it still was a HUGE thing. Then, of course, the Sugarhill Gang came out not long after and the world was never the same again. So I’ve just always found it very hard to believe that there was rap on vinyl that predates those two records, because in my mind even a wack rap record at that time would’ve made at least SOME kind of noise. King Tim and Wonder Mike were not exactly Mele Mel and Grandmaster Caz, ya know? And they still got plenty of notice.
So a week or two ago my mellow my man Troy L. Smith (world famous old school tape king) hit me with some info that another homeboy, Freddy Fresh (author of “The Rap Records”, also responsible for many a dope record over the years), gave him about a record from 1978 that featured kids rhymin’. I immediately go into skeptic mode, then Troy tells me the track is on “The Runaways“, a Broadway musical soundtrack. That title rang a bell, so i googled up the album cover… okay, I know this record. Beat dealers used to sell this record at the NYC record shows I used to attend, so I figured it had a break on it but had no idea that it had any rhyming.
Turns out it has a break AND some rhymimg. And not all that bad either! I’m still saying that King Tim is first and Sugarhill is 2nd, but I’m not prepared to totally discount this Runaways record. Although these kids are clearly not real emcees, I would not be surprised at all if they were perhaps influenced by what the people in the Bronx were doing in the parks. The whole way they’re kickin’ it about getting paid during the blackout of ’77 makes me think that yeah, it’s mostly like that jive-talk-rappin’ that brothers did throughout the seventies and even before (listen below to Pigmeat Markham‘s “Who Got The Number”, which is from 1969, for cryin’ outloud!), but I definitely think there could be some boogie down bronx yes-yes-y’all inspiration going on there as well.
Take a listen for yourself and tell me what you think- is this actually the first rap record? And if you think so, then listen to the Pigmeat record and tell me why THAT ain’t the first joint. I already told you how I feel, but still… I ain’t mad at that “enterprise, you got to enterprise” schitt.

RUNAWAYS original Broadway soundtrack – Enterprise RE-UPPED

PIGMEAT MARKHAM – Who Got The Number RE-UPPED

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17 Comments

  1. Ok, Im with you Phill that the King Tim joint was the first. BUT…and this is a very big BUT, that Runaways joints could very well pre-date it but and could be that jive – scattalking style but you can tell they were influenced by the Bronx stuff. If a tape popped up from somewhere with these guys rocking at a party then I would say they were official but until that time I have to roll with you and say its the jive talking but influenced by the bronx mcs. Skeme

  2. Thanks Phill for the props. That is a hard call after listening to it. At times it is borderline hip hop.It reminds me of Problems of the World and Planet Rock they flirt with Rhyming but they never actually do it. The beat is slamming, I would love to hear the instrumental version and have Caz, Mel and Moe going off, or Treach DMX and Ghost going off on it. Push come to shove I would probably leave it out the mix. Very hard call. Thanks a billion times infinity my brother. Peace Troy L. from HARLEM, One

  3. Valuable post, much appreciated Phil! It doesn’t change history in my book (yes, King Tim 3 was first, then Sugarhill), but it should be noted how small that window of being first was. We’re talking months – if not weeks. Superrappin could have easily been the first, Spoonin Rap (still my favorite joint), Funky Four +1 More, Tanya Winley, Super Rhymes, Xmas Rappin…most of the early Sugarhill, Enjoy, Sound of New York and Paul Winley stuff started off right at the heels of Sugarhill Gang’s success…

  4. ‘What About You’ – Co-Real Artists is in the exact same vein as that Runaways track…but, a little faster – prolly a little be-bop’ish and funkier.‘Shopping For Clothes’ – The Coasters is also a old soul song that incorporates rhyming over music…

  5. Yo 119st. black- i hear you about that co-real artists joint but that’s totally that soul brothas right on what’s happenin’ jive talkin’ sucka rap that cats were doing before Hip Hop existed. the Runaways joint has a much more b-boy-ish flow and cadence going on. co-real artists is fly as hell though! definitely some similarities to the runaways, especially since both songs feature just funky ass drums for the musical backing.

  6. just to add on to my last comment, the whole term “rap” was used for that jive-talkin’ schitt originally- what they were doing in the Bronx in the early days was just rhyming or emceeing. Sylvia Robinson and them gave what the Hip Hop cats were doing the name “rapping”- nobody in the streets was calling that schitt rap. The term rap was some old sounding schitt that really was kinda corny back then. But the Sugarhill Gang record was so big that it wasn’t long before everybody was calling the artform rap, even the pioneers. Just a little more history for those who may not know (any other old school experts want to add their 2 cents, feel free… i’m from back in the days but by no means am i the leading authority on Hip Hop history)

  7. They’re rapping alright, but doesn’t the DJ make it ”hip hop”?I think the cutting/looping DJ is the founder of hip hop.So these rapping songs are just that, rapping songs.The DJ took the place of musicians as he became the musician on the spot.The DJ is the first sample looping/playback device.Who was cutting up funky rhythms first?

  8. Flash is the originator of cutting up beats… Herc and others were playing them before Flash, but he was the guy who invented the whole idea of going back and forth from turntable one to turntable two, keeping everything locked on beat. well, until some researcher decides that he’s come up with evidence that some unknown dj from canada was doing this LONG before Flash ever even dreamed about his clock theory… you know it’s only a matter of time.

  9. First “White Boy Rap” by a psychedelic group, Time, from 1968called “Introductory Lines”At 1:28 it sounds like the foundation for every abstract rapper since

  10. Blowfly claimed that he recorded “Rapp Dirty” for a German label in 1965! I have yet to see proof yet that it actually exists,my 12 inch says 1980.Last time I saw Blowfly live I forgot to ask about that record-maybe next time…Mike D (oklahoma)

  11. yoIntroductory Lines-White Boy Rap have you got it on mp3? I can not find…:(What is the firstr ap song, this is hard qeustion…and what is firts rap album? The Watts Prophets before the last poets recorded album in 1969…

  12. As far as we know, Rappers Delight was released in late september. King Tim III was released in early september 1979.

    This leaves 9 month in 1979 which in which another Rap 12″ could have been released before those 2 records.

    If you check how many Rap 12″ where released in 1979, which is a huge list of records, they all would have had only a time period of 3 month to decide to do it, to record it, to press it, and distribute it.

    Peace

  13. “Enterprise” is cool, pre-dates “The Message” as the first conscious hip-hop track. It gets a shout-out by Ugly Duckling on the 2005 track “Slow the Flow”. Gotta love that obscure reference.

    Why has no-one asked Blowfly about his 1965 “Rap Dirty” in an interview or something? Seems like it's a myth.

  14. Falkone said: “As far as we know, Rappers Delight was released in late september. King Tim III was released in early september 1979.

    This leaves 9 month in 1979 which in which another Rap 12″ could have been released before those 2 records.

    If you check how many Rap 12″ where released in 1979, which is a huge list of records, they all would have had only a time period of 3 month to decide to do it, to record it, to press it, and distribute it.

    Peace”

    Falkone, thanks for the comment. I think, though, this is where misconceptions get blown up out of proportion and the truth gets lost. People look at the evidence and try to come up with their own theories about the origins of Hip Hop. I know that we're talking thirty one years ago, but there are still people alive who remember what was going on back then! There's no need to try to figure out what happened, just ask somebody.
    All of those 1979-dated rap records ABSOLUTELY came out after King Tim & Rappers Delight. You're right, those records did come out right at the end of the summer of '79. I remember clearly, it was right around when we were going back to school from summer break. Rappers Delight hit like an atomic bomb, and after that EVERYBODY was immediately trying to make a rap record! The record stores were flooded with rap 12″s, it was ridiculous. You have to understand how easy it was to make a record back then and how quickly you could have it on wax. You could literally go in the studio on monday and have a 12″ in your hand by friday or even sooner. So the idea that because King Tim & Rappers Delight came out late in 1979 so some of the many other rap releases from that year must have come out before them is inaccurate, trust me. Thanks again for writing regardless, it's appreciated.

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