You’ve heard of the saying, ‘taking me to church’?
I suppose that the genius Hip Hop Gods of the ’80s thought to do just that when masterminding the sound that we know today to be Boom Bap.
Ironically enough, it would be the same sound that a bible preaching mother might yell for you to turn off from her car radio. That exaggerated loud booming of the drums, the bap of the snares coupled with the gift that is the emcee; the speaker, the conveyer. The conveyer of messages, generalized in lyric form with rhyme. The purpose of the boom and the bap though, to bring you out of your element, elevate you high in spirit; the MC, is the voice that speaks over the beautiful chaos of the beat. Allowing you to see the sun through the gray skies; the beauty of the concrete jungle had never been so sweet. Church.
Boom Bap became the soundtrack to the stories told on the corner streets of New York City back in the day; told in exponential form. A sound that only intellects can handle; as it took a brain for a dictionary to generate such style. Grading below average in school, but how you rap so good? For a true emcee is intellect, born with a wisdom far beyond their age; misunderstood in the classroom, but we tend to look at these types as a sort of cult teacher.
Make no mistake, Boom Bap is not a place for the common producer or rapper; one has to possess the kind of skill and energy to match in order to bring forth hands, that sway against the boom of the drum, on top of the bap, all while keeping up with the rhythm of the verse. The way a preacher prays the devil out of you, similar to when the emcee assaults the microphone. Lighting a fire, giving you an outer-body experience that can’t be explained. Changing up of flows as the DJ switches to his next album sample, only someone with the calling can do.
“It’s a raw, gritty and unpolished hip hop that normally features a DJ scratching.”
-Defined by Diggin’ In The Crates collective member Diamond D
Popularized in the mid 1980s through 1990s, Boom Bap was brought to the forefront of Hip Hop by legendary groups like Boogie Down Productions and the Juice Crew Allstars. Birthed in the streets of New York City, it was the renowned DJ Premier of Gang Starr and Pete Rock who are said to go down in Hip Hop history as the first to really experiment with the genre of an extensive rhythmic sound; some of the firsts to highlight the absolute necessity of a DJ to a live party scene. And although contained mainly in NYC, it was highly revered state-to-state; more of a New York sound, boom bap gave DJ’s a bigger appeal.
A vinyl record back then was like a pair of Jordans, people would stand in line. Music enthusiasts would spend their last dime on a record to scratch. And with borrowed sounds, the sampling of old tracks played under a dope rhyme would breed life into the early brewing art form. Deep rooted, Boom Bap is a critical component to the composition of Hip Hop.
“Boom bap stays loyal to hip hop’s original make-up because it nods to the days when DJs and emcees had little in the way of recording equipment and were forced to make music from other artists’ sonic scraps.”
Later sub-genres would take from it what they will to create a new; somewhat defecating on its origin. A disrespect to the culture, enacted by a disrespectful child. And when you know better, you do better, hence today’s history lesson.
A marriage between the beat and the emcee; both working towards the same goal harmoniously, the ambitions of each entity are matched. And you can’t love one without the other. From classic albums like Nas’ Illmatic, KRS-One’s Return of The Boom Bap, Mobb Deep’s The Infamous to Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt albums; and other rappers like Guru, J Dilla, Eric B, Rakim just to name a few, would all excite a slew of modern day emcee’s like Lupe Fiasco or a Joey Bada$$ for example, unleashing that familiar ’90s vibe. Now furthering its reach beyond New York City, Boom Bap has awakened in the outskirts and even outside of the Americas with annual Boom Bap Festivals held in countries like the UK, a direct intent to keeping the sound alive. And although today’s boom bap emcees hardly see the light that is mainstream play, they stay true to the essence that of which inspired them to begin with.