The beginnings of rap are believed to based on African rhythms which were used as a form of communication by the native peoples. The lyrical component of rap music is thought to have been greatly influenced by Cab Calloway with his repetitive chants and scats, along with his call-and-response technique with the audience. .
Rap evolved and gained in popularity in the 1960's when a few revolutionary "DJ's," including Kool DJ Herc, DJ Lovebug Starski, and DJ Hollywood, began to work block parties in the Bronx. They would bring in large speakers, hook them up to a turntable and play two of the same record at the same time, repeating the same section of the vinyl over and over by scratching it. Other performers would chant and yell to the crowd. .
In 1979, music companies recorded rap for the first time. Such acts as The Sugar Hill Gang, The Fatback Band, and Grandmaster Flash were among the first to gain popularity. In 1982, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released the first popular politically based rap. Grandmaster's song "The Message" deals with life in the inner city, and the stress of being around violence and drugs. It included such lyrics as, "Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat, I tried to get away but I can't get far, cause the man with the touch-up repossessed my car, don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge- .
The early popularity of rap was hindered by an inability to reach new audiences. After much controversy, MTV began to run videos by black artists. These artists were showcased primarily on the new program "Yo! MTV Raps". The rhythms and the lyrics attracted a spectrum of listeners, from inner-city minorities to suburban upper-class whites. .
During the same era, as rap was rising in popularity, the infamous "PMRC hearings" occurred. Tennessee senator Al Gore's wife, Tipper, led the PMRC, or Parents' Music Resource Center. This group, which included a number of other wives of Washington legislators, convinced Congress to hold hearings regarding the placement of warning labels on "offensive" albums.