It’s a word, not a word.
No, in the past I thought rap was a word … well then I decided if that word was too hard to write down I’d better change it. It’s a word — or it used to be a word — about black crime, black culture and black people with their power. And when I thought about it, I felt it was in keeping with the tradition of the word rap: it was a black way of saying “we.” It wasn’t an adjective; it was a way of describing. It was a way to create, I guess. I knew it was a word that needed something to say about it. I wanted to say it for black people that weren’t black but who were black by nature. I wanted to say it for those of us who weren’t white but who were black by character.
Why rap has the word “rap” in it at all? Why do you have “Rap” and not “rap music”? Why not just use “rock” or “dance” or “music”?
Because that makes it more difficult to describe. And I can’t do it for two reasons at the same time. I can’t write “Rock” or “dance music.” I’m going to use “rock” for something like “Rock N’ Roll,” I’m not going to use “dance” for something like “Dance. It’s a word that I can’t stand. All of these names just don’t do it justice. If I did rap and wrote a rap song and put it out into the world, how could I go anywhere near them, and I didn’t think I could?
So I went with “rap,” and then I went with “rap music.”
Rap music, you mean.
Yes. I wrote “Rap Music” first. I could tell right away: it wasn’t music. I didn’t find it as interesting, it had nothing to do with me. It didn’t need to be music. I thought it made more sense.
When you said “rap,” you said it was something. And yet it’s only been popular for a couple of decades. Why do people think that was the case?
Because in those two decades it took on a life of its own. And there was a sense that black people were the ones to speak for themselves — that in the past there had been no black people to speak for them. And in that sense
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