Rapping is one of the elements of hip hop; it is a form of rhyming lyrics spoken rhythmically over musical instruments, with a musical backdrop of sampling, scratching and mixing by DJs. Early rap music did not contain any sampling, probably due to the fact that at the time (1979-1985) the equipment was not as readily available.
Rapping began as a variation on the toasting found in reggae and dub music, mixed with influences from radio DJs and playing the dozens. Also of influence were the works of The Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron. The original rappers, or MCs (from "Master of Ceremonies") would improvise rhymes over the beats created by the DJs. Early raps were frequently merely a sequence of boasts, or attempts to upstage the other MCs. See roots of rap music for earlier forms that also contributed to rap.
In the 1980s, rap became increasingly politicised, through the works of Public Enemy and others, and tended to chronicle the black urban experience. Gangsta rap may be seen in this context of subversion, but is also seen by some as the abandonment of a constructive messages.
The first rap record was King Tim III by the Fatback Band (featuring the rapper King Tim III). The Sugarhill Gang followed the same year with Rappers Delight, that became a major hit and is based on Chic's disco track "Good Times".
Rapping can be seen as one of the four elements of hip hop: MCing (rapping), DJing (mixing, cutting and scratching), graffiti, and breakdancing. However, in the course of rap's history, new musical styles developed that use rapping but cannot be called rap music or hip hop - especially rapcore, also known as rap/rock or rap/metal. Some alternative rap has musically very little to do with hip hop and rap music.
List of rappers, List of birthdays of rappers