By Storyteller Rev. Robert Jones

 

Story Summary:

 Rev. Jones gives a rousing illustration of how today’s Rap Music has evolved from the Blues and earlier musical forms.

For a print friendly version of the transcript, click here: Roots-to-Rap

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Rap music has roots in jazz, blues, R&B and zydeco. How did these earlier art forms influence the beginning of hip-hop as well as today’s rap music?
  2. Rap is a musical art form but also a culture. What do you think are the positives and negatives of this culture?

Resource:

  •  Hip-Hop in Houston: The Origin and the Legacy by Maco L. Faniel

Themes:

  •  African American/Black History
  • Crossing Cultures

Full Transcript:

You know, the blues really forms the basis of all of the music that we listen to now. There are a lot of great blues performers that people may not know their names but you know their music. And, in fact, their music becomes the source of our music. For example, one of the most important blues men of all time, one of my favorite blues, was a guy by the name of Eddie James House, Jr. They called him Son House. And Son was amazing.  Son was like your uncle, who knows everything. He would look at you and say things like, “There ain’t but one kind of blues. The real blues. The B-L-U-E-S blues. That’s the kind of blues that exists between male and female. Everything else is mucky junk. Now when you get that letter bordered in black, man, that’s bad news. They calls that the death letter. Now you do too much of the death letter blues, you’re liable to jump in the river and drown y’self.” (Silly Son House giggle) Then he’d take that old National steel guitar and play a couple licks on it like. (Guitar playing some blues)

(Singing)

I got a letter this mornin, how you reckon it read?
 It said, “Hurry, hurry, ‘cuz the gal you love is dead”
 I got a letter this mornin, oh, Lord, how you reckon it read?
 It said, “Hurry, hurry, ‘cuz the gal you love is dead.”
 
You know I packed up my little suitcase, took off down the road
 When I got there, you know, she was layin’ on a coolin’ board
 I packed up my suitcase, I took off down the road
 You know, when I got there, yeah, she was layin’ out on a coolin’ board

Now this song could go on for a really long time depending on how Son feels and how he wants to stretch out those verses. What I found out when I was in a school one time, talking about the blues, that you can do something else with this song. So, I always wait ‘til almost the end of the assembly and then I wrap up the song Iike this after a couple of verses. (Guitar playing some blues)  I’d tell the kids, “You know I would love to do this whole song for you but I don’t have time. You know, it’s got so many verses but if I modernize it. If instead of doing each verse twice, I’d do each verse once. If I sped up the song and faded the music out, it might become a little bit more familiar to modern audiences. So then we do “The Death Letter Blues 2010 Remake.” (Guitar playing some modern blues)

(Singing with ever increasing speed until becoming rap)

I got a letter this mornin, how do you reckon it said?
 It said, “Hurry, hurry, ‘cuz the gal you love is dead”
 You know, I packed up my suitcase,  I took off down the road
 When I got there she was layin’ out on a coolin’ board

I ease up closer to look down in her face,

I say, “Hey, you know, I love you but I just can’t take your place”

You know, it seem like stars were standing in front of me on the ground

I didn’t know how much I love you ‘til they put my baby in the ground

 

For my arms and legs, I walked away

I say, “Hey, I love you, have to see you Judgment Day”

You know, I woke up this mornin’, it was about the break of day

And I was huggin’ on a pillow where my baby used to lay

I went to church, bowed down, I tried to pray

But the blues come along and they blow my spirit away

 

Woke up this mornin’, it was about the break of day

I was huggin’ on a pillow where my baby used to lay

I said, “Hush” I thought I heard her call my name

She ain’t call so loud, but she called so plain

Yeah, boy.