African call-and-response patterns and improvisation survived the Middle Passage and became two of the basic elements of one of today’s most popular forms of music. In the 1970s, rap music began in New York City when African American youth began rhyming to recorded music and beats. This musical style can be traced to West Africa, where storytellers called griots told the tribal news, history, folklore and religion to the rhythm of the drum. Just like griots, rappers tell stories about their lives to a beat.
Instead of using their real names, most rap artists have nicknames. The M.C. speaks the lyrics on the microphone and the D.J. plays the music. One of the most famous early rap groups was Run DMC. Run (Joseph Simmons) and DMC (Darryl McDaniels) were the M.C.’s and Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) was the D.J. They were one of the first rap groups to combine their style with rock and roll music. Their breakthrough song, “Walk This Way,” with the rock group Aerosmith, had a major influence on many popular bands today.