Have you ever seen the hilarious viral video about Bob Dylan writing every popular song in the last 35 years. You Haven’t? Okay, watch it.
Now that you are well versed in Dylan’s ability let’s look at the Rolling Stone article which asks the question: Is Bob Dylan Hip-Hop’s godfather? Godfather may be a good term because he is certainly not directly related. He can be considered a good friend. But, he just took from the same people that Hip Hop took from.
Hip Hop has two big influences. First, we must look at New York City in the late 1960′s into the 1970′s. African and Jamaican roots were rich in a burgeoning musical climate. Block parties, where these two cultural groups combined, became popular in especially the Bronx. DJ’s during these parties started combining funk and soul, with heavy isolation of percussion. This technique became known as Dub music and the style spread. Names like Afrika Bambaataa (Kevin Donovan), Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, Keith Cowboy and, of course, The Sugarhill Gang starting popping up and thriving in this new atmosphere.
But, even before this culture appeared in New York, the origins of rap/hip hop really came from true African culture. Blues music and work songs of slavery (inspired by griots of West Africa who were poets who delivered rhythmic, spoken word poems) were played by blacks (some whites) in the Mississippi Delta region around the middle of the 19th century. This was around one hundred years before Bob Dylan was born. This music, in my opinion, was rap and hip hop’s predecessor. And, it not only led to blues, but also jazz. Jazz led to beat poetry and spoken word poems from musicians like Gil Scott-Heron. Similar in style, Lost Poets formed in 1969 and performed poetry over drum beats and other instruments. The Lost Poets are considered one of Hip Hop’s first bands.
It is always a chronological list, but, with most music the roots are deep in the slave culture of the south. Because, without blues or jazz, there is no rock or hip hop or rap or even country music. And, without these genres of music, we would not have a Billboard top 200 chart. Or, better yet, we wouldn’t have this blog.
So, in summation, Bob Dylan’s brand of lyric-heavy folk could certainly be considered a godfather. Someone who blessed the baby, but didn’t have a hand in raising it. But, the father and grandfather can be found in the African and Jamaican cultures of New York, and jazz/blues inspired by ancient African culture and the Mississippi culture in the 19th century. Wow, that was a mouthful.