Tuesday, May 21, 2019

early white rap (reupdated May 24)

(in rough chronological order, songs by honkies that either include a rap section or are wholly rapped)

(this is borderline - white boy funk sprechstimme edging into proper rapping - but given "This Is Radio Clash" later in the sequence I'm letting the Clash have fifth place)

edge cases

The Fall (the white (c)rap that talks back; although when Mark E sez "Crap Rap" he's talking about speed-rapping i think

John Cooper Clarke  (especially "Evidently Chickentown")

Bow Wow Wow "C30 C60 C90 Go!" - one of the verses on this is very close to rap , but most of this song floats around in a zone between playground chant / skipping rhyme, highly percussive singing, pop-punk, and early rock'n'roll in that Bo Diddley / "Iko Iko" mode. Ironically this came out well before McLaren was taken to the Bronx (when Bow Wow were making their NYC debut I believe) and exposed to hip hop, scratching, Bambaataa etc, resulting in his own early bid for white rap godhead with "Buffalo Gals".

And various offerings by Ian Dury but mostly "Reasons To Be Cheerful" which he himself claimed was the first rap song (half-jesting, half-serious) and which came out in July 1979.

So maybe Dury wins it, with Ari Up coming sort of second for the actually-inspired-by-hearing-rap-records-while-in-NYC, but really-a-bit-too-screamy-and-counter-groove-to-really-be-rap "In the Beginning there Was Rhythm" (March 1980)  and David Byrne coming second-equal for the more tightly rhythmic if stiff-necked WASP-y "facts are twisting the truth around" section of "Cross Eyed" (off Remain In Light, winter 1980) .

the boring historically correct answer

apparently Los Angeles rap sextet Rappers Rapp Group - in operation from the late Seventies -  had a white member, DJ Flash - but they are barely known and have a shit name so I am going to say that the majority-blackness cancels out the honkiness. They also did not get anything on wax until 1982.

stop press 5/22/19

Andrew Parker points out that the first rappers were actually Vikings - and rap then was called "flyting" or "fliting" - "a contest consisting of the exchange of insults, often conducted in verse, between two parties."

via Wiki:

"Flyting is a ritual, poetic exchange of insults practised mainly between the 5th and 16th centuries. The root is the Old English word flītan meaning quarrel. Examples of flyting are found throughout Norse, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval literature involving both historical and mythological figures. The exchanges would become extremely provocative, often involving accusations of cowardice or sexual perversion....

.... In Anglo-Saxon England, flyting would take place in a feasting hall. The winner would be decided by the reactions of those watching the exchange. The winner would drink a large cup of beer or mead in victory, then invite the loser to drink as well.

"... Flyting became public entertainment in Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries, when makars would engage in verbal contests of provocative, often sexual and scatological but highly poetic abuse.

"... Flytings appear in several of William Shakespeare's plays. Margaret Galway analysed 13 comic flytings and several other ritual exchanges in the tragedies."

Or was it the Ancients?

"Hilary Mackie has detected in the Iliad a consistent differentiation between representations in Greek of Achaean and Trojan speech, where Achaeans repeatedly engage in public, ritualized abuse: "Achaeans are proficient at blame, while Trojans perform praise poetry."

Or the Eskimos?

"Taunting songs are present in the Inuit culture..."

The comparison with rap is made by Wiki person:

"Flyting is similar in both form and function to the modern practice of freestyle battles between rappers and the historic practice of the Dozens, a verbal-combat game representing a synthesis of flyting and its Early Modern English descendants with comparable African verbal-combat games such as Ikocha Nkocha.:

There is also a Finnish tradition called kilpalaulanta - duel singing.


And from the comments, Russ Tuffery suggests

Unlike the other examples where there's an earnest attempt to actually rap and do it proper, this is a spoof - a deliberate failing of rap. The dude impersonating Alan Whicker (TV broadcaster with a nasal droning voice famous for his globe-trotting series Whicker's World) is playing up stiff-necked English-have-no-rhythm stereotypes.

And Fernando Ramirez Ruiz nominates 'Der Kommisar' by Falco - which is indeed a bit of white rapping.

C.f. "Rock Me Amadeus" which is less rap and more what I'd call "funkytalk" - along the lines of  Faith No More's "Epic" and Cameo's "Word Up"

CJ points out that I somehow forgot to include Wham!, mentioning "Young Guns Go For It" - but I believe "Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do?") predates it  - both from 1982

stop press reupdate May 24

Russ Tuffery returns to point out that Nick Heyward essays a fey bit o' rappin at 2.21 in "Favorite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)" by Haircut 100

Is this rap or just someone trying to do a bad honky imitation of James Brown?

And I forgot this contender - argued by Chuck Eddy to be de facto rap even before Run DMC teamed up with them

i think it's more like raunchy white-bluesy sprechstimme to be honest


  1. Wot no Wikka Rap?


  2. Der Komissar, #1 in Germany, France, Japan... around 81- 82


  3. Thanks for posting the Wham! vids. Very enjoyable. Pity I was a 15-year-old Pink Floyd fan at the time. I note now that Young Guns Go For It has a self-referential line ("Hi George, meet my fiancé"). I collect these. Another e.g. is Human League's Love Action ("This is Phil talking"). Back on topic: There's a brief rap in Haircut 100's Boy Meets Girl.

  4. oh right i shall have to check out the H100 - "Favorite Shirt", you mean?

    there's probably a bunch of other tunes of that era that have white raps or semi-raps in them - it was the age of everyone trying to be funky and do the Nile Rodgers rhythm gtr and slap-bass. Quite a lot of borderline tunes in the speak-sing "funkytalk" mode.

    oh that's reminded me another one, "What's Funk?" by Perry Haines, the manager of pretty awful Britfunk outfit Stimulin. I think that is actually rapped, or kind of rapped.