Digging the Digital Crates: The Rude Boys of Hip-Hop
Updated: Jan 15, 2019
Throughout its history hip-hop has incorporated Jamaican culture and Jamaican speech patterns into its rhymes.
KRS-One is one of the earliest recorded examples of using patois in hip-hop prominently, and his Jamaican heritage and life in the Bronx (which has a large Jamaican population) directly manifested in his early music. Check "Sound of Da Police" (1993):
Busta Rhymes also frequently employs patois to highlight his Jamaican heritage. Check out his early work in Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario" (1991) [@3:15]
A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg also occasionally rapped in patois.
"Jazz (We've Got) Buggin' Out" (1991) [1:36]
Three years later, Biggie wove some of his Jamaican heritage into the hook of "Respect" (1994):
Skip forward five years and T.I.'s feature of Jamaican artist Beenie Man in his 2001 track "I'm Serious" added some Jamaican flavor to his new southern style (@0:56):
The New York underground group Das Racist went after the prominence of patois in hip-hop with their famous track (in the underground) "Fake Patois" (2010):
And more recently, Kendrick adopted some patois in his 2017 guest verse to Rapsody's "Power" (@3:51)
Why is patois so important and prominent throughout hip-hop history? Firstly, hip-hop's national heritage has strong Jamaican roots. Early hip-hoppers came from the prominent Jamaican communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and the other boroughs of New York, and if they didn't directly have Jamaican heritage, they more likely than not knew someone who did.
Secondly, hip-hop's sonic and lyrical properties can be traced to Jamaica. The dancehall tradition highlighted the lower frequencies (i.e. bass) in Jamaican music, and early hip-hop innovators like DJ Kool Herc grew up listening to these massive walls of sound. Rapping's tradition is also at least slightly inflected by Jamaica's toasting tradition, a verbo-musical event in which DJ's would rhyme and talk over a thumping rhythm. Although, as Das Racist points out, some of hip-hop's appropriation of Jamaican musical style is contrived, Jamaican dancehall music and toasting is a major influence on hip-hop's aesthetics and dissemination over the years.