Rapping can be delivered over a beat or without accompaniment. Stylistically, rap occupies a gray area between speech, prose, poetry, and singing. The word (meaning originally “to hit”) as used to describe quick speech or repartee predates the musical form. The word had been used in British English since the 16th century, and specifically meaning “to say” since the 18th. It was part of the African-American dialect of English in the 1960s meaning “to converse”, and very soon after that in its present usage as a term denoting the musical style. Today, the terms “rap” and “rapping” are so closely associated with hip-hop music that many use the terms interchangeably.
Rapping can be traced back to its African roots. Centuries before hip-hop music existed, the griots of West Africa were delivering stories rhythmically, over drums and sparse instrumentation. Such connections have been acknowledged by many modern artists, modern day “griots”, spoken word artists, mainstream news sources, and academics.