The Birth of Rap: Straight Outta Norfolk

In Honor of 80-Plus Years of Hip-Hop Music?

Paco Taylor

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Okay, sure Blast-Master KRS-One. New York’s Boogie Down Bronx may be the birthplace of hip-hop music and all that. But some of its precious “blueprint” now appears to have come from the rough-n-rugged suburbs of Norfolk, Virginia.

That’s right, y’all: Norfork, Virginia.

It was in the Norfolk suburb of Berkley specifically where the legendary gospel music act known as the Golden Gate Quartet was formed back in the dirty 1930s. Negro spirituals were this crew’s specialty, but they were best known for rockin’ the mic with a trademark blend of toe-tapping gospel, marinated in the secular music styles of jazz, blues, pop, and even rap.

This was decades before rap music even had a name!

Even more remarkably, their 1937 de facto remix of Arthur Collin’s “Preacher and the Bear” may actually be the oldest and best-defined recorded example of the music style that would come to revolutionize music four decades later with the 1979 release of Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.”

In other words, party people, The Golden Gate Quartet is ground zero of the old-school.

Word to your mother’s uncle.

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Paco Taylor

Paco writes about Eastern & Western pop culture, history, and art. He has bylines at NeoText, Nextshark, G-Fan, CBR & Comics Beat | stpaco@gmail