What’s his contribution to hip-hop? The answer is an answer that’s long been debated.
In the 1980s, the hip-hop generation was shaped by the early-1990s work of pioneers like Biggie and the Wu-Tang Clan. When it comes to hip-hop culture, however, the roots run deeper.
That’s because the earliest recorded rap songs were written and recorded much earlier than any of those major figures. Even before the first rap was heard by humans on planet Earth more than 500 million years ago – when it probably existed.
According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the music that made rap as alive today can be found in the fossil record.
It’s been the subject of scholarly research for years, but last week the PNAS researchers published results that may finally have the answer.
The researchers looked at the fossil record of four species of giant salamanders, the group that includes whales, sharks and snakes. All of the four species belong to the Phanerozoa, long after the dinosaurs and their modern descendants.
When analyzing the genome of the Phanerozoa – large predators in the marine world – the investigators were able to recover a set of songs that the creatures themselves were writing more than 400,000 years ago. Researchers say that’s when the first rap songs emerged.
“Rap music is a product of evolution, but it’s also the product of the music industry,” study co-author Paul Hahn of the University of Oregon said in a statement. “It’s a way for humans to get together.”
Researchers were able to find tracks made by some of these four extinct predators, and found that they all share a common structure that made them all sound similar.
“We’re saying for the first time we have a DNA pattern that was already part of the music of these dinosaurs, and the way these tracks share these DNA molecules is very distinctive,” Hahn said.
The fact that rap has been around for thousands of years “is a really important piece of evidence.”
“We can say for the first time that modern rap has had a DNA footprint in its DNA since the first songs,” said study co-author Dan McComas (not pictured), a geophysicist at Brown University.
Hahn said it’s important to note that, for this study, rap had to be written and recorded before the “rap music industry” really sprang
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