By Charreah Jackson, GiantMag.com
The flyest outfit is laid out, the diamonds are glistening and the speech is ready for the big day. It’s the original MC’s time to shine. The preacher is ready for Easter Sunday.
In William Jelani Cobb’s latest book, “To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic” he makes clear the foundation of an MC’s way with words and keeping the crowd on it’s feet comes from the black reverend.
Though the church and rap seem like opposites, you have to admit it’s just as easy to be told to get up out your seat on a Sunday morning, as it is the Saturday night before. The “say ho” that Doug E. Fresh credits DJ Hollywood with starting, got it’s start
from “say hallelujah.”
The call and response in hip-hop is just one of the many attributes of the black preacher have been picked up by the MC, Cobb notes. He first noticed the connect reading a sermon Zora Neale Hurston copied down in her writing where she noted black preachers were the first artists. “That sermon reminded me of the way hip hop operates,” said the Queens-native, who witnessed the genre’s birth. “Hip hop has taken that verbal art form of call and response, clever alliteration and rhetoric and made it its own. You see it in talking about God as well as gangster rap”
In the book Cobb relates the “hooping” of preachers – don’t act like you don’t know about when they get deep in the sermon, start breathing heavy and the organist comes back to add some ad libs – to Bone Thugs’ N Harmony and Nelly’s style that almost sounds like singing.
It’s not a stretch to see the similarities of preachers and rappers without them even saying a word. Both are well dressed and embody what their audience thinks is the epitome of style – often identical looks as seen in the shiny cufflinks and flashy cars. The sacred becoming secular is no new phenomenon. The same happened with gospel leading to blues, Cobb points out.
“All black art starts in the church. We held on to the music and that form of sermonizing.” Like preacher’s kid Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and even Beyonce’ and Crew traveled back and forth from the secular to the sacred, the same is seen for the MC and the pulpit.
“A rapper can’t go back to the choir so he preaches. The same tools to deliver a good sermon are used in rap.”
So it’s no coincidence Reverend Run and Minister Mase made their way from the club to rocking the church – and back to the club for G-Unit’s Mase. The pulpit is where MCing got its start and people love to go home.