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Digging Up Rap’s Roots: How African Rhythms Birthed American Hip-Hop                     

While it’s generally acknowledged that hip-hop started in the Bronx about 50 years ago, there is a great deal of debate about whether its artistic origins stem from Africa. By studying the similarities between genres, an interesting question surfaces as to who influenced whom. Dating back to the 13th century, storytellers called “griots” existed in West African kingdoms and empires. Historically, griots have been highly skilled orators, poets, musicians, praise singers, and satirists who traveled around reciting the history of the empire with rhythm and repetition. This widely recognized oral tradition, some argue, could be considered the earliest manifestation of rap, laying the groundwork for the development of hip-hop.