The Origins of Rap Music
by "Matamoros" and Jonah Begone
Esteemed music historian Dr. Sonny Horton recently completed an extensive research project providing conclusive evidence that the origin of "Rap" music dates back to the Civil War. According to Dr. Horton, it began with the 5th U.S. Colored Troops, a Federal regiment composed of black soldiers.
While black soldiers proved themselves to be as gallant, brave and aggressive as the white soldiers, integration in the armed services was then in its infancy and the U.S. government initially disregarded these black troops. They were discriminated against in the way of lower pay and poor supplies, and the neglect often extended to include lack of a supply of cartridges (ammunition) for upcoming campaigns. One innovative soldier - Pvt. Otto "Skat Ice-T" Chambliss (nicknamed after a favorite regimental beverage) - suggested holding regimental cartridge rolling sessions the night before a major battle. These quickly became popular with the troops, and the wrapping of the paper cartridges was soon accompanied with chants and music meant to stir the patriotism and courage of the soldiers for the coming battle. Of course, the music became known as "Wrap music," and the process of chanting while rolling cartridges was known as "Wrapping."
An early wrap (possibly the creation of Pvt. Skat Ice-T himself!) comes down to us from an unpublished source:
We bad, we bad - las' night we wrapped!
(U can't touch this)
Bayonet is what dey get - what the heck? Right in de neck,
Shouting de Battle Cry of Freedom, etc.
(U can't touch this)
Dr. Horton explains the "U can't touch this" line by describing some of the more frenzied (or "wrapped up," as the condition was known) cartridge rollers punctuating stanzas of wrap songs by igniting some of the black powder and causing exciting, pyrotechnic flashes. Their white officers, concerned about safety, would yank the powder away from the more excitable wrappers and yell "Don't touch this!"
Dr. Horton served as a musical consultant for the recent film "Glory," and was involved in the planning of the song footage the evening before the ill-fated Union assault on Battery Wagner. Though Dr. Horton strongly urged the producers to accurately represent true camp life by showing the soldiers singing wrap music, the producers felt that Gospel songs would be more appropriate and appealing to the movie-going public.
Note: The above article is satire and didn't really happen. (This in the memory of a teenaged friend of mine who thought it was on the level.) "Matamoros" is the pen name of the fellow who wrote this article and ran it in his unit's newsletter (which I received). I thought it was so funny I added to it a bit and ran it in my own. The business about "U Can't Touch This" refers to a hit song of the time by M.C. Hammer, who performed in what looked like baggy Zouave trousers. - Jonah