Bleats Per Minute: A History of Fast Rap

“Fast Rap” is a useful term that didn’t exist until record collectors made it up. (The first time I heard it was through Edan’s 2001 mixtape Fast Rap.) When Big Daddy Kane rhymed boiling hot over ‘80s turntable gold like “Raw” and “Warm It Up Kane,” he simply employed a method to match the speed of his delivery with the furiously funky beats underneath him. He represented an era when producers like Marley Marl, the Bomb Squad, and Large Professor arranged soul and jazz samples into swinging, ever-quickening tempos, and East Coast rappers worked hard to keep up. From Main Source’s “Live at the BBQ” to A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Scenario,” these songs mark an era when demonstrating mic skills meant rapping with lung collapsing agility. – Mosi Reeves