Largely regarded as one of Blondie’s best songs ‘Rapture’ is also often cited as being the first rap song thanks to Debbie Harry’s spoken word verses. Below, we’re taking a keener look at the track by revisiting Harry’s isolated vocals.
While the song obviously isn’t the first rap song, artists like Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Kurtis Blow had been rapping since the mid-’70s, and The Sugarhill Gang cracked the Hot 100 in 1979 with ‘Rapper’s Delight,’ but until ‘Rapture,’ rap music had never been a hit song.
Normally when we look back at Debbie Harry’s isolated vocals on Blondie songs we find ourselves searching for superlatives that match Harry’s ethereal tone. But on ‘Rapture’, while there are certainly dollops of angelic vocal performance, we get to hear the Blondie star at the cutting edge of music. Blondie were bringing rap music to the masses.
It might sound strange but for many classic rappers, the first rap they ever hear don the radio was Debbie Harry and Blondie on ‘Rapture’. Outside of New York, hip-hop was a small business. But Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie championed rap and got involved in the community, often attending block parties. The band even took Nile Rodgers to one such party, which is where he learned that his song ‘Good Times’ was a DJ favourite.
Of course, looking back at the lyrics for the rap that Harry and Stein wrote can make one feel a little squeamish. But, when compared to the kind of lyrics flying out of Brooklyn block parties at the time, they sound right on the money. With hip-hop in the embryonic stage of its development, everybody was trying to find their groove.
Blondie found theirs and sent ‘Rapture’ to the top of the charts. It would be one of their final chart-toppers until 199’s ‘Maria’. It found fame despite a few words that slipped the censors. Moments before the rap, if you listen carefully, you can hear the words “finger fucking,” though in most lyric sheets it is written as “finger-popping”.
The New York band have always managed to push the envelope musically, changing the punk sound to dominate the charts. But never have the band been pushed as close to the edge as on ‘Rapture’. Listen to Debbie Harry’s rap on the isolated vocal track of Blondie’s 1980 hit.
The video is pretty great viewing too: