The impact that Debbie Harry and Blondie have had not only on the world of music but on culture as a whole is an incomparable creative whirlwind. The New Yorkers didn’t just bring punk to the masses, but they also help spread the word of rap music when their track ‘Rapture’ was, in fact, the first-ever rap single to top the charts in the US.
Before it’s release at the beginning of 1981, rap music was very much a sub-culture which was remained relatively unknown to the average American on the street. While there had been artists like Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and Kurtis Blow, who had been rapping since the mid-1970s, only The Sugarhill Gang cracked the Hot 100 in 1979 with ‘Rapper’s Delight’ as the genre continued to operate outside of the mainstream.
As New Yorkers, Blondie were au fait with what was going on in the world of hip-hop and, as one of the biggest acts in the world at the time, they were handed the opportunity to give the genre much-deserved publicity by adopting it for a classic track. It’s fair to say Harry’s ‘rap’ doesn’t quite cut it with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, but that’s because hip-hop was in a stage of early evolution during this period and was a different beast to what it is commonly recognised as today.
Admittedly, lot of the rap music is a cringe-worthy listen almost 40 years on, such as the line—”man from Mars eating cars”—but nevertheless, ‘Rapture’ was a groundbreaking moment that helped hip-hop reach the masses. The mantras of both hip-hop and punk share a wealth of similarities at their core so it should have been no surprise that Blondie felt a connection with the genre.
Speaking about the track to Entertainment Weekly, Harry noted: “A lot of rappers have told me over the years that that was the first rap song that they ever heard because rap really wasn’t on the radio in the beginning.”
“The most impressive was the Wu-Tang guys and the guys from Mobb Deep, they told us it was the first rap song they heard when they were kids,” drummer Chris Stein added. The founding member of the band then discussed how the track opened doors for him as the hip-hop community welcomed him with open arms and saw him work on the 1983 film Wild Style.
“It was so exciting to see this whole other world that was going on at the same time as what was going on downtown in New York, even though we were only vaguely aware of it,” Stein added. “It took a while for all that stuff to start coming together later on. It’s ironic what’s happened to New York now, especially in comparison to what was going on back then.”
Although the lyrics do sound a bit like they were written on the back of a fag packet, it is a great pop song that manages to invite countless people into the world of hip-hop for the first time and showed that Blondie were never ones to take the easy route.