Everybody wants to claim hip-hop. Africana scholars trace the music back to the griots who preserved oral tradition in the motherland. Some historians link rap artists to dub mechanics like Lee Perry, whose turntable antics inspired Kool Herc to kick-start hip-hop culture as we now know it in the South Bronx. I've even heard white folks call Bob Dylan the first MC. But the most obvious direct hip-hop influence — at least as far as attitude and lyrics go — is the rebel blues culture that blossomed in the Mississippi Delta through the first half of the last century.
The Roots of Hip-Hop, though hardly an exhaustive effort, does a commendable job of reaching deeper than tracks by the oft-cited rap god and spoken-word genius Gil Scott-Heron to demonstrate that regardless of the precise place and moment that spawned boom-bap, at the genre's heart is a desire to speak without boundaries — whether about sex, politics, oppression, or, in the case of the Famous Hokum Boys, drunkenly mangling a woman's reproductive organs.
Anyone looking for a full-circle metaphor should be sure to check the Soul Stirrers' "Why I Like Roosevelt" — clear parallels can be drawn to the countless Obama tributes recorded by white rappers.