The Bizarre History of Rap's Oldest Cliche | West Coast Sound | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

The Bizarre History of Rap's Oldest Cliche

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Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 3:55 AM
click to enlarge Dana Perino - YOUTUBE SCREENGRAB
We've all seen it: When non-rappers pretend to rap, they improvise a beat, make silly hand gestures, and then, for some reason, their rhyme begins this way:

"My name is ____ and I'm here to say..."
That's usually followed by something like  "I love _____ in a major way" or "I'm the ____est ______ in the U.S.A." 

This has become the default archetype for how people who don't listen to rap think raps start. Folks have been doing it since at least the '80s and it continues full steam, such as when former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino decided to diss Jay Z and the Obamas on Fox News (video below). 

But where did it come from?

In the mid-'70s, hip-hop's earliest days, before the genre had even been put to record, the most important thing for participants was to get their name out there. Whether literally tagging it on a wall or rocking the mic at a party, the key was to identify yourself.

This continued into the early days of recorded rap. From the bootlegs of the Cold Crush Brothers, Fearless Four and Treacherous Three routines circa '78, you have several instances of MCs beginning their rhymes with:

"I'm [their name] and I [some definitive character trait or signature action]" 

A year later, you have what is probably the most famous of these constructions, from "Rappers Delight":

"I am Wonder Mike and I'd like to say 'Hello.'"

Yet, in the entire annals of pioneer era hip-hop, the closest thing to the now ubiquitous cliche is on Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's 1980 single "Birthday Party." Says Melle Mel:

"Melle Mel and I'm here to say/ I was born on the 15th day of May."
That's it. There is no basis in hip-hop for the rash of faux rap that follows. But an answer may lie...

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