Inspired by a resurgence of interest in the history of hip-hop and rap, as well as documentaries and shows such as Netflix’s Hip-Hop Evolution and The Get Down produced by Nas, films like Straight Outta Compton, books such as The Rap Yearbook by Shea Serrano and Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang, articles like Complex’s “The Best Rapper Alive, Every Year Since 1979,” and graphic novels such as Hip-Hop Family Tree by Ed Pinskor, I decided to do a little digging of my own (if you couldn’t tell from the mini-source list compiled just right here).

The goal, originally, was to chronicle rap music, and put it all in one place. Create a literal “family tree” of rap—how did it start, who were the most significant artists, who influenced who, and where are we today? It was an immense project, and an incredibly ambitious rough design (below).

I thought maybe I would simplify things and start by making it legible. This lead to a computer program called Max by Cycling ’74 (something I used during my studies at NYU), and a poorly organized Google Sheet, where I compiled every big rap record since the birth of hip-hop in 1979, color-coded to match record-label, producer, hometown, and anything else that I could attribute to its significance in history and “ancestral” line.

The interactive graphic will one day (hopefully), see the light of day, but for now, I decided to hold off on making it look great, and just get all the history down in one place. I wanted to present the story as a timeline of events, where one could see the flow from one artist to the next and connect the inspirations and lineage towards their favorite rappers of today.

This living document, entitled “Rap 101,” will include a detailed account from year to year of the history of hip-hop/rap, represented with visuals, audio links, video footage, and commentary.

This is not just a simple retelling of the history of a musical genre and culture however, since here on the Roseandblog, I believe the greatest level of interaction stems from controversy. Therefore, each talked about segment will also include the argument for Rapper of the Year. Not who called themselves the “king of rap” (because then Jay-Z would technically be on top since 2001), and not who sold the most records or had the most fans, but who was the best rapper lyrically, technically, and most importantly, influentially.

If there’s anything more important to hip-hop history than the culture, it was who was the best and what made them the best, so I figured that there was no better way than simply deciding that very title each year to frame and guide my discussion over the course of hip-hop history. So, without further delay, class is in session.