Decades before hip hop became a dominant commercial force that took over pop culture around the world, it was just a culture that existed on the fringes of music.
Back in the late 70s – just before the Sugarhill Gang had put out the first rap hit single with “Rapper’s Delight” and way before Run-D.M.C. had cemented hip hop as a viable artform – Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of the new wave band Blondie were visiting their friend Fab 5 Freddy who took them to the Bronx.
“At the time, Chris [Stein] and I lived together on 17th Street,” Debbie recalled in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “We were friends with artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and ‘Fab 5 Freddy’ Brathwaite. Freddy was a graffiti artist, DJ and filmmaker who knew MCs in the Bronx and Brooklyn. They were spinning records at events and developing a new form of music called rap.”
It was there that the Blondie members got to witness this exciting new genre of music where masters of ceremonies were rhyming over the breakbeats of classic disco, funk and soul records. Inspired by what they saw in the Bronx, Debbie and Chris decided to create their own rap song. This was how the song “Rapture” was born.
Featured on the band’s fifth album, Autoamerican, released on November 26, 1980, “Rapture” was the second single off the project and became a huge commercial sucecss. The single spent two weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 and was the first number one hit in music history to feature rap vocals.
Debbie Harry: I wasn’t trying to be black or a Bronx rapper. It was an homage to what I saw and to a form that was exciting for us. We treated it with respect and handled it in our own way. Looking back, we probably should have worked on it a bit more. It’s a little sing-songy and childlike. But the song has evolved in performance. I feel it differently now and try to be a little more ad-libby.The Rap in Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ | The Wall Street Journal