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Rapso is a form of Trinidadian music that grew out of the social unrest of the 1970s. It has been described as "de power of de word in the riddim of de word". Though often described as a fusion of native soca and calypso with American hip hop, rapso is uniquely Trinidadian.


Black Power and unions grew in the 1970s, and rapso grew along with them. The first recording was Blow Away by Lancelot Layne in 1970. Six years later, Cheryl Byron (founder of the New York City based Something Positive Dance Company) was scorned when she sang rapso at a calypso tent; she is now called the "Mother of Rapso".

Calypso influence on rap[edit]

The basic elements of hip-hop -- boasting raps, rival posses, uptown throwdowns, and political commentary -- were all present in Trinidadian music as long ago as the 1800s, though they did not reach the form of commercial recordings until the 1920s and 30s. Calypso -- like other forms of music -- continued to evolve through the 50s and 60s. When rock steady and reggae bands looked to make their music a form of national and even international Black resistance, they took Calypso's example. Calypso itself, like Jamaican music, moved back and forth between the predominance of boasting and toasting songs packed with 'slackness' and sexual innuendo and a more topical, political, 'conscious' style.


The term rapso was not invented until 1980, when the revolutionary Network Riddum Band with its two chantelles Brother Resistance and Brother Shortman released Busting Out. Initially dominated by the children of the Black Power movement, changes came in the 1990s with the younger artistes adopting the art form, most significantly the bands Kindred, Homefront, 3 Canal and Ataklan.