Rent party

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A rent party (sometimes called a house party) is a social occasion where tenants hire a musician or band to play and pass the hat to raise money to pay their rent, originating in Harlem during the 1920s.[1][2] The rent party played a major role in the development of jazz and blues music. The Oxford English Dictionary states that the term skiffle means "rent party", indicating the informality of the occasion. Thus, the word became associated with informal music. However, many notable jazz musicians are associated with rent parties, including pianists Speckled Red, James P. Johnson, Willie "the Lion" Smith, and Fats Waller, although rent parties also featured bands as well. The OED also gives boogie as a term for rent party.

Rent parties were often the location of so-called cutting contests, which involves jazz pianists taking turns at the piano, attempting to out-do each other.

The band Steely Dan's 2009 tour of the United States was named the "Rent Party 09" tour.

Cultural Appearances[edit]

In their late December 2014 album "Globalization", Pitbull and Ne-Yo published their song "Time of Our Lives," the topic of which is a "rent party" held because the protagonist of the song, Ne-Yo, has not paid his rent in two months and needs help paying it. [3]


  1. ^ Harlem Rent Parties, (The Library of Congress excerpt)
  2. ^ Ted Gioia, The History of Jazz, 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2011), chapter 4 Harlem
  3. ^ YouTube (December 25, 2014). "Pitbull, Ne-Yo - Time of Our Lives [Youtube Video]". YouTube. Pitbull; 2014 RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. Retrieved August 1, 2015.