The Scots invented rap?


SCOTLAND takes justifiable pride in a history of invention that has given the world the telephone, television, radar, penicillin and even cloned sheep.

But now there are claims that the land of Burns and bagpipes is also the ancestral home of rap music.

Academics insist that the roots of the bombastic form of spoken-word music stem from the taverns of medieval Scotland rather than the mean streets of the Bronx and Brooklyn.

They claim the contemporary art of the rap battle, popularised by Eminem in the hit movie 8 Mile, is a direct descendant of the ancient Caledonian art of 'flyting', where feuding opponents settled scores by trading ever more elaborate insults.

According to the theory, Scottish slave owners took the tradition with them to the United States where it was adopted and developed by the slaves themselves, emerging many years later as rap.

American academic Professor Ferenc Szasz is convinced there is a clear link between the robust verbal feuds of old Scotland and the rap contests of the contemporary United States.

The historian from the University of New Mexico, who specialises in American and Scottish culture, said: "The Scots have a lengthy tradition of flyting: intense verbal jousting, often laced with vulgarity, that is similar to the dozens that one finds among contemporary inner-city African-American youth.

"Both cultures accord high marks to satire. The skilled use of satire takes this verbal jousting to its ultimate level – one step short of a fist fight. All words can sting, and hard ridicule such as mimicry, irony and sarcasm, stings most painfully. When used by an expert it can reduce an opponent to jelly."

The leading theory is that the traditional form of settling scores was taken across the Atlantic by Scottish colonialists who passed it on to African-American slaves who were working on their plantations.

Did the Scots also invent bragging?

Some have given the Scots credit for inventing the modern world too. They did make remarkable progress once the adopted the English culture they had resisted for so long.


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