This brief chronicle of harmony in rap music is inspired by the buzz over the recent wave of ATL trap crooners like Future and Rich Homie Quan (and many others). They’ve been rightly lauded for injecting their hood homilies with a kind of vocal whimsy. Their innovations are real, if not necessarily new.
You can go all the way back to the beginning of rap records in 1979 to find groups, such as the Furious Five, that incorporated harmony into their songs. Drake and Nicki Minaj weren’t the first pop-R&B singer/rappers; before them came Andre 3000 of Outkast, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Queen Latifah. Kid Cudi’s trippy, lonely stoner melodies have roots in the loopy B-boy-isms of Slick Rick. And if you look past the king of Auto-Tune, T-Pain, as well as Kanye West’s [808s & Heartbreak], you’ll find both Snoop Dogg and Gorilla Zoe putting a gangsta spin on the much-maligned vocal-processing technology years ago. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it gives a broad picture of how hip-hop’s past continues to inform the present -- and Future.