Is there some connection between the talking blues of the sixties (e.g. Dylan Subterranean Homesick Blues) and its folkier predecessors such as Guthrie and Leadbelly and the rap and hip hop lyrics?

I feel that there's a unique element of "talking rhythmically" connecting them and I wonder if anyone on those scenes ever explicitly recognized, or some musical scholar wrote about it or whether it's just due to the shared distant root in blues and African music.

3 Answers 3


It's tempting to see a connection, but there's little evidence for it. While both, as you mention, may share distant ancestry in the oral traditions of West African --the famous poetic histories of the griots, performed with the accompaniment of drums --they are otherwise unrelated branches of the same tree. The talking blues traces most directly to Chris Bouchillon, a white country musician and comedian who is said to have innovated the style because he couldn't sing. Many of his lyrics, however, were borrowed/stolen directly from the Black folk music of the time. From there the style was adopted by Guthrie, and then Dylan.

The young hip-hop pioneers of the early 80s weren't, by in large, listening to Dylan, however, and certainly not his deeper cuts like "Subterranean Homesick Blues." Instead, they were taking inspiration from the Jamaican tradition of "toasting" over a beat, novelty records like Black comedian Pigmeat Markham's "Here Comes The Judge," and Black spoken word artists like the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron. (While Scott-Heron was often compared to Dylan, and was certainly aware of his work, he explicitly denied any direct influence.)

To put it another way, there's a long line of Black spoken-word with musical accompaniment that predates the talking blues lineage, and doesn't have any traceable debts to it. For that reason, there's no reason to look to the talking blues as anything more than an incidental predecessor to rap. If they have a familial resemblance, it's most likely due to their most recent common ancestor --early twentieth-century Black folk music. But then again, that source was the wellspring for nearly all twentieth-century American popular music styles.


The Talking Blues is African American not White, before it was labeled and stolen from Blacks by Whites as “Talking Blues” it existed well beforehand in African music in America. There is no distant root in the Blues and Africa. It’s very apparent; you just have to know where to look. Blues, R&B, Hip-Hop is more West Africa. Jazz however is Central/West Central Africa.

Additionally, Hip-Hop’s form is 100% Black American. It has nothing to do with Jamaica. It doesn’t even make sense when you understand the history, especially related to immigration. I am not sure why that distortion continues to exist but it needs to stop. Jamaican toasting is not the same as Black American toasting and you can hear toasting/rapping in Black American music in the late 1800s moving towards the 1900s. Comes from the dozens/aka roasting or clowning. No inspiration was needed from Jamaica, in fact it was the other way around; they didn’t even have one recording studio until the 50s. Everything ppl know and understand about the development of Jamaican music is backwards lol; Jamaican music outside of Mento is based on Black American music.

Their form of toasting was an attempt to mimic Jive Talk/DJs from Black American radio stations and it was very different, until the 80s when they learned/picked up again from Black Americans. If you listen to DJs like Jocko Henderson (other Black American DJs too, in addition to 1920s-30s music) you will hear how hip-hop came to be. DJs, toasting, the use of turntables, sound systems etc knowing how to use them all came from Black America. I mean the names, technology and equipment should clue people in.


DJ Kool Herc , one of the fathers of Hip Hop , is Jamaican American. It’s not even a matter of influence, it’s a direct connect . I agree about African American music influencing Jamaican music. There was a New Orleans radio station that could be heard all overthr Caribbean at night. But Jamaica also had Kumina/Pocomania, Nyabinghi, with direct Congo roots . US suppressed drum languages, rhythms came through but indirectly. Carribean music also US mainland stuff . Remember the Chalypso?

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