By Camryn H, FaDima K, Vashti R, and Sequoia S
Origins of MC
An emcee or MC is someone who controls or hosts a crowd at a formal or public event. Since the 1970s, the term MC has been associated with hip-hop culture as a vocalist who rhymes over a music sample, scratching, or a mix provided by a DJ. As hip-hop began in New York, the DJ was the main attraction and the MC was essentially a hype man who grew the crowd’s excitement for the DJ and announced upcoming performers. Despite these roles, the MC almost always had to get permission from the DJ to speak or rap during an event.
As hip-hop evolved, the role of the MC also evolved. MCs were given more freedom on the microphone, which opened opportunities for more creativity during events and performances. Along with this, new meanings for MC such as, “Microphone Controller”, “Move the Crowd”, “Music Commentator”, and “Mic Checka” emerged. When “Rapper’s Delight” dropped in 1979, the MC was the main focus, this was a major shift for hip-hop, placing the focus on the vocalists or MCs instead of the DJ behind the music.
The title of MC has progressed and is now considered to be a term of distinction for having a high level of performance skill. For example, many followers of hip-hop culture consider James Brown to be the first MC due to his influence on many rappers’ lyrics, flow, and dance moves. The title has been included in several stage names, including MC Hammer, MC Shan, MC Lyte, MC Ren, MC Breed, Young MC, and many more.
Differentiation of MCs and Rappers
Today in hip-hop culture, differentiations between MCs and rappers are often made. MCs are more traditional associations with hip-hop and are connected with the early ideas of breakdancing, graffiti, and DJing. Rappers are viewed as an artist who aligns and follows the demands of trends and popular culture. Both are considered an element of hip-hip, but both have varying depths of skill and artistry.
“A rapper is to an emcee what an average street fighter is to a trained martial artist. They are both fighters but the degree and depth of their skill is very different.”
MC battles also called rap battles, is a competition between two MCs who improvise lyrics or have written lyrics to insult each other. It is commonly held in leagues such as King of the Dot and Ultimate Rap League. In the battles, there is a lot of bragging content combined with insults and disses. A lot of MCs started out writing mostly battle raps and battling other MCs before they began making battle raps. Battling is believed to have originated in the East Coast Hip Hop scene. The first and most famous recorded MC battle to date was in December 1982 when Kool Moe Dee challenged Busy Bee Starski.
Abe, D. (2013, December 26). MC/Master of Ceremonies (Emcee). BlackPast.org. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/mc-emcee-master-ceremonies/