The early origins of rap can be traced back to the African roots, centuries before hip hop music even existed. West African historians would tell stories rhythmically over drums and other various instruments becoming what mainstream musicians would refer to as spoken word artists.
From there, the tradition of storytelling carried over through the days of slavery where it was put to American beats and music to create the various genres we know and love today. Some forms of storytelling were influenced by religious music giving way to gospel while others paved the way for the blues and jazz.
Narrative poems became a musical format through which slaves could not only carry on their history but express their feelings and their plight. And, over a hundred years later, it became a form of street art used by the black community to define themselves and call back to their roots
From there, various forms of rap came into being including various types called “put-downs” which were used in activities like rap battles. Rap battles were battles of wits and words that strengthened the verbal repertoire of an artists and the culture as a whole.
If you’re about ready to immerse yourself in the genre, you can find lots of songs on the internet. If you have a television service provider like http://www.getdirecttv.org, they also have a specialized music channel devoted to the genre.