Rapture by Blondie: The Song That Brought Rap to the Mainstream

by Alex Harris

29th March, 2024

Rapture by Blondie: The Song That Brought Rap to the Mainstream

In the summer of 1980, a quirky song blending new wave and rap took the world by storm. Rapture by Blondie was a bold musical experiment that opened the door for rap’s mainstream acceptance. At the time, hip-hop was still an underground phenomenon bubbling up from the streets of New York City. But Blondie saw the raw energy and creativity of this new artform and decided to incorporate it into their trademark fusion of styles.

The Origins

Blondie was the quintessential New York band in the late 70s – artsy, irreverent, and always exploring new sounds. Lead singer Debbie Harry was a downtown socialite, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fab 5 Freddy, and other pioneers of hip-hop culture. The band had already fused punk, disco, reggae, and pop on previous albums. But it was their immersion in the block parties and park jams of the burgeoning hip-hop scene that planted the seed for Rapture.

According to Clem Burke, Blondie’s drummer, the song grew out of a rap Harry started doing at rehearsals, mimicking the cadences of the MCs they had seen perform. Chris Stein, the guitarist, laid down a funky new wave groove inspired by Chic’s “Good Times” – the same bassline that Grandmaster Flash famously appropriated for “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Planet Rock.” And just like that, genres melded.

The Lyrics: A Stream-of-Consciousness Collage

If the music defied categories, the lyrics were even more eclectic and absurd. Rapture is essentially a stream-of-consciousness collage, leaping from imagery of New York street life (“Reverend Run the son of a Gun”) to bizarre non-sequiturs (“The Man from Mars ate a car and crashed his face”).

The extended rap section namechecks hip-hop luminaries like Fab 5 Freddy and Grandmaster Flash while invoking exotic imagery – “A study whuddee hoodee hud.” It all somehow gels into an intoxicating, almost surrealist portrait of late 70s New York filtered through Blondie’s arty, downtown lens.

Mainstreaming Hip-Hop

While its lyrical pastiche of styles may seem campy by today’s standards, Blondie deployed rap on Rapture with surprising authenticity. Harry’s vocal delivery captured the bounce and cadence of old school hip-hop. And the video featured Fab 5 Freddy, Basquiat and graffiti breaking out in the background – street culture literally infiltrating the mainstream.

Blondie faced backlash in some quarters for appropriating black musical forms. But the band always celebrated their encyclopaedic influences, from Motown to punk to reggae. And in giving mass exposure to rap for the first time, they undoubtedly helped bring the genre’s seismic impact to a wider audience.

An Enduring Legacy

Rapture was a massive hit, topping charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Its unique fusion of retro futurism, punk attitude, and old-school flows proved massively influential. Everyone, from De La Soul to Missy Elliott, has paid homage to or sampled the song over the years. It opened the ears of millions to hip-hop’s revolutionary power.

More broadly, Rapture exemplified how Blondie embodied the cultural kaleidoscope of late-70s New York. At a time when the city was experiencing an incredible cross-pollination of styles, they absorbed and reinterpreted everything around them. In doing so, they produced one of the most impactful and original crossover hits in pop history—a song that still delights and surprises listeners 40 years later.

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Blondie Rapture Lyrics

Verse 1
Toe to toe, dancing very close
Barely breathing, almost comatose
Wall to wall, people hypnotized
And they’re stepping lightly
Hang each night in rapture

Verse 2
Back to back, sacroiliac
Spineless movement and a wild attack
Face to face, sightless solitude
And it’s finger popping
24-hour shopping in rapture

Rap 1
Fab 5 Freddy told me everybody’s fly
DJ spinnin’ I said, “My My”
Flash is fast, Flash is cool
France Soir c’est pas Flash et Nous Deux
François c’est pas, Flash ain’t no dude
And you don’t stop, sure shot
Go out to the parking lot
And you get in your car and drive real far
And you drive all night and then you see a light
And it comes right down and it lands on the ground
And out comes a man from Mars
And you try to run but he’s got a gun
And he shoots you dead and he eats your head
And then you’re in the man from Mars
You go out at night eatin’ cars
You eat Cadillacs, Lincolns too
Mercurys and Subaru
And you don’t stop, you keep on eatin’ cars
Then, when there’s no more cars you go out at night
And eat up bars where the people meet
Face to face, dance cheek to cheek
One to one, man to man
Dance toe to toe, don’t move too slow
‘Cause the man from Mars is through with cars
He’s eatin’ bars, yeah wall to wall
Door to door, hall to hall
He’s gonna eat ’em all
Rap-ture, be pure
Take a tour through the sewer
Don’t strain your brain, paint a train
You’ll be singin’ in the rain
Said don’t stop to punk rock

Verse 3
Man to man, body muscular
Seismic decibel, bite the jugular
Wall to wall, tea time technology
And a digital ladder
No sign of bad luck in rapture

Rap 2
Well now you see what you wanna be
Just have your party on TV
‘Cause the man from Mars
Won’t eat up bars where the TV’s on
Now he’s gone back up to space
Where he won’t have a hassle with the human race
And you hip-hop, and you don’t stop
Just blast off, sure shot
‘Cause the man from Mars stopped eatin’ cars
And eatin’ bars and now he only eats guitars, get up

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