Ray Charles - "Rap is not music"

I agree with Ray Charles.





Rap to me is poetry to rhythms with little if any harmony, so IMO, I agree with Ray, but does it matter what category it's in? 

I don't agree with Ray Charles. Why people feel the need to insult music they don't happen to care for and the people who like it is beyond me. 

Music does not have to have melody. A melody is just a part of it that isn't critical at all. Maybe for some listeners melody is critical, but for many isn't.

Rap whether it's music or not is a form of art. Opinion of Ray Charles is just an opinion and even sometimes cigar is just a cigar.

There is one song on Lucinda Williams’ West album that I consider Rap: the just-over nine minute "Wrap (ha ;-) My Head Around That". Melody-free, but it still works for me. Hey, I'm a poet ;-) .

What can I say? Sure, let a thousand flowers bloom, but it is genuinely rare when I enjoy hip-hop or rap. To me it's mostly just Boom Boom Thud, Boom Boom Thud. Maybe on the car radio...

So in the 80’s, Blondie did a tune called Rapture where she goes into a rap.  What would you call that??

Miles and miles of ignorance here.  
Jeez Louise.  
So one guy (The great Ray Charles) said something, so, there ya go.  
Glomming on to something one guy said as though the Gospel was written.  
There seems to be a lot of that on this forum.  

Define, “music.”

I’ll happily let the Masters of Music here deign to provide us ignoramuses with the Definition Of Music.

“Ray Charles - "Rap is not music"”

You don’t say! I guess that settles it.


Didn’t Bach say that same thing  about Elvis ?  Schoenberg about Pink Floyd?

The actual quote is: "“You have to remember I’m a musician,” said the singer-keyboardist who back in the ‘50s did as much as anyone to pry open the body of American pop and inject it with soul. “So rap doesn’t do anything for me; I can’t learn anything from it. Rap is like reciting poetry--I could do that when I was 7. All you have to do is match (the words) with the rhythm. That’s nothing. That’s [expletive]." 

Who gives a crap what Ray Charles thinks or says? He was one musician who's prime was 25 years before the advent of rap. And he was an old fart when he gave that interview. You go ahead and shake your fist at the changing world. 

And no, you couldn't "recite poetry" when you were 7. You could say the words but you need a lot of experience to know how to really recite a poem.

@simao - Your rant against Ray Charles makes me think you've been listening to too much rap.  Try something else for a while and your mood should improve.


It's cool to see that you're passionate about music, and everyone has their own opinion on what they consider to be music. Ray Charles was a legendary musician and his opinion on rap is totally valid. However, I do think it's important to recognize that music is subjective and means different things to different people. Rap has become a hugely popular genre over the years and has had a major impact on music and culture. So while it might not be Ray Charles' cup of tea, there are plenty of people who love it and consider it to be music.

I LOVE Ray Charles…well, some of his music except for the shameless, over orchestrated covers but hey, he had to make a living.

I don’t take financial advice from Ray Charles.

I don’t take marital advice from Ray Charles.

I don’t take advice from Mr. Charles on virtually any topic other than “here is how I kicked heroin”.


Mr. Charles, if he was alive today, would be begging Kendrick Lamar or Anderson .Pak to record with them. Heck, for the last 20 years of his career, Sinatra could have been classified as a rapper. Leonard Cohen had a quarter-octave vocal range on a good day so he could be classified as a rapper.


Some people here need to add the following phrase to their tombstones “Get off my lawn”

There seems to be an awful lot of energy on this site devoted to criticizing rap. Ray is entitled to his opinion and is a fabulous musician. It doesn't make him right. Howzabout we lay off rap for a while guys?

It’s not up for debate. Whether one likes it is their business, but asserting it’s “not even music” vaporizes one’s credibility.  
If someone has actually listened to rap at all over the past 40-odd years, they would note that rap has,
1) these things called “chords.”  
“Chords,” by definition, is harmony.  
2) the songs have this thing called, “melody.”  
That would be the part of the song where a defined, composed, repeated sequence of tones/notes occurs.  
3) vocal melodies defining those integral parts of pop songs called, “choruses.”
4) counter melodies supplied by supplementary (background) vocal arrangements and/or instrumental arrangements.  
5) percussion arrangements.  
6) songs composed and structured with intros, verses, choruses, bridges, outros, etc. etc.

Last time I checked, aural phenomena that contains all of the above, simultaneously (and even only a few of the above, in concert) is what people call, “music.”

Talented and smart people say dumb things, and it’s dumb to agree with something dumb.

Rap is an acknowledged art form. It has millions of people who love it, buy it, celebrate it. Continuing to deny that it is art sounds, well, pretty ill-motivated.

I don’t like rap. I don’t listen to rap.

I don’t like twelve-tone music. I don’t listen to it.

I don’t like a lot of things. But they don’t get bumped from existence because I don’t like them. Or because Ray Charles or someone else doesn’t like them. Make an argument if you don’t want to appear lazy.

Oh, and trumpeting your mere dislike of rap -- as a thread starter -- is not a great look. 

Let's just say the correct spelling starts with a "C". Let's be honest. It's just boring mono tones delivered in an aggressive manner and set to a boring backbround noise. All you need is a low level boom box noise machine and you're set to go. Who ever thought it was music? If you want poetry, you'd be better off with Pam Ayres. LOL

Rap is not something I care for, neither is hip-hop, but I get why some would love it. As an example, at 68, I have totally fallen for electronic music this past year, specially French and Danish, like High Tone, Zenzile, Danton Eepron, Jacob Bellens, Kasper Bjork, Air, William Orbitt, Boris Blank, WhoMadeWho, Alex Gopher, Yello, the list is endless. I understand the folks who are comfortable listening to what they know, but I could never live with my music like that. There is so much new stuff out there that knocks my socks off, I would be crazy for not wanting to discover it. The world of music never stops amazing me.

I posted something along this line on Reddit.  I believe I even qualified it with IMHO.  It was deleted as not meeting their karma thrshold.

Who ever thought it was music? Millions and millions of people all over the world who can appreciate it even if you don't. 

ray oughta know. i trust his judgment more than many others on these matters, more even than quincy jones who happens to love rap. 

Just because millions and millions of people all over the world appreciate it doesn't doesn't necessarily mean it is music.

@pedroeb “Who ever thought (rap) was music?”

Oy vey.

I’m all ears for your definition of “music.”  
If it ain’t music, what the hell is it?  

@tomcy6 Nah. I prefer to keep listening and appreciating lots of different types of music, including rap and Ray Charles (on occasion).

@pedroeb Okay, desperately-trying-to-stay-relevant cultural gatekeeper.

@emrofsemanon No, Quincy doesn’t hafta know. He’s one artist who never even dabbled in the art form he criticized, unlike Quincy Jones.

Finally, @jond Good call. Rap seems to be this group’s favorite genre to trash, though doing so usually reveals a level of being out-of-touch with a zeitgeist that's passed many by

My mistake. (I refuse to say my bad.) It is music. It's just not musical. Which is probably what Ray Charles was considering,

i don't care for the anapestic beat in much rap music, it makes me feel tense. dr. john diamond wrote a book about the health dangers of the anapestic beat in a book called "your body doesn't lie." 

And anapestic beats are in everything including Shel Silverstein, Shakespeare, and KRS-1. I'll take those guys over an obscure 20th century holistic physician. 

Buy an older copy of Winter in America- preferred copy is Strata-East but the cheapie is a UK issue called The Bottle. Gil Scott Heron and Brian Jackson (on the Rhodes piano). It’s somewhat political (and interestingly not dated despite that) and has amazing melodic lines. Jackson’s piano is gorgeous, something I rarely use to describe that chime-y sound characteristic of the Rhodes. This was in some ways the spiritual ancestor to what we now call rap or hip-hop or Neo-soul. It is poetry, spoken word and the music is gorgeous.

@pedroeb what do you mean by, “ (rap) is not ‘musical’ “??  
Do you mean you just don’t enjoy it?

Tired post that has been done several times over.

If you want to whine about a genre, you could have added your words to an existing post. No need to start yet another.

I have broad, eclectic tastes in music. Rap is not a big favorite, but the millions of people who really enjoy it, have a right to their opinion and don't need judgement from stuffy, closed-minded individuals.

Enjoy the music... whatever floats your boat. 

Jeeze Louise who cares. 

I'm way more on Ray Charles's opinion than maybe he is, 

but it really doesn't matter. Just change the channel. 


But....if you're talking about the desecration of a race due to culture, then that's different. And yes, it's real. But any who prefer to cry more than create, you will understand as you get older. 

Socrates would say that whether "rap" is music is a question of definition, not of taste. For example, I hate James Taylor, but would never deny that what he does is music. And yet, in American usage, even before Webster's Third New International (1961), the third of seven definitions of music has been "any rhythmic sequence of pleasing sounds." By that standard, whether rap is music DOES depend on whether we happen to find it pleasing, which makes the question subjective after all! Likely this means "intended to be pleasing," not necessarily "found to be pleasing." And yet!  Not a question to be trifled with, at least if you are a philosopher or lexicographer or both.

The easiest thing to have online is an opinion.

So here‘s mine: To me whatever Sting did in the last 40 years barely qualifies as music. It doesn’t do anything for me; I can’t learn anything from it. His post-Police stuff is either boring or masturbatory noodling--I could do that when I was 7. All you have to do is learn your instrument well and forget all about putting your heart in it. That’s nothing. That’s [expletive].

But that‘s just me.

Please discuss.

Once again, if you think this definition defines rap, be my guest.





  1. The art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.
  2. Vocal or instrumental sounds possessing a degree of melody, harmony, or rhythm.
  3. A musical composition.         

Honest Question. Why is it insulting to consider Rap poetry instesd of music? As others have posted, many non Rap artist have used spoken word, I considered most Dylan to be poetry.

Okay, so Ray got up one fine morning, took a peek out the window, then retrieved the current copy of Billboard magazine from the mailbox and returned to his most favorite chair with a nice cup of coffee. It was then he discovered the growing popularity of rap on the charts and the reality of his waining career.

Then ... what’s that?! Oooohhh ....


@audiovideonirvana Wow. That really added to the sophistication level of the conversation. Sorry to be snarky, but adolescent quips like that don't strengthen your argument much 

@shutupuface Yes, rap does fit those criteria. It’s not just a voice and a background rhythm, as much as people might want to reduce it as such. It's like saying all of Dvorak is atonal, no-tune self indulgence or all of Paul Winter is cheesy wanna-be world music. 

@davedead Another grumpy old man railing against an art form he doesn’t understand. It’s also slightly hypocritical as many critics decried the Dead as aimless amateur noodling.

@simao Seems over the years the many critics have been proven wrong. BTW...your ageism is showing.

@davedead It is what it is. And as a Deadhead myself, I can call out generational blindness when I see it. 

@simao Ok, but I certainly find it difficult to imagine that Jerry had an intellectual blindness to any genre of music.

@simao: “Adolescent.” That’s one of the nicest things anybody’s ever said to this old geezer.

I listened to a Rap station this morning on ride in and I apologize for the no harmony comment in my first post. Most did have some form of harmony,  even if it was only a one cord song with no changes.