Rapping refers to "spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics. The art form can be broken down into different components, as in the book How to Rap where it is separated intocontent, flow (rhythm and rhyme), and delivery. Rapping is a primary ingredient in hip hop music & reggae, but the phenomenon predates hip hop culture by centuries. Rapping can be delivered over a beat or without accompaniment. Stylistically, rap occupies a gray area among speech, prose, poetry, and song. The use of the word to describe quick speech or repartee long predates the musical form, meaning originally "to hit. The word had been used in British English since the 16th century, and specifically meaning "to say" since the 18th. It was part of the African American dialect of English in the 1960s meaning "to converse", and very soon after that in its present usage as a term denoting the musical style. Today, the terms "rap" and "rapping" are so closely associated with hip hop music that many use the terms interchangeably.
Rap etymologically means "fast read" or "spoke fast". It may be from a shortening of repartee.
MCs use many different rhyming techniques, including complex rhyme schemes, as Adam Krims points out – the complexity… involves multiple rhymes in the same rhyme complex (i.e. section with consistently rhyming words), internal rhymes, [and] offbeat rhymes. There is also widespread use of multisyllabic rhymes, by artists such as Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, and Eminem. It has been noted that raps use of rhyme is some of the most advanced in all forms of poetry – music scholar Adam Bradley notes, rap rhymes so much and with such variety that it is now the largest and richest contemporary archive of rhymed words. It has done more than any other art form in recent history to expand rhymes formal range and expressive possibilities. In the book How to Rap, Masta Ace explains how Rakim and Big Daddy Kane caused a shift in the way MCs rhymed: Up until Rakim, everybody who you heard rhyme, the last word in the sentence was the rhyming [word], the connection word. Then Rakim showed us that you could put rhymes within a rhyme… now here comes Big Daddy Kane instead of going three words, hes going multiple. How to Rap explains that "rhyme is often thought to be the most important factor in rap writing... rhyme is what gives rap lyrics their musicality.