The Jubalaires Were Doing Gospel Rap Back in the 1940s

The Universal Hip-Hop Museum in the Bronx, NY features displays, memorabilia, art, and exhibits that thoughtfully and educationally piece together the rich history of Hip-Hop. In a recent interview with the museum’s curator, Claude “Paradise” Gray, he admitted that rap music’s roots can be traced back to a gospel group in the 1940s named the Jubalaires.

The story, found on CityLab, cites the Jubalaires, along with, The Last Poets, The Watts Prophets, Moms Mabley, Pigmeat Markham, and Muhammad Ali as just a few of the biggest influences on the creation of hip-hop.

When referencing the Jubalaires, Gray says, “They were a Christian gospel group that sang and rapped with almost the same cadence as the Sugar Hill Gang.”

Upon further investigation of this group, the Jubalaires consisted of Orville Brooks, Ted Brooks, Caleb Ginyard, George McFadden, and later on Willie Johnson. They were all active primarily through the 1940s and 50s and sang American Folk and Gospel Spirituals.

The four-piece would harmonize together in what was known as the jubilee style of singing, and would often incorporate rhythmic speaking or singing in their verses (rap). Obviously, back then it was not called rapping, but their style certainly can be credited as one of the earliest consistent forms of it in music.

Some of the Jubalaires most well-known songs include “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” “Noah,” “The Preacher and the Bear,” and “God Almighty’s Gonna Cut You Down/Go Down Moses,” which was later popularized by the late Johnny Cash.

Check out some of the group’s music below:

Read the full interview with Gray on CityLab here. H/T Hadji Williams







Justin Sarachik

Written by Justin Sarachik

Justin is the Editor-in-Chief of Rapzilla.com. He has been a journalist for over a decade and has written or edited for Relevant, Christian Post, BREATHEcast, CCM, Broken Records Magazine, & more. He also likes to work with indie artists to develop their brands & marketing strategies. Catch him interviewing artists on Survival of the Artist Podcast.

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