Okay, what’s the most famous rap song of all time? Would it be one performed by Christopher Wallace, aka “Notorious B.I.G.” aka “Biggie Smalls”? What about rap songs by Tupac Shakur? Hello, was that Curtis Blow? What about that bash from Grand Master Flash? Could it be Kool Moe Dee? Did someone say L.L. Cool J? The list could ‘go on and on til’ the break of dawn.’ But, if you considered any of these notable rappers as having “rapped,” performed, or sang the all-time most popular rap song ever, you’d be way off the mark. Not a one of them even comes close. On the other hand, what if I told you rapping is not at all new, and that Prophet Moses laid down some mad tracks by recording a rap song sang by at least two ancient rappers? Check it out.
Here’s what Scratch Master Moses banged out at Numbers 21:27: “That is why the sayers of mock verses [or, according to the footnote, ‘sayers of proverbs; rhapsodists’] would say.” (Numbers 21:27; New World Translation) Sacrilege you say? Hardly. These “sayers of mock verses,” or, “rhapsodists,” are what we today call rappers. The Hebrew word mashal is used here in the original text. A mashal is defined as a “proverb, parable (of sentences constructed in parallelism, usu[ally] of Hebrew Wisdom, but occas[ionally] of other types…proverbial saying, brief terse sentence of popular sagacity…poems of various kinds…sentences of poetry” according to one Hebrew lexicon.
And just like Jewish rapper Matisyahu got his rap from African American artists, the Israelite rappers of Moses day no doubt got their grove from the Africans (Egyptians) who held them captive for four hundred years. Whatever the case, for your musical pleasure, presented herewith is the very first rap song on record, found in the Bible at Numbers 21:27-30:
“Come to Heshbon and let it be rebuilt! Let the city of Sihon be restored. A fire flamed forth from Heshbon, a blaze from the city of Sihon. It burned the city of Ar in Moab; it destroyed the rulers of the Arnon heights. What sorrow awaits you, O people of Moab! You are finished, O worshipers of Chemosh! Chemosh has left his sons as refugees, his daughters as captives of Sihon, the Amorite king. We have utterly destroyed them, from Heshbon to Dibon. We have completely wiped them out as far away as Nophah and Medeba.”
Okay. The remix might be a little more appealing. But, even in this form, it’s still rap! It’s beautifully poetic in the original Hebrew. So, the next time someone asks you who recorded the most popular rap song ever, Biggie or Tupac, you can honestly say, neither. It was none other than that brother who walked with a staff; smooth, cool Scratch Master Moses. He laid down some truly inspired, mad tracks baby. Praise Jah! Amen! Peace. Out..