Americana Music

The Jubalaires: Grandfathers of Rap

I have always been a fan of The Mills Brothers. Those great harmonies that would only need a archtop guitar for accompaniment. They were cool, to say the least, and I have spent a lot of time on YouTube watching their vintage videos.

While YT surfing, I came across The Jubalaires. Wow! Same set up (four guys singing together, accompanied by a guitar), but where The Mills Brothers had a slightly jazz feel that kept them popular with the big band crowd, The Jubalaires had some gospel influences, but could also be considered the Grandfathers of Hip-Hop/Rap. They talked a lot of their lyrics in a lot of songs, with hard rhymes that would put many modern rappers to shame.

One video of The Jubalaires has them performing a song called “Brother Bill.” This is one of those black cinema shorts popular in the African-American community in the 1930s-40s. I like the one comment stating “Guns, groupies, dollar sign on suit, they are truly the pioneer of gangsta rap.”

I won’t go on about these guys, I’ll just post these videos for you to enjoy.

Chew on it and comment.


By Matt Merta/Mitch Matthews

Musician and writer (both song and print) for over 30 years. Primarily interested in roots music (Americana, bluegrass, blues, folk). Current contributing writer for Fiddler Magazine, previous work with Metro Times (Detroit), Ann Arbor Paper and Real Detroit Weekly, as well as other various music and military publications. As songwriter, won the 2015 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest (Bluegrass Category, "Something About A Train," co-written with Dawn Kenney and David Morris) as well as having work performed on NPR and nominated for numerous Detroit Music Awards.

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