The triplet rap style, (originally known as "fast rap") has been around since the late 1970s, and is known in some regions as “tongue twisting." The triplet style is less about speed and more about a staccato delivery. The earliest recorded and widely distributed examples of the "fast rap" style are attributed to Kool Moe Dee of The Treacherous 3. Moe Dee was listening to a tape of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 4 (Mr. Ness aka Scorpio had just joined forcing a name change from GMF & The 3 M.C.’s) and there was a portion of the tape where Kidd Creole said a rhyme that sounded like he was about go into the triplet style but he didn’t. Moe Dee was puzzled that Creole didn’t “continue that cadence like a flurry."
Moe Dee started writing rhymes in that style and saying them in the lunch room of Norman Thomas High School where there were turntables and open mics available at lunchtime. Moe’s future group mate Special K heard Moe and his fast rap style for the first time in the lunch room and pulled Moe to the side the next day and said his own fast rap. Shortly after they released “The New Rap Language” billed as The Treacherous 3 featuring Spoonie Gee. “The New Rap Language” was the first time that this style was captured on a recording and it caught on like wildfire as M.C.’s added their own elements and flair to it. Over the decades the style has been added onto with different regions adding their own swing and flavor to the rapid fire cadence.
M.C. G.L.O.B.E. of The Soul Sonic Force created a variation of the triplet style as well which he coined “M.C. Poppin”. He says that because of the tempo of the classic “Planet Rock” (130 beats per minute) he had to slow his rhyme down to half time to lock the flow in.
Once the South & Midwest came into prominence the triplet style became a major element in both their rhyme and production structures. Artists such as The Serial Killaz (D.J. Paul & Lord Infamous of The Three Six Mafia), Bone Thugz N Harmony and Tommy Wright III were early in the development of this style in the region.
Chicago’s Twista (formerly known as Tung Twista) made the Guiness book of Word Records for pronouncing 598 syllables in 55 seconds. He has his own prolific career but is most known for “Po Pimp” with fellow Chicago M.C’s Do or Die and “Slow Jamz” with Kanye West.
Cleveland’s Bone Thugs n Harmony are likely the most well known triplet styled artist as far as commercial success and notoriety are concerned. There was a misunderstanding between them and Three Six Mafia due to the similarity in styles, and there were some subliminals thrown back & forth on songs. The misunderstanding was eventually worked out and D.J. Paul told Vlad TV in 2017 “they were already doing the tongue twisting style in the mid west but we didn’t know that originally. Twista (formerly Tongue Twista), Crucial Conflict and all those guys. The mid west has a lot of similarity to the South because we have so much of the same family”.
Trap music gained prominence, coming mostly from Southern Rap artists. It gained great mainstream success in the 2000s and 2010s via artists such as T.I., Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz and Migos. Many trap artists utilize the triplet flow and the beat programming, specifically on the snare and hi hats, separated it from previous production that accompanied triplet flow.
Here are some important tracks in the ongoing evolution of triplet style rapping: