This was the first #1 hit song with a rap. Artists like Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Kurtis Blow had been rapping since the mid-’70s, and The Sugarhill Gang had the first Top 40 hit earlier in 1980 with “Rapper’s Delight,” but until “Rapture,” rap had never been incorporated into a hit pop song.
Debbie Harry did the rap, and it was really ridiculous, with lyrics about the “Man from Mars eating cars,” but the novelty helped the song become a hit.
Harry’s rap is so goofy that it sounds like she could be mocking the genre, but this was very early in the evolution of hip-hop, and many of the rhymes that came out of the New York block parties were just as silly. Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie championed rap and got involved in the community, often attending these block parties – they even took Nile Rodgers to one, which is where he learned that his song “Good Times” was a DJ favorite. Blondie brought rap to a far larger audience with this song; Debbie Harry says that a lot of rappers – including members of Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang Clan – told her it was the first rap song they ever heard, since the genre wasn’t welcome on the radio then.