Hip-hop commemorates 45 years
AUTODIDACT 17 | 9/6/2018, 5:25 p.m.
Although November is recognized as “Hip-Hop History Month” by many of the pioneers who laid the foundation for the Bronx-bred culture in November 1973, several months earlier, an 18-year-old Jamaican-born DJ was already hosting parties in the West Bronx. His record collection and sound system was so astounding that no other DJs could compete.
As history has it, on the afternoon of Aug. 11, 1973, Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at the recreation center in her building, 1520 Sedgwick Ave., as summer was winding down. Her brother Kool DJ Herc provided the music for the people to groove to.
“We gave a party and charged 25 cents to come in and made $300,” Herc recalled.
Sometimes he’d spin just the hyped instrumental portions of records (breaks), at times continuing the momentum of the music by switching two copies of the same records back and forth on separate turntables. By doing so he’d prolong the same segment of beats without interruption, and unknown to the crowd.
He said, “I used to hear the gripes from the audience on the dance floor, even myself, ‘cause I used to be a [break dancer]. ‘Why didn’t the guy let the music play out?’ or ‘Why cut it off there?’ So with that, me gathering all this information around me, I say, ‘I think I could do that.’ So I started playing from a dance floor perspective. I always kept up the attitude that I’m not playing it for myself. It’s for the people out there.”
While doing so, his master of ceremonies—Coke La Rock—hyped the crowd, urging them to socialize, while rhythmically shouting out partygoers’ names to the beats. He would become known as hip-hop’s first MC. Later, along with Timmy Tim, Grand Imperial Jay Cee and the original DJ Clarke Kent, they became the Herculoids.
It was an all-inclusive family function, with Campbell’s father providing juices and sodas from a local carry-out and their mother cooking up mounds of food.
“Kool DJ Herc is the official DJ that bridges the gap between the disco DJs and the hip-hop culture DJs,” noted Paradise Gray the Architect. “There are other people who deserve credit, too —Grandmaster Flowers, the Disco Twins and Infinity Machine, Disco King Mario, Pete DJ Jones, DJ Smoke.”
Herc spun records that had an undeniable hard edge and were therefore rarely heard on radio, yet motivated people to hit the dance floor.
It was a very entertaining day, with several hundred locals attending. Word soon spread and Herc’s parties were functions where even notorious gangs knew not to cause any conflicts.
As hip-hop’s popularity spread, it incorporated tangible education and encouraged inner-city youths to unite for a common cause, instead of fighting and killing one another. Eventually, the numerous gangs in the Bronx began uniting and eventually dying out.
Before the current crop of cookie-cutter rappers came about, there was “Hip-Hop’s Golden Era” (mid-1980s to mid-1990s), when artists prided themselves on being as unique as possible, and many projected positive messages in their art to uplift the Black community.
They, in turn, were sparked by “Hip-Hop’s True Skool Era,” which consisted primarily of Bronx teenagers from the middle to late 1970s, looking to escape the chaos in the concrete jungle and were giving back to their communities.
Paradise concludes, “Much love and credit is given to the DJs and pioneers who are mentioned, and those not mentioned. No matter how it’s told, Herc will always have his spot in that history. God bless Kool Herc, and thank you for all your contributions to hip-hop culture.”
Asante sana, Kool DJ Herc, Cindy Campbell, Coke La Rock and all the true pioneers.