Although November is recognized as “Hip-Hop History Month” by many of the pioneers who laid the foundation for the culture up in the Bronx during November 1973, several months before that, an 18-year-old Jamaican-American DJ was already hosting parties at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. His record collection and sound system was so astounding that no other DJs could compare.
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.
During his sets, sometimes he’d spin just the instrumental portions of records (the breaks) while addressing the crowd, and at times continuing the momentum of the music by switching the same records back and forth on two different turntables. By doing so, he would prolong the same sequence of beat without interruption, and unknown to the crowd.
His master of ceremonies, Coke La Rock, would hype the crowd over the microphone, advocating for them to socialize. At times throughout the party, he’d rhythmically shout out the names of those he recognized on the dance floor, to the flow of the beats. He would become known as hip-hop’s first MC.
A hand-drawn flyer, asking for “50 cents for fellas, 25 cents for ladies” was handed out to local residents. Word spread quickly.
It was an all-inclusive family function with their father providing juices and sodas from a local carry out, and their mother cooking up mounds of food.
Herc spun records that were rarely heard on the radio at that time, yet had an undeniably hard edge that motivated people to hit the dance floor.
It was a very entertaining day with several hundred locals enjoying themselves. Word soon spread, and Herc’s parties were functions where even notorious gangs knew not to cause any drama.
As hip-hop culture spread, it incorporated tangible education and taught inner-city youths to come together for a common cause, instead of fighting and killing one another. Eventually, the numerous gangs in the Bronx began coming together and uniting, until they died 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 of Bronx teenagers from the mid-1970s looking to escape the chaos in the concrete jungle, and who were giving back to their communities.
Thank you Kool DJ Herc, Cindy Campbell, Coke La Rock and all the true pioneers!