That experiment by legendary DJ Kool Herc that gave birth to Hip Hop 49 years ago

Stephen Nartey August 12, 2022
DJ Kool Herc. Fair use image

The street name 1520 Sedgwick Avenue and the date August 11, 1973, have become synonymous with the roots of the biggest music genre, hip hop. What started exactly 49 years ago as art by Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc to entertain music lovers in Bronz in the wake of the prevailing economic depression at the time became the foundation of hip hop.

He is regarded in many circles as the founding father of hip hop. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1955, as Clive Campbell, Herc started experimenting with his style of DJing with his legendary back-to-back school basement party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue.

Herc, according to Black entertainment history, was inspired by his sister who hosted the “Back to School Jam” in their apartment. This became the springboard on which Herc launched his iconic “breakbeat” DJ technique. This style was a mixture of several music genres with percussive sections which allowed a break session that Herc allowed dancers to exhibit acrobatic and break dance formations.

The legendary DJ is remembered by folk history for using a pair of turntables to play two copies of the same record and then switch between them to allow for the break session.

When his style gained popularity, he named the breakbeat the “Merry-Go-Round”. It is a DJing technique invented by Herc where he switched between beats at the peak of a musical jam or concert. It became one of the highly anticipated sessions during his performances with him classifying people dancing to his music as B-boys and B-girls.

With time, breaking became a global subculture where emerging emcees and DJs learned the craft while interspersing it with rap and dance formations leading to the institutionalization of hip hop.  

On the basis of this, one can define Hip Hop as a subculture that was birthed from Herc’s art during the early 1970s. This innovation breathed life into different forms of hip hop culture ranging from Mcing to rapping, B-boying to breaking, visual to graffiti art and Djing to turntablism.

Hip Hop history attributes this rich foundation to the first rap recorded by Sugarhill Gang in 1979. The faces of the hip hop ‘Hall of Fame’ cannot be listed without the names of Dj Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. These individuals ushered the golden age of hip hop by diversifying the craft, pushing for originality and its adaptation to the mainstream genres.

Though the hip hop culture was still in its experimental stage, record labels identified its potential and invested heavily to make it a globally accepted genre. That explains how the different rap styles and dance formations were popularized as a culture.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 12, 2022


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