DJ Kool Herc

The birth of rap as we know it can be directly traced back to the concrete jungles of the Bronx in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, an era now fondly remembered as the old school. No man deserves more credit for planting the seeds of hip hop than DJ Kool Herc. Herc modeled his sound system, the Herculoids-the loudest and most powerful sound around-after the massive mobile sound systems in his native Jamaica, but his playlist was something else entirely. Popular club DJs kept Manhattan crowds moving to a nonstop mix of trendy disco hits, cleverly blended from one song to the next. While these DJs did the same old thing with the newest records, Herc was creating something completely new out of old and obscure records. He noticed that funk, the era’s quintessential black sound, elicited a much greater crowd reaction in the predominantly black and Hispanic Bronx. Not only that, but Herc noticed that when he played, for example, James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turnit A Loose,” people went especially wild during the “break” segment of the song, when just the drums or percussion took over. Herc wondred what would happen if he got two copies of the same record and cut back and forth between them in order to prolong the break or sonic climax. Unwittingly, Herc had stumbled upon the breakbeat, the starting point for much hip hop, dance, techno, and jungle (drum ‘n’ bass) today.

Vibe History of Hip Hop
edited by Alan Light

Kool Herc: A Founding Father of Hip Hop NPR 3/30/05
DJ Kool Herc and the Birth of the Breakbeat NPR 8/29/05
Interview w/ DJ Kool Herc (1989 New Music Seminar) 1989

Kool DJ Herc - The Father of Hip Hop

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