August 11, 2020

Happy Birthday, Hip-Hop! (August 11, 1973)

On August 11, 1973, an 18-year-old, Jamaican-American DJ who went by the name of Kool Herc (Clive Campbell) threw a Back-To-School Jam with his sister, Cindy Campbell, at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, New York. During his set, he decided to do something different. Instead of playing the songs in full, he played only their instrumental sections, or “breaks” - sections where he noticed the crowd went wild. During these “breaks” his friend Coke La Rock hyped up the crowd with a microphone. Herc called the technique the "Merry Go-Round." And with that, Hip Hop was born. The flyer for the jam was hand-drawn, and only cost 50 cents for the fellas and 25 cents for the ladies. Kool Herc is celebrated as the architect/founding father of Hip-Hop and 1520 Sedgwick Avenue is historically accepted as the birthplace of Hip-Hop in the Bronx. In 2017, Google celebrated the 44th anniversary of Hip-Hop with a special video (narrated by Fab 5 Freddy) and two turntables to mix "records" on their homepage. Watch below, along with art from Bizar Gomez & a note from Lyor C.

Today we acknowledge and celebrate a cultural revolution that's spanned 47 years and counting. It all started in the NYC Bronx, more commonly known as the Boogie Down Bronx. Following the fallout from the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway in 1972 that demolished a lot of the neighborhood, times were particularly tough. The youth needed an outlet -  a unifying sound, a beat, a voice to call their own. The Bronx DJ’s and MC’s rose to the task and the city loved them for it. Hip Hop was accessible. A kid with little means and hard work could transform their turntable into a powerful instrument of expression. Starting with folks like DJ Kool Herc, DJ Hollywood, and Grandmaster Flash, the grassroots movement created a new culture of music, art, and dance available to the 5 boroughs of the city and beyond. Hip Hop was also rebellion against several norms of the time, including the overwhelming popularity of disco, which many in the community felt had unjustly overshadowed the recent groundbreaking works of James Brown and other soul impresarios from the 60’s. Specifically, they felt that the relatable storytelling and emotional truths shared in soul and blues had been lost in the pop-centric sounds of Disco. So Hip Hop recaptured that connection, beginning with the pioneers who brought back the evocative BOOM! BAP! rhythms of James Brown's drummer, Clyde Stubblefield. It should be noted that early Hip Hop stood against the violence and drug culture that pervaded the time.... Hip Hop has done exactly what its founders set out to do, whether wittingly or unwittingly. It placed an accessible culture, relatable to any marginalized group in the world, at the forefront of music. In that spirit, here’s to BILLIONS of people getting a brief reminder that “Yes, yes y’all! And it WON’T stop!” - Lyor Cohen. Sources: 1, 2.