Dj Kool Herc – Jamaica to the Bronx

Born Clive Campbell on April 16th, 1955 in Kingston, Jamaica, Dj Kool Herc is credited for originating Hip Hop music in the Bronx, New York in the 1970’s.  Clive Campbell emigrated to the United States in 1967 when he was 12 years old.  While attending Alfred E. Smith high school he spent a lot of time in the weight room and since he was over six feet tall, he gained the nickname Hercules for his muscular physique.  Kool Herc was heavily influenced by the sounds of his native Jamaican Artists and American acts as well.  James Brown and Motown are said to be his major American influences.  At this time in his journey, “Herc’s ears meshed the two musical traditions; Jamaican Toasting(a long established tradition of “rapping” over the music) with the funk and soul of black America”.  Dj Kool Herc “attempted to incorporate his Jamaican style of djing which involved reciting improvised rhymes on the dubbed version of his reggae records”.  It is said that “his style evolved to using instruments and percussions of the days popular music”.  There is a significant date, time and place in the life story of Dj Kool Herc.  That date was August 11th, 1973. The place was the recreation room of 1520 Sedgwick Ave. on the west side of the Bronx in New York city, the address where Kool Herc and his family called home.  On this fateful evening, Herc dj’d a back to school party for his sister Cindy.  This was when Herc adapted his style to American Funk and Soul.  “He developed a method for keeping the music going at the breaks in the records…these breaks were relatively short so he extended them by using two turntables”.  Dj Kool Herc is credited for coining the phrase ‘B-boys’ or breaking boys as the dancers displayed their moves to his captivating style of “spinning” records on the turntables.  Herc also brought the Jamaican style of calling out the name of the dancers – the short rhythmic pattern that was eventually set to rhymes, now known as rapping.  Little did he know what a visionary he had become”.  Dj Kool Herc’s style caught on and was copied my many Dj’s and Mc’s.  Kool Herc is recognized and celebrated all over the world for his many accomplishments:  The May 2002 issue of Time magazine credited Herc for “being an innovative music founder of Hip Hop along with Elvis for Rock n Roll, Louise Armstrong for Jazz and Bill Monroe for Bluegrass”.  The creation of all this music came from the USA and Kool Herc’s “genius musical creation places him in a category of being a Living Legend”.  The New Yorker magazine issue of April 2003 featured 35 years of New York’s Greatest. In this issue, Kool Herc is credited with “being one of the 100 people that changed New York”.  Entertainment Weekly awarded Herc for “inventing Hip Hop in the seventies” in their May 1999 magazine issue entitled “The Greatest Moments in Rock”.  In 1999 the Source magazine Hip Hop awards honored Kool Herc with the “Hip Hop Pioneer” award. He was also highlighted in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame museum in 1995.  Herc portrayed himself in the 1984 movie Beat Street produced by Harry Belafonte.  In September 2015, the New York Times Style magazine article “They made New York” featured Dj Kool Herc as “one of the people who defined New York’s inimitable and electrifying cultural scene of the 1970’s and early 80’s”.  On October 12th 2004, VH-1 honored Dj Kool Herc as the founder of Hip Hop on their first Hip Hop pioneer award show.  Kool Herc is still active on the dj circuit and you can find him spinning all over the U.S. and all over the world including the U.K., Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, France, Ireland, The Netherlands, Amsterdam, Australia, Denmark and Italy.

 

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