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Articles - Kool D.J. Herc
Kool D.J. Herc

Born in Kingston,Jamaica,West indies,moving to New York in 1967. Kool Herc owns the rights to the accolade "first Hip Hop D.J.Illustrating the connections between reggae and rap,Herc brought his sound system to block parties in the Bronx from 1969 onwards. By 1975 he was playing the brief rhythmic sections of records which would come to be termed "breaks",at venues like the Hevalo in the Bronx. His influence was pivotal,with Grandmaster Flash building on his innovations to customised the modern Hip Hop DJ approach.

Herc's methods also pre-dated,and partially introduced,sampling. By adapting pieces of Funk,Soul,Jazz and other musics into the melting pot,he would be able to keep a party buzzing. With his sound system the Herculords,he would tailor his sets to the participants,most of whom he knew by name. He would call these out over improvised sets; "As I scan the place,I see the very familiar face..of my mellow:Wallace Dee in the house! Wallace Dee! Freak for me! As one of Hip Hop's founding Fathers,Kool Herc's reputation and influence has outlasted the vaguaries of musical fashion. A status no doubt boosted by the fact that he has not attempted to launch a spurious recording career on the back of it. Kool Herc was the subject of celebration at the Rapmania Festival in 1990. Here are some words from the Father of Hip Hop: The first place I played was 1520  Sedgewick Avenue-that's a recreation room-matter of fact in my apartment,yunno. Like the pied piper,the rats came out of the bricks to dance. My parties back then was twenty-five cent, Then it went to the recreation room,then we gave a block party,one time,anual block party. When you come down the block that cleaned up,you know Herc gonna play some music,and um,I couldn't come back to the old ranch no more,I had to go to a place called the Twilight Zone.

And then I used to give flyers out over by the Hevalo,and my mans would tell me to step off. I said, "One day I"m be in here." So I gavemy first party at the Twilight Zone,it was raining,the gods was raining down on me. Everybody came down from the Hevalo,wondering what was happening. They said,"Hercis playing down the block." "Who's Herc?' "That's the guy you chased away with the flyers from outside." And from the Twilight Zone I went on up to the Hevalo...

(From there he moved to a spot called the Executive Playhouse,on 173 street in the Bronx,as well as playing numerous high schools,community centers,and parks.) Assuming his native Jamaican patois,he continues: My muddah roots come from St. Mary{a parish in Jamaica},yunno. A man named George inspirate I from Jamaica,yunno,and he lived pon Victoria Street,yunno and used to come with the big sound system. It was devastating,cause it was open air,when it rained that's the dance.... I did a lot of things from Jamaica,and I brought it here and turned it into my own little style...Herc came to prominence in the West Bronx between 1974 and 1975.

Kool D.J. Herc

Did you know that a man named Clive Campbell who was born in 1955 in Kingston, Jamaica is The Father of Hip Hop?

Why don't you?

Kool Herc emigrated to the Bronx 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.  That fact coupled with his height spurned the other kids to call him Hercules.

His first deejay gig was as his sister's birthday party.  It was the start of an industry.

1520 Cedric Avenue.  The address of Herc's family and the location of the recreation room where he would throw many of his first parties as the DJ.

Herc became aware that although he new which records would keep the crowd moving, he was more interested in the break section of the song.  At this point in a song, the vocals would stop and the beat would just ride for short period.  His desire to capture this moment for a longer period of time would be a very important one for hip hop.

Herc would purchase two copies of the same record and play them on separate turntables next to each other.  He would play the break beat on one record then throw it over to the other turntable and play the same part.  Doing this over and over, he could rock any house in NY.  (Not to mention it being an early form of looping that would be made easier through electronic sampling.)

He would dig in crates and look everywhere to find the perfect break beat for his parties.  He didn't care what type of music, because he only needed a small section of a song for his purposes.

His first professional DJ job was at the Twilight Zone in 1973.  He wanted to get into another place called the Hevalo, but wasn't allowed...yet.

His fame grew.  In addition to his break beats, Herc also became known as the man with the loudest system around.  When he decided to hold a party in one of the parks, it was a crazy event.  And a loud one.  At this time Afrika Bambaataa and other competing DJ's began trying to take Herc's crown.  Jazzy Jay of the Zulu Nation recalls one monumentous meeting between Herc and Bam.

Herc was late setting up and Bam continued to play longer than he should have.  Once Herc was set up he got on the microphone and said "Bambaataa, could you please turn your system down?"  Bam's crew was pumped and told Bam not to do it.  So Herc said louder, "Yo, Bambaataa, turn your system down-down-down."  Bam's crew started cursing Herc until Herc put the full weight of his system up and said, "Bambaataa-baataa -baataa, TURN YOUR SYSTEM DOWN!" And you couldn't even hear Bam's set at all.  The Zulu crew tried to turn up the juice but it was no use.  Everybody just looked at them like, "You should've listened to Kool Herc."

Finally his fame peaked and at last, in 1975, he began working at the Hevalo in the Bronx.  He had his crew with him called the Herculoids.  He helped coin the phrase b-boy (break boy) and was recently quoted as saying he was "the oldest living b-boy."

As competing DJ's looked to cut in on the action, Herc would soak the labels off his records so no one could steal his beats.

Grandmaster Flash had another story about Herc in his heyday

Flash would go into the Hevalo to check out Herc, but Herc would always embarrass him.  He would call Flash out on the mike and then cut out all the highs and lows on the system and just play the midrange.  Herc would say, "Flash in order to be a qualified disc jockey...you must have highs."  Then he would crank up the highs and they would sizzle through the crowd.  Then he would say, "And most of all, Flash, you must have...bass."  And when Herc's bass came in the whole place would be shaking.  Flash would get so embarrassed he would leave.

After a while spinning the records got to be an all intensive thing and Herc wouldn't have as much time to talk to the crowd and get them going.  He needed someone else to help out and act as the Master of Ceremonies for him.  And thus, for all practical purposes, Coke La Rock became the first hip hop MC ever.

Another club that Herc rocked was the Sparkle located at 174th and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. This was the spot that came before the Hilltop, 371 (DJ Hollywood's spot) and Disco Fever.

In 1977, Herc's career began to fall.  The rise of Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five, and Bambaataa's various crews with their polished emcee styles put Herc at a disadvantage.  One night he was stabbed three times at his own party and his career never fully recovered.

He appeared as himself in the film Beat Street.

Kool Herc played his last Old School party in 1984.

Most recently he has appeared on Terminator X's release "The Godfathers of Threat" and with the Chemical Brothers on their album "Dig Your Own Hole."

Similar to Bambaataa he does appear in Europe and New York from time to time.

Although he is not part of the hip hop vocabulary of most of those who listen to it these days (unfortunately), Kool Herc is the father of this underground sound from New York that found its way to becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

Kool Herc lives on...

Kool D.J. Herc

Kool Herc Kool DJ Herc, the godfather of hip-hop, was born in Jamaica in 1955. He moved to the Bronx in 1967, at the age of twelve. With his unique playlist of RandB, soul, funk, and obscure disco, Herc quickly became the catalyst of the hip-hop way of life. The kids from the Bronx and Harlem loved his ghetto style, which gave birth to the concept of the B-Boy. The B-Boy -- or beat boy, break boy, Bronx boy -- loved the breaks of Kool Herc, and as a result soon created break dancing. These were the people of the hip-hop culture.

While Pete DJ Jones was #1 for the black disco crowd in NYC, Herc and the B-Boys were the essence of the hip-hop movement, because of they lived the lifestyle. The way they danced, dressed, walked, and talked was unique, as opposed to most of the disco artists and fans of the time, who were not as in touch with the urban streets of America.

Brian Chin

By most accounts Herc was the first DJ to buy two copies of the same record for just a 15-second break (rhythmic instrumental segment) in the middle. By mixing back and forth between the two copies he was able to double, triple, or indefinitely extend the break. In so doing, Herc effectively deconstructed and reconstructed so-called found sound, using the turntable as a musical instrument.

... the whole chemistry of that came from Jamaica ... I was born in Jamaica and I was listening to American music in Jamaica ... My favorite artist was James Brown. That's who inspired me ... When I came over here I just put it in the American style and a perspective for them to dance to it. In Jamaica all you needed was a drum and bass. So what I did here was go right to the 'yoke'. I cut off all anticipation and played the beats. I'd find out where the break in the record was at and prolong it and people would love it. So I was giving them their own taste and beat percussion-wise ... cause my music is all about heavy bass ... --Kool Herc

Modern day rap music finds its immediate roots in the toasting and dub talk over elements of reggae music. In the early 70's, a Jamaican dj known as Kool Herc moved from Kingston to NY's West Bronx. Here, he attempted to incorporate his Jamaican style of dj which involved reciting improvised rhymes over the dub versions of his reggae records. Unfortunately, New Yorkers weren't into reggae at the time. Thus Kool Herc adapted his style by chanting over the instrumental or percussion sections of the day's popular songs. Because these breaks were relatively short, he learned to extend them indefinitely by using an audio mixer and two identical records in which he continuously replaced the desired segment.

In those early days, young party goers initially recited popular phrases and used the slang of the day. For example, it was fashionable for dj to acknowledge people who were in attendance at a party. These early raps featured someone such as Herc shouting over the instrumental break; 'Yo this is Kool Herc in the joint-ski saying my mellow-ski Marky D is in the house'. This would usually evoke a response from the crowd, who began to call out their own names and slogans. As this phenomenon evolved, the party shouts became more elaborate as dj in an effort to be different, began to incorporate little rhymes-'Davey D is in the house/An he'll turn it out without a doubt.'

It wasn't long before people began drawing upon outdated dozens and school yard rhymes. Many would add a little twist and customize these rhymes to make them suitable for the party environment. At that time rap was not yet known as 'rap' but called 'emceeing'. With regards to Kool Herc, as he progressed, he eventually turned his attention to the complexities of djaying and let two friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent (not Dana Dane's dj) handle the microphone duties. This was rap music first emcee team. They became known as Kool Herc and the Herculoids.

Sty on 22:49:14 9/15/1999 from Yo I just got back from this CMJ convention party (one of the many) at CBGB's , legendary hip-hop DJ Kool Herc was playing. He was going through the motions, mainly because his mixer had no cue on it (the venue provided it) so I was moving around a little, getting my drink on from the open bar, and all of a sudden he threw on 'That's the way love...' from Ten City!! man was I moving! He followed it up with a quick house set, (hot music, push the feeling on, etc..) but it was fresh and I just wanted to let everyone know I heard some house out there tonight. peace to Kool Herc...

peace sty

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