XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
Aug. 11, 1973: On this day, DJ Kool Herc and his sister Cindy Campbell hosted the first Rec Room Party in the basement at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Morris Heights area in the Bronx, N.Y. The event and location would become the pivotal moment that gave birth to hip-hop.
It was mid-August in 1973, when a young, ambitious Clive Campbell, better known as DJ Kool Herc, was hired to spin records at his sister’s back-to-school party in the Bronx. He used two turntables to extend the instrumental breaks of songs, which his friends began to rap over. This simple innovation is credited with birthing the hip-hop movement.
By blending classic funk records from James Brown with eclectic rock songs like British group Babe Ruth’s“The Mexican,” DJ Kool Herc became a legend overnight when he gathered over 300 people in the rec room of his family’s 1520 Sedgwick Ave. project complex. In doing so, he invented a new genre. After captivating the masses and bringing a fresh sound to his first show, Herc was called upon to spin at much larger venues where he then founded what is now known as “the break.”
“The break” is a technique that Herc used to isolate, prolong and repeat a small fragment of a record that people would enjoy dancing to. He would do this by spinning the same record on two turntables and focusing on a particularly percussive portion of the track. Spearheading “the break” within records had a major impact on dance at the time, thus DJ Kool Herc became the acclaimed pioneer of the hip-hop terms “b-boys” and “b-girls” for the performers that would fall into “breakdance” during this segment of a record.
Over the years, DJ Kool Herc would move on to inspire other hip-hop legends in the making, including pioneering turntablist DJ Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa. Herc’s notable innovations would create an everlasting art form and a known culture to thousands.
When it was announced that Global Hip Hop Day launched in the Bronx in June of 2017, Herc was on hand as the gatekeeper to celebrate.
Later this year, DJ Kool Herc will be among the inductees for the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The pioneering DJ will be honored with the Musical Excellence Award. The 38th annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Nov. 3 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Watch Christie’s DJ Kool Herc and the Birth of Hip-Hop Below
Conversation with DJ Kool Herc: The Founder of Hip Hop Below
Watch Yo! MTV Maps – The Bronx: Birthplace of Hip Hop Featuring Fat Joe, DJ Clue and Grandmaster Caz Below
Reporting by Asia Burris and Trent Fitzgerald