Founding Father of Hip-Hop

Kool Herc - Founding Father of Hip-HopKool Herc

July, 1973
For his sister Cindy's party in a Bronx housing-complex rec room, Clive Campbell, better known by his graffiti tag, Kool Herc, wanted to do something special. He bought the hottest records and hooked up two turntables so that, with the same record spinning on each, he could isolate and prolong the "breaks" -- the percussive instrumental sections that whipped the dancers into a frenzy. He would cue one record back to the start of the break, while the other ran to the end of it, a perpetual-motion machine of propulsive beats.

Herc further incited the dancers by calling out their names -- the sort of rhythmic patter that would eventually be set to rhymes and taken up by MCs, or rappers. Rival Bronx DJs Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa soon adapted and developed Herc's techniques. Incredibly, from such modest beginnings was a cultural revolution born. Now, at the end of the 20th century, hip-hop stands as the predominant sound and style of our times -- its beats heard in glossy commercials and inner-city parks, its fashions seen on the backs of bike messengers and supermodels.

Herc still lives in the Bronx and still DJs, but feels he has never received his due. "I made something from nothing, a culture for the kids, and now it's a multimillion-dollar business worldwide," Herc says. "None of those dollars came back to me.... But I'm still here. Like my man Elton John says, 'I'm still standing.'"

Last Updated June 10, 1999
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