On this day, August 11, in hip-hop history…
1973: Cindy Campbell, an entrepreneurial young girl living in the South Bronx, was looking to scrape together some extra cash to go shopping for a new wardrobe for the upcoming school year. Cindy had used her modest paycheck from a summer job to put a deposit down on a nondescript recreation room in the basement of the nondescript apartment building she lived in, in order, to throw a party to raise the requisite funds for new school clothes. She bought beer, malt liquor and soda and passed out hand-scrawled flyers to promote the party to local residents. Cindy’s hopes were to make just enough money to support her shopping spree down on Delancey Street in the Lower East Side.It was supposed to be a quick way to make a buck.
Cindy had a brother named Clive who was an aspiring house party DJ and was recruited by his sister to spin records at the event hoping to bring in teenagers looking to party and meet members of the opposite sex at the party. Clive had an impressive set of stereo equipment, a couple of turntables and speakers loud enough for his name to echo through the halls of time. He had played a couple of parties at friend’s house and started to make a name but there was no reason to assume that anything would come out of that party that night. Nobody expected the party to be remembered two days later. 40 years later, that party changed everything.
Clive Campbell, better known to the world as DJ Kool Herc, created something special in that recreation room at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. By extending the danceable, percussion heavy sections of dancehall, soul and disco records, Kool Herc could keep the party going on theoretically forever. The kids found Herc’s playing of “the breaks” to be hypnotically infectious and the party was a roaring success. Cindy got the money for her school clothes and Herc’s name rang out across the city that day. A creation myth flowed out of that basement’s din into the night. Hip-hop was born that evening and nothing has been the same since.
For Kool Herc, the popularity of his parties became legendary. Urban kids from all over the five boroughs flocked to hear him spin the breaks and he became a massively popular figure to young kids in New York. Soon after, aspiring young DJs captivated by the presence of Herc would start to create hip-hop of their own. Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, DJ Hollywood, Grand Wizzard Theodore, the Cold Crush Brothers, the Furious Five and the Treacherous Three would follow and become popular acts of their own spawning generations of artists to follow. First, it took New York and then it took the world.
40 years later, hip-hop is a global, multi-billion dollar industry and the most influential American culture of its time. Record labels, fashion lines, magazines, radio stations and advertising firms were built out of what Kool Herc sparked that night. Things have evolved quite a lot over the last 40 years but something never changed. Kids are always aspiring to have fun and they will always need something to dance, too.
And you don’t stop…