The evolution of hip hop has been shaped by many different artists, but there’s a case to be made that it came to life precisely on this day in 1973, at a birthday party in the rec room of an apartment building in the West Bronx, New York City. The man who presided over that historic party was the birthday girl’s brother, Clive Campbell - better known as DJ Kool Herc, founding father of hip hop.
DJ Kool Herc’s signature innovation came from observing how the crowds would react to different parts of whatever record he happened to be playing: “I was noticing people used to wait for particular parts of the record to dance, maybe [to] do their specialty move.” Those moments tended to occur at the drum breaks. What Kool Herc decided to do was to use the two turntables in a typical DJ setup not as a way to make a smooth transition between two records, but as a way to switch back and forth repeatedly between two copies of the same record, extending the short drum break that the crowd most wanted to hear. He called his trick the Merry Go-Round. Today, it is known as the “break beat.”
By the summer of 1973, DJ Kool Herc had been using and refining his break-beat style for the better part of a year. His sister’s party on August 11, however, put him before his biggest crowd ever and with the most powerful sound system he’d ever worked. It was the success of that party that would begin a grassroots musical revolution.
DJ Kool Herc is a key contributor to the documentary RUBBLE KINGS, due for UK cinema release from 11th September 2015
The incredible true story of the real-life 'Warriors', New York's tough street culture and the birth of Hip-Hop Inline images 2
Produced by Jim Carrey, directed by Shan Nicholson and narrated by John Leguizamo, RUBBLE KINGS charts the untold story of the real-life ‘Warriors’, the New York street gangs of the 1960s-70s, in the words of those who lived it; connecting the dots between New York’s tough street culture of the late-60s and the birth of hip-hop.
Featuring stunning, never-before seen archive footage and unprecedented access to the leaders and key members of the most notorious gangs of 1960-70s New York, as well as key innovators from the very earliest days of hip-hop such as Afrika Bambaataa (an ex-Black Spade warlord), Kool Herc, and DJ Red Alert.
From 1968 to 1975, gangs ruled New York City. Beyond the idealistic hopes of the civil rights movement lay an unfocused rage. Neither law enforcement nor social agency could end the escalating bloodshed. Peace came only through the most unlikely and courageous of events that would change the world for generations to come by giving birth to hip-hop culture.
RUBBLE KINGS chronicles life during this era of gang rule, tells the story of how a few extraordinary, forgotten people did the impossible, and how their actions impacted New York City and the world over.
Shan Nicholson is an award-winning filmmaker, DJ and music producer from New York with a passion for pop-cultural storytelling.