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Kool Herc

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Kool 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.