The Beginning of Hip Hop

On a sunny summerday, or more precise on the 11th of August 1973 at 1520 Sedgwick Ave, South Bronx, New York. DJ Kool (Clive Campbell) Herc’s Back To School Jam spawned the culture that we now know as Hip-Hop. This all started when his younger sister, Cindy Campbell, became inspired to earn extra cash for back-to-school clothes, she decided to have her older brother, then 16 years old, play music for the neighborhood in their apartment building.

The original flyer for what became the birth of hip-hop.

Take a look at the map to find the legendary place:

DJ Kool Herc

Now known as the “Father of Hip-Hop”, Herc began playing hard funk records. He developed the style that was the blueprint for hip hop music, using a record and focus on a short, heavily percussive part in it: the “break”. Since this part of the record was the one the dancers liked best, Herc isolated the break and prolonged it by changing between two record players. As one record reached the end of the break, he cued a second record back to the beginning of the break, which allowed him to extend a relatively short section of music into “five-minute loop of fury”. This innovation had its roots in what Herc called “The Merry-Go-Round,” a technique by which the deejay switched from break to break at the height of the party. This technique is specifically called “The Merry-Go-Round” because according to Herc, it takes one “back and forth with no slack.

Herc was inspired by his native Jamaican soundsystems, heavy on bass. With a borrowed Shure P.A and guitar amps, he built his own mixer using the guitar amp to switch from one turntable to the other.

After August the 11, he held several parties at the rec room, but started to outgrew it and took his sound system to other parks in the Bronx. His setup soon became the envy and inspiration of other DJs and his style was quickly taken up by figures such as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. Unlike them, he never made the move into commercially recorded hip hop in its earliest year.

Herc called the dancers “break-boys” and “break-girls”, or simply b-boys and b-girls.

Grandmaster Flowers

Grandmaster Flowers (Jonathon Cameron Flowers) was a DJ from Brooklyn, New York. One of the earliest DJs to mix records together in sequence, Flowers was known as one of the earliest pioneers of hip hop. Flowers was involved in the disco and funk scene and used to hold block parties. Flowers is cited as having a “formative influence” on hip hop DJs such as Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa in the mid-1970s. In 1969, Grandmaster Flowers opened for James Brown at Yankee Stadium. Although an inspiration to many of hip hop’s early greats – he is highly respected by those he influenced – Flowers himself never attained the heights of his successors in hip hop culture.

As he found himself being overtaken by the younger up-and-coming DJs at the end of the 1970s, Flowers struggled with a life of hardship and dependence on hard drugs. Fab Five Freddy, who cites Flowers as a formative influence, spotted him one day, homeless and begging, outside a record store while filming for MTV during the 90s.
He died in 1992.

DJ Hollywood

DJ Hollywood (born Anthony Holloway; December 10, 1954) is an American MC and disc jockey.

According to Kurtis Blow and Pete DJ Jones, Hollywood was the first rapper in the hip-hop style, making him the “Father” of the Hip Hop style. Before Hollywood introduced “Hip Hop style” rapping, he had already impacted DJing by creating a set that included singing, rhyming, and call and response, where he interacted with the crowd. An example would be Hollywood saying, “If you’re feeling good with Hollywood somebody say, Oh yeah!” And the crowd would shout back: “Oh yeah!” Some of his creations other rappers have been using for the last 30 years such as “throw ya hands in the air and wave ’em like you just don’t care.”

Holloway said, “Don’t get me wrong they had people [who] rapped before me syncopated and unsyncopated. I cannot take nothing away from people like Oscar Brown Jr., Pigmeat Markham, the Last Poets, Gil Scott Heron, the Watts Prophets, Rudy Ray Moore, I used to listen to all of them. I cannot take nothing from none of them … but none of them was doing what I was doing with the turntables and a mic.”

Hollywood’s renown spread rapidly and he became a regular at the Apollo, even having his named added to the marquee. Hollywood had been DJing since 1972, and like every MC, he “rhythm talked.” And like radio DJs, he usually pattered sequences of one or two bar rhymes. Hollywood said, he used to like the way “Frankie Crocker would ride a track, but he wasn’t syncopated to the track though. I liked WWRL DJ Hank Spann too, but he wasn’t on the one. Guys back then weren’t concerned with being musical. I wanted to flow with the record.”

Most of his body of musical work was live, not recorded, although he did release a single “Shock Shock The House” in 1980 on CBS Records. Until the mid-1980s, Hollywood was one of the top DJs. He retired from the business and fought a drug addiction. He has since returned to performing in the New York City area, appearing with Tha Veteranz which reunited him with his former partner Lovebug Starski.

The Last Poets

You can trace the birth of hip-hop to the summer of 1973 when Kool Herc DJ’d the first extended breakbeat, much to the thrill of the dancers at a South Bronx block party. You can trace its conception, however, to five years earlier – 19 May 1968, 50 years ago this weekend – when the founding members of the Last Poets stood together in Mount Morris park – now Marcus Garvey park – in Harlem and uttered their first poems in public. They commemorated what would have been the 43rd birthday of Malcolm X, who had been slain three years earlier. Not two months had passed since the assassination of Martin Luther King. “Growing up, I was scheduled to be a nice little coloured guy. I was liked by everybody,” says the Last Poets’ Abiodun Oyewole. He was 18 and in college when he heard the news. “But when they killed Dr King, all bets were off.”

That day led to the Last Poets’ revelatory, self-titled 1970 debut of vitriolic black power poems spoken over the beat of a congo drum.

Read the full article of The Last Poets on The Guardians website by clicking here!

More Pioneers

There where other pioneers like Pete DJ Jones and if you talk to people in some of the other boroughs, you will get other opinions of where Hip Hop started. If you look at the documentary down below, you see that people have strong opinions on the topic.


But be sure, the birth of HIP HOP was on that sunny summerday, on the 11th of August 1973 at 1520 Sedgwick Ave, South Bronx, New York. It not the home of DJing or the Home of MCing but it is the home where those and others elements came together to create HIP-HOP. Yes Grandmaster Flowers was the grandmaster before Flash but he was a disco DJ just like all the DJs at that time were. They play disco records mostly and soul records. They played most of the the whole record before mixing in a different record, they were not cuting and scratching for a MC to rhyme over a per long beat. The M.C. was not saying rhymes but short chats and phases mostly about nothing, there was no rhyming skills.

The Four Original Elements

Hip-hop has a number of fathers based on your understanding and knowledge of it; Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa were the two young men in the South Bronx throwing jams in the parks, schools and community centers, but Pete DJ Jones was the man in the clubs. Many credit him with being the first to have a rapper/emcee (TJ Hollywood, before Coke La Rock began rapping as a Herculord) and the first to play two copies of the same record. The formation of Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation in 1973 aided in the spread of the culture throughout the Bronx and the outer-boroughs of New York City. The four original elements of hip-hop culture were all in existence by the time of Kool Herc’s party, but the mainstream media acknowledged them each separately.

Graffiti was first written about in a July 1971 New York Times article headlined “Taki Spawns Pen Pals.” It wasn’t until late 1979 thatrRap music was written about in the music trades after the breakout success of “Rapper’s Delight.” Michael Holman’s January 1981 East Village Eye interview with Bambaataa was the first mention of “hip-hop” and its culture to ever be printed. It took Sally Baines and Martha Cooper’s March 1981 Village Voice article “Physical Graffiti: Breaking Is Hard To Do” to expose New York, and later the world, to b-boying. Hip-hop existed for a decade before it’s seminal films Wild Style and Style Wars were first screened.

Pigmeat Markham’s “Here comes the judge” was a great funk/proto-hip hop track from 1968.

Explosion of Dj’s & The New York Black Out

The New York City blackout of 1977 was an electricity blackout that affected most of New York City on July 13–14, 1977. The only neighborhoods in the city that were not affected were in southern Queens. During the blackout, there where major plunder and pillage throughout the city. What this brought to the hip hop culture where a lot of kids not having any money for DJ equipment, all of a sudden could get it all for “free”.

Visit Soul Jazz Records to order these amazing compilations of early Hip Hop on both Vinyl and CD.
Just click the picture above! You can also listen to them through Spotify at the bottom of this page.

On The Record

The first rap records embraced disco, and it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that the music consisted of more or less only 808 beats. All the early labels came out of New York and especially Harlem, and as always with new music styles it was the independent labels that picked up the genre. Early on ther mainstream wouldn’t touch the music with a ten foot pole.

In 1979 the bootleg compilation albums, ”Super Disco Brake’s” featuring some of the many obscure records that the South Bronx hip hop DJ’s had released came out through Winley Records, along with several 12″ from different underground labels. The Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 song “Rapper’s Delight” is widely regarded to be the first hip hop record to gain widespread popularity in the mainstream.

I’m planing that in the future, I will dig deep into just the record part of early hip hop history … to be continued!

In the meantime, listen to the awesome Super Jazz records compilations on Spotify here down below.

Click on the banner to visit the store for some awesome “Where Hip Hop was born” merchandise!