Today in Hip Hop History: Hip Hop’s Birthdate

DJ Kool Herc setting up for the world-famous block party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Bronx in 1973

August 11, 1973

Indubitable the most important date in hip hop history; the birthdate of hip hop was on August 11th, 1973 when DJ Kool Herc hosted a birthday party in the Bronx. DJ Kool Herc was throwing a party for his sister’s birthday at a recreation room in an apartment complex, 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, the birthplace of hip hop. Because of this, Kool Herc is universally seen as the founding father of hip hop.

DJ Kool Herc was born in Kingston, Jamaica, which influenced the conception of the genre. At an early age, he would spin his parents’ records at parties or during breaks in his father’s band sets. He noticed that crowds seemed to enjoy more parts of songs than others; they would dance more, sing more, essentially interact with the music more. These particular moments usually occurred at drum breaks.

Kool Herc innovated using the two turntables in a conventional DJ setup not as a way for smooth transitions between records, but as a manner of switching back and forth repeatedly between two identical records, thus extending the short drum break that the crowd enjoyed most. He named this method the “Merry Go-Round”. Today, it is called the “break beat.”

By early 1973, Kool Herc had been refining his usage of the “Merry-Go-Round” trick, and was ready to display it to the public at a larger scale. His sister’s birthday party had him performing before his largest crowd ever and with the strongest sound system he had ever used. The success of that party initiated a grassroots musical revolution, six whole years before the term “hip hop” even entered the popular vocabulary in The Sugarhill Gang song “Rapper’s Delight”.

As 42 long years have come and gone, hip hop has transcended the likes of music, culture, street art, dance, lifestyle, education and much more. Originally beginning as music for parties (and still remaining the most common party music 42 years later), hip hop has cemented itself in the lives and histories of people Internationally. Musically, it has also developed into one of, if not the most, diverse genres of music that exist today.

On this historic anniversary, we would like to take a moment to think about how hip hop, as a whole, has transformed our lives. I know I speak for all of us at True Too when I say that our lives would not be nearly as complete without hip hop and its culture. Happy birthday to the irreplaceable genre/culture of Hip Hop, and cheers to many more years!

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