This Summer marks 40 years since America first heard the words “Hip-Hop” (which continued with, hippie to the hippie, to the hip-hip-hop and you don’t stop rockin’) spoken by Wonder Mike of the Sugarhill Gang in their Rapper’s Delight track, the first commercially successful rap song. BUT THAT WAS NOT THE START OF HIP-HOP AT ALL.
Hip-hop is a movement or culture that started in New York City that combined elements of style, art, dancing, singing rhythmic cadence and the extended mixed sounds of a song’s percussion and base solo instrumental, all combined that has an influence upon hundreds of millions of people in the world today, and it all started on August 11, 1973.
On that day, Clive Campbell, known around the neighborhood as DJ Kool Herc threw a back to school party his sister organized at their home at a high-rise apartment at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. There, Herc figured to get the party cooking and having people out on the dance floor, he’d just extend the best part of the songs that we all listened to; the break. Using two turntables playing the same record, Herc extended a few of his favorite soul and funk records and created a new art and type of party sound for the people.
His sound spread like wildfire across the borough. At that point, everyone wanted to attend a DJ Kool Herc party in the South Bronx. Being a DJ or a record manipulator became conductive to a new musical art. Everyone wanted to move the crowd and make them dance. And naturally when people started dancing to those break beats they were known as breakdancers or b-boy (break boy), another huge element of early hip-hop.
But just as any movement has its founder, there are also other key figures who would change the game that Kool Herc started. Others like Grandmaster Flash, who added a science to creating those break beats. Flash popularized DJing to what we see commonly today. Another key player, Afrika Bambaataa also expanded on what Herc started with a wealth of musical inventory to mix and technological advances. DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa started hip hop. The dancing, the art, the culture and of course the rapping soon followed.
These days its only natural to think hip-hop and rap going hand-in-hand. But speaking over musical tunes has been around just as long as music itself. But the early innovators of rap used a style that was was seen with radio DJs like Frank Crocker, then continued with disco’s DJ Hollywood. Lyricist like Lovebug Starski, Grandmaster Caz and Melle Mel added their form of voice over to the DJs and created rap music.
It was growing everywhere around uptown New York City in the mid 1970s. The only way you could have a good party was to have a DJ and an emcee on the mic. All of this years before a disco producer who heard the new musical wave and decided to essentially pick three guys at random who could “rap” and then record them in a studio to record Rapper’s Delight. From the parties, to the streets, to the hood, out in the city and to the radio…hip-hop was born, rap was bred.
Lyrics and terms written and coined by others, were now widely known in 1979 when one of the years biggest top songs hit the airways. People called in to request to hear that “hip-hop” song (as those were the first two words on the track), or “I want to hear that rap(ping to the beat) song (from the second verse in the track).”
Rapper’s Delight could have easily been a one-hit wonder. But someone quite literally said, “AND YOU DON’T STOP…”
And the beat goes on with Part 2…coming soon.