The events of this day in 1973 can be considered the beginning of the Hip Hop history timeline. What was intended to be an end of Summer party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in New York City ending up being ground zero for one of the most important musical phenomenon of the century, the birth of Hip-Hop.
The schooll was getting ready to start in the Bronx and Cindy Campbell wanted desperately to be the flyest on the first day. She knew all the other girls in the neighborhood would probably be shopping at local stores and she dreaded the thought of being caught in the same blouse of a classmate from down the block. Cindy wanted her wardrobe to stand out and had her eye on the boutiques of the Lower East Side to make that happen.
Without a job or affluent parents to let her frivolously draw up charges on their credit, Cindy was forced to find a way to satisfy her expensive taste independently. She came up with the brilliant idea of throwing a back-to-school party in the recreation room of her Bronx apartment building. She booked her 16-year-old brother Clive aka DJ Kool Herc to spin the decks and the date was set.
Hand-drawn index flashcard fliers were handed out all over the city advertising “A Kool Herc Party” with a $.25 cover for the ladies and a whopping $.50 for any fellas looking to have a good time. When the night of the event came, 300 people showed face to party with Cindy and Kool Herc.
Before this night, DJ Kool Herc was not a name widely known in the New York DJ scene. In 1973, the parties in the city were still centered around soul train lines and disco balls with B-Boys and break beats having yet to emerge. Herc’s set for the night was completely against the grain of anything that one would hear at the typical house party in the early 70’s. Void of the standard psychedelic rock or mainstream disco pop that was flooding record shops of the time, Herc played funk and soul cuts ranging from The Jimmy Caster Bunch to live James Brown to keep the energy electrifying and the people moving. It was the first of it’s kind, an underground alternative to the disco world created by and for the inner city. It was the beginning of a new Renaissance, but this time stemming from the Bronx.
This first Kool Herc Party was the hand that started the domino effect that was to become Hip Hop. Although the music had yet to make it’s debut, the stage was being set by the rise of block parties and a scene separate from anything going on in New York. Kool Herc created a whole new universe from which break dancing, graffiti, scratching, and rapping were to emerge. Without this party who is to say the flame would be sparked to create the vast inferno that Hip Hop has become. Who’s to say that the artists who have claimed to have been inspired to rhyme by the famous block parties of New York would have ever picked up a microphone if Cindy Campbell didn’t want to make a few extra bucks. This party, although widely overlooked, was the beginning of a lifestyle that has grown to become one of our planet’s driving creative forces. Without it, who knows where society would be today.
Catch the Godfather of Hip Hop next month September 6-9 at the 5th Annual Source 360!