I am going to borrow from my friends Naughty By Nature and shout-out…..
“HIP HOP HOORAY”
Over the next few weeks…and possibly months I am going to celebrate the genre of music that has fueled my being, my soul, my passion, and my extensive career in music. I am celebrating rap music and the elements of the culture that is known worldwide as HIP HOP.
Do you know about the…HOLY TRINITY of HIP HOP?
Hip Hop as we know it today, is felt and heard everywhere. It is a cultural movement and a global phenomenon. Its strength and power has influenced all of the arts. Hip Hop is a tremendous part of our pop culture. We see traits of hip hop in the marketing and growth of business, our sports and even our politics. I often hear politicians and news casters quoting rap lyrics.
In the mid-seventies I was a club DJ that played all genres of music. This job was a natural progression for me since I collected records as a child and accumulated an enormous collection. If I heard a song and loved it, I had to find and have that record. I began by collecting 45 rpm records (vinyl) and quickly evolved into collecting LP’s (long-playing albums).
When I purchased an album, I would listen with undivided attention and full intension to find the songs that moved me even more than the hits on the album. I always found songs that I considered to be hidden gems. There were many people just like me that were doing the same thing. There were DJ’s and producers in New York that took these unknown “album cuts” and re-created new songs by sampling certain pieces of the song. Dance and Hip Hop music seemed to sample songs much more than other genres.
For me, my life changed in 1979, when I first heard a song called “Rappers Delight”. This was the first commercially successful rap song by “The Sugar Hill Gang.” It was the first rap song to hit the Billboard charts as a Top 40 hit. When “Rappers Delight” hit my ears it quickly got my attention. Then in 1982 another song hit my soul and blew my mind. The song was “Planet Rock” by “Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force.” Upon hearing this song, I had to have it, right away. I found it and played it in the club the very next time I was in the DJ booth. At first the crowd just listened and about a minute later they started moving towards the dance floor.
At the time “disco” dance music was still immensely popular, so “Planet Rock” marked the change of the way I wanted to rock my dancefloor. This became a signature song for my DJ sets each night I performed at the club. It has now been 40 years since the release of Planet Rock, and we still use this song on the weekends at a fitness class at the beach and that crowd loves it too.
Planet Rock was created by Bambaataa and the producer Arthur Baker after bonding over their love of the group Kraftwerk, which were pioneers in electronic music and popularized the genre. I also loved Kraftwerk, so Planet Rock was music to my ears and a new addition to the soundtrack of my life. After hearing Rappers Delight and Planet Rock I wanted to know EVERYTHING about RAP MUSIC….THE HISTORY & ROOTS OF RAP….THE ORIGINS….THE ORIGINATORS….WHERE & WHEN IT ALL BEGAN.
As I went on my quest to learn more about the music that shook me to my core, I read and heard many different stories. The stories were always similar from where it all began. So let me take you to the borough in New York City where it “DID” begin …….
It was the seventies and while all the glamorous people and celebrities were dancing the night away in the clubs of Manhattan NY to disco music, the Bronx was on fire with gang violence, murder, drugs and “REAL FIRES.” South Bronx had the worst fire devastation in the country. There were blocks of burned-out buildings. Jobs were scarce and the livelihoods of the people were at an all-time low. South Bronx was only 4.7 miles from Manhattan yet the difference in the lives of its people were starkly different.
Let me introduce you to one of the first originators of Hip Hop……DJ KOOL HERC. (the Founding Father of Hip Hop)
The South Bronx clearly needed something to bring the city together. A local DJ known for house parties that could sometimes be violent decided to take his parties out of the house and into a local recreation center.
On Saturday, August 11, 1973, the first “rec-party” took place at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the South Bronx. A hand-crafted flyer billed it as a “DJ KOOL HERC PARTY….Back To School Jam.”
The admission for ladies was 25 cents and gents were 50 cents. Such a low price to be a part of history!
This party had about 50 attendees and when the word got out about all the fun and great music, future parties had people lined up around the block to get in.
Herc did NOT play the disco found in the clubs of NYC. He played the music that he loved which were mostly deep album cuts that most people did not know. He played the hidden gems of Soul, Jazz, and Funk albums. But he put his own twist on the songs. He loved the breaks of songs which were often the parts that made you want to “dance harder.” So, he extended the breaks in the songs to go longer and play louder. He was known for isolating these breaks and repeating them seamlessly over and over. His continuous “breakbeats” were also known as DJ Kool Herc’s, Merry Go Round beats.
A repeated sample of a drumbeat, usually forming a fast syncopated rhythm, used as a basis for hip hop and dance music.
DJ Kool Herc is now known as the “Father of the DJ Breakbeat”
In 2017, a section of Sedgwick Ave in The Bronx was renamed by NY Mayor Bill De Blasio as “HIP HOP BLVD” to honor the Birthplace of Hip Hop and the legacy of DJ Kool Herc.
It was at Kool Herc’s parties where guys started dancing against each other (battle dancing). They were doing a unique style of dance which became known as break-dancing or breakin’. The guys became known as B-Boys and it was not long until the girls joined in, and B-Girls were also claiming their fame on the dancefloor too.
Take a look….
How the Bronx brought breaking to the world – YouTube
Coke La Rock, becomes the “Life of the DJ Kool Herc Party”
Coke La Rock was a friend of Kool Herc who jumped on the mic at Herc’s parties to give some basic shout-outs to people in the party. After his first party, Coke began to get more energetic and animated on the mic. He began to rhyme in his shout-outs and messages. With Kool Herc’s amazing music and unique style of spinning music, and Coke La Rock on the mic, the parties doubled in size each time they rocked a party together. Soon there were very long lines to get into the DJ Kool Herc parties.
From the East side of town comes another originator, pioneer, and emerging star of the early days of hip hop… Afrika Bambaataa (The Godfather and the spiritual father of Hip Hop)
Afrika Bambaataa was born Lance Taylor and he grew up in the Bronx River Projects. His mother was part of the Black Liberation Movement, and she also had a massive collection of records. Gangs surrounded the projects and Lance was soon a member of the largest and most feared gang in the city, the Black Spades. It was his job to recruit new members. He had respect from people in the Bronx and other gang members. He was able to cross turf and build relationships with other gangs to grow the turf and members for the Black Spades. Lance was smart and he could bring people together. He loved music, and books…he also had a thirst for knowledge.
When he joined an essay contest and won, he was given a trip to Africa, After going to Africa and also seeing the movie “Zulu” he wanted to create solidarity and unification in The Bronx just like the Zulu’s did in Africa. He changed his name to Afrika Bambaataa and started a new group in the city which he called the “Bronx River Organization.”
He brought forth young leaders from all the organizations throughout the city. Young, dynamic leaders from local churches and schools. He recruited DJ’s, MC’s, B-Boys, B-Girls, and Graffiti Artists to come together and join his group. He then persuaded many of the Black Spades to join another new group that he founded called the “Universal Zulu Nation.” He brought knowledge to the group. He wanted all members, no matter what their background was, to learn the history of their ancestors.
Since Bambaataa had access to a huge and eclectic record collection, he too started having parties at the “Bronx River Community Center.” His first party was in 1976. He wanted his parties to unify the streets and to bring peace to the city. Everyone was invited regardless of color or where they were from. He definitely lured the people in with his brilliant music and DJ skills, but they got so much more by being around young positive people with a new mindset.
Bambaataa preached his core values of Hip-Hop which were, peace, unity, love and having fun. He was named the “Godfather” of hip-hop for his formation of the Hip-Hop movement in Europe, Africa, and Asia. There are several stories about who created the term Hip Hop. Most reports say that Keith “Cowboy” Wiggins a member of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five or the Bronx rapper and DJ “Lovebug Starski” coined the name “Hip Hop”, but Afrika Bambaataa was the first one to name the whole culture “Hip Hop” through his Universal Zulu Nation.
It was around 1989 when I was asked by Afrika Islam and Ice T, to join the Zulu Nation as a Zulu Queen with some other amazing women from Los Angeles. At the time I was also a DJ in the Reggae Room at their club called “United Nations.”
Here is an old flyer and you will notice some legends that were also part of the club and the Zulu Nation
Afrika Islam, DJ Caz, DJ Yutaka, Curtis Harmon (who was a famous Mix Master at the first all hip hop radio station “1580 KDAY” in Los Angeles – and now known as Muhammad Abdulsalaam).
In 1982, Bambaataa formed his group “Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force” and signed to Tommy Boy Records. This was the same year that this group changed my life with their monster hip hop classic, “PLANET ROCK”
The next major originator and pioneer to emerge was “Grandmaster Flash” (the Grandmaster of the turntables)
His birth name is Joseph Saddler and as a young boy he had a strange fascination with electronics and especially with anything that spun around. He could watch wheels and dryers spin for hours. He loved watching his father’s turntable spin. He did not understand how the music came off of that black disc and into his ear drums, but he loved it.
His father also had an extensive collection of records.
In school Joseph learned to repair electronic equipment. He understood how electronics worked. He would take things apart and put them back together again. He built his first DJ & sound system from old parts and speakers he found around his neighborhood. He started experimenting with turntables, mixers, and speakers. He too learned to isolate beats and could stop records in certain spots to create a fresh, alternate version of the songs. He soon was so good with records and equipment that he could masterfully control and maneuver his records to create new sounds. He played his turntables as if they were musical instruments…
THEY WERE HIS INSTRUMENTS!
This is how he became “Grandmaster Flash” and how he became the inventor of “the quick mix theory” which included the backspin, scratching, and punch phrasing. He was able to loop and repeat the best dance and exciting parts of songs. He is also known for blending drum breaks and beats from other genres into his songs and he was a master at mixing records. He was reverently dedicated to his craft and “Flash” made DJ’ing a science.
Grandmaster Flash connected technique with technology and created hysteria on all his dancefloors.
Grandmaster Flash also formed “Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five” in the seventies. After signing with Sugar Hill records the group had a string of successful rap hits and anthems. Their biggest song was “The Message” released in 1982. This classic has been deemed one of the greatest rap songs of all-time. In 2002, “the Message” was chosen by the Library of Congress and added to the National Recording Registry. In 2007, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were the first hip hop group to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Now you have been introduced to the “HOLY TRINITY of HIP HOP”….DJ KOOL HERC…AFRIKA BAMBAATAA & GRANDMASTER FLASH.
Coming soon…More Hip Hop history lessons and the origins of some of the GREATEST Hip Hop groups, artists , albums, and films of ALL-TIME