DJ Kool Herc knows the truth.
“How can you say you love hip-hop if you don’t know who created it?” he asks, calling from his home in the Bronx. “That’s phony.”
There are bigger hip-hop stars than Kool Herc. There are more influential ones. But without him, hip-hop as we know it wouldn’t exist.
Born Clive Campbell, he invented it 40 years ago this August in the rec room of the high-rise at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx, at a party for his sister Cindy Campbell, now a curator at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. Kool Herc used two turntables playing the same record to create what he called “the yoke,” a piece of music built by joining the instrumental break on one of the records to the same break on the other. That became a party-starting groove that never ended, as well as a platform for rappers to rhyme over, B-boys to breakdance to, and artists of all sorts to gather around.
“I’m the George Washington of this,” said Kool Herc, who has been making more appearances recently discussing his role in founding hip-hop, as he will at Cinema Arts Centre Wednesday with Grandmaster Melle Mel for a special screening of the 1984 movie “Beat Street.” “The first name is me. I’m not fighting, but people need to know.
There are thousands of artists in New York City. Some are famous internationally, while others are scratching out a living while perfecting their craft in basements or on stage. LFANT is bringing a few of them to the spotlight, in their own voices.
Here, DJ Kool Herc, one of the pioneers of hip-hop. Exactly 40 years ago, he started DJing in the community room of a residential building in The Bronx. He isolated the most danceable part of songs and put them together, creating one of the key elements of hip-hop.
Forty years later, Herc said he believes hip-hop has achieved Martin Luther King’s dream, bringing white and black kids together. And reaching the highest rankings of power. “Presidents are calling rapper people’s names, that never happened before,” he said. “Hip-hop is really important, as a matter of fact it’s bigger than the government.”