Jeff Chang on DJ Kool Herc

Hip-hop fans and aficionados and anyone interested in how hip-hop came about will want to read “DJ Kool Herc: The Man with the Master Plan,” our latest feature essay at The Avid Listener. This essay is an excerpt from a chapter by Jeff Chang published in the new book What’s that Sound? An Introduction to Rock and Its History. Chang has been racking up the awards and accolades for his newest book, Who We Be: The Colorization of America. (Check out this review by hip-hop scholar Tricia Rose in The New York Times.) Back when I taught a Hip-hop class, I used his book Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop as a textbook. Chang’s writing is compelling and accessible; his research is rich and deep. Everyone should pick up a copy of his new book!

In the meantime, I’m happy to share this essay with you. Chang takes us back to 1973, a key year in the development of Hip-hop music and culture. He tells us about (some of) Herc’s contributions to Hip-hop. He shows us how Herc connected with dancers. And he introduces us to other key figures of the era. Here’s an excerpt:

“When Cindy Campbell and her brother Clive “DJ Kool Herc” Campbell threw a party in 1973, they had no idea what they were about to launch. At the end of the summer, they invited a hundred kids and kin to the modest rec room in their apartment building at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. Kool Herc started off playing some reggae dancehall tunes on his turntables, similar to the music he had heard at sound system parties in Kingston, Jamaica, where he had lived until the age of twelve. But this was the Bronx. The crowd, at first, wasn’t very happy; they wanted the breaks, the kind of beats that they could move and groove to. So, like any good DJ, Herc gave the people what they wanted…”

Read the full essay here.

Up next week: “Recording: a Team Process,” by Travis Stimeling

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