1520 Sedgwick Avenue is a 102-unit apartment building in the Morris Heights neighborhood in the Bronx, New York City. Recognized as a long-time “haven for working class families,” in 2010 The New York Times reported that it is the accepted birthplace of hip hop. After a long period of neglect and shady dealings in the 1990s and 2000s the building has been “highlighted by elected officials and tenant advocates as an emblem of New York’s affordable housing crisis.” Senator Charles E. Schumer called the building “the birthplace of predatory equity“, and Representative José E. Serrano, speaking of the building’s recent purchase, called it, “such a visible building.”
On July 5, 2007, 1520 Sedgwick Avenue was recognized by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation as the birthplace of hip hop.
1520 Sedgwick Avenue has been called “an otherwise unremarkable high-rise just north of the Cross Bronx Expressway and hard along the Major Deegan Expressway.” As hip hop grew from throughout the Bronx, 1520 was a starting point where Clive Campbell, later known as DJ Kool Herc, presided over parties in the community room at a pivotal point in the genre’s history.
DJ Kool Herc is credited with helping to start hip hop and rap music at a house concert at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue on August 11, 1973. At the concert he was DJing and emceeing in the recreation room of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. Sources have noted that while 1520 Sedgwick Avenue was not the actual birthplace of hip hop – the genre developed slowly in several places in the 1970s – it was verified to be the place where one of the pivotal and formative events occurred that spurred hip hop culture forward. During a rally to save the building, DJ Kool Herc said, “1520 Sedgwick is the Bethlehem of Hip-Hop culture.”
On August 11, 1973, Clive Campbell aka Kool Herc DJed for his sister Cindy’s back-to-school party in the recreation center at 1520 Sedgwick. After spending months perfecting a new technique involving “playing the frantic grooves at the beginning or in the middle of the song” with two turntables, a mixer, and two copies of the same record, Campbell unveiled the technique at his sister’s party. After renting the recreation room for 25 dollars, Cindy charged 25 cents for females and 50 cents for males to attend. “I wrote out the invites on index cards, so all Herc had to do was show up. With the party set from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., our mom served snacks and dad picked up the sodas and beer from a local beverage warehouse.” With the exhibition of his new style, Campbell’s friend Coke La Rock demonstrated another innovation called rapping. Attendees, or people who later claimed to be there, include Grandmaster Caz, leader of the Cold Crush Brothers, Grandmaster Flash, Busy Bee, Afrika Bambaataa, Sheri Sher, Mean Gene, Red Alert, and KRS-One.