DJ Kool Herc: The Originator of Hip Hop

Clive Campbell aka DJ Kool Herc developed the style that became the blueprint for hip hop music.

DJ Kool Herc is a Jamaican-born American DJ credited as the father of hip hop. He not only developed the “break” style of mixing music, but he also invented B-Boys and B-Girls as he referred to his dancers as Break Boys and Break Girls. Rapping over the mixed instrumental breaks was derived from his experience in Jamaican dance halls as a boy. The dance hall DJ’s would “toast” over the music in rhyme fashion.

DJ kool Herc

DJ Kool Herc quickly became a legend in the Bronx. He formed his group called “the Herculoids” and would perform in multiple clubs, venues and street block parties around the Bronx.

kool herc early

In 1979, the record company executive Sylvia Robinson assembled a group she called The Sugarhill Gang and recorded “Rapper’s Delight”. The hit song ushered in the era of commercially released hip hop. By that year’s end, Grandmaster Flash was recording for Enjoy Records. In 1980, Afrika Bambaataa began recording for Winley. By this time, DJ Kool Herc’s star had faded.

Grandmaster Flash suggests that Herc may not have kept pace with developments in techniques of cueing (lining up a record to play at a certain place on it). Developments changed techniques of cutting (switching from one record to another) and scratching (moving the record by hand to and fro under the stylus for percussive effect) in the late 1970s. Herc said he retreated from the scene after being stabbed at the Executive Playhouse while trying to intercede in a fight, and the burning down of one of his venues. In 1980, Herc had stopped DJing and was working in a record shop in South Bronx.