Hip hop pioneer Kool DJ Herc held his first parties here
The roots of hip hop culture are in the streets and playgrounds of the Bronx in the late 1960s and early 1970s where Blacks and Latinos would gather for outdoor parties and a DJ would patch his sound system into the power box of a streetlight and play records so MCs could say their lyrics and b-boys dance their moves. Black, Puerto Rican, Jamaican and other Afro-Caribbean communities all influenced the different threads of hip hop culture. Kool Herc emigrated from Jamaica when he was 12 years old. DJ Grandmaster Flash and his assistant, Grand Wizard Theodore, both of whom were involved in the creation and refinement of the “scratching” technique, were of Barbadian and Puerto Rican heritage respectively. MC Grandmaster Caz was African American.
The environment which gave rise to this cultural expression was a New York City that in the 1970s was on the verge of bankruptcy. Dramatic...
Kool DJ Herc, who many scholars believe is the founder of hip hop, held his first parties in the community center of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. His unique style of using two turntables to have the most percussive sections of records (the break beats) blend into one another captured the imagination of Bronx youth and encouraged innovative forms of competitive dancing (b'byoing or break dancing) and later poetic toasting over the beats (mcing or rapping). The reputation of Herc's parties soon spread throughout the Bronx, where other dj's like Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambatta began building on his innovations. This is where Hip Hop, now a truly international cultural movement, had its start.
Hip Hop culture is now worldwide. You can find it in Senegal, in Berlin, in Paris, in Tokyo, and where ever hip hop artists create beats and rhymes and dances, they pay tribute to the DJ's in the Bronx who started it all. The name Kool Herc is as well known among hip hop afficiandos in Marseilles as it is in Manhattan, in Bengladesh as it is in the Bronx.
Memorializing the place where Kool Herc held his first parties offers recognition and respect to young people who refused to be marginalized and created a new musical form which has given a voice to young people around the world who, in the words of Afrika Bambatta, have been "looking for the perfect beat." Honoring Hip Hop's founding generation this way is a perfect way of reminding us that cultural creativity can be found in places far removed from concert halls, theatres and universities. A world wide cultural movement that revolutionized popular music started in a community center of a subsidized housing complex in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx.
The facade that says 1520 Sedgwick Avenue has been put on posters, on book covers, on sweat suits and tee shirts. It is a worldwide symbol of hip hop culture. (May 2007)
One of the birthplaces of hip hop culture. The community that it supported gave birth to a significant development in American musical culture. (June 2007)