One Night at the Executive Playouse: Kool Herc vs Pete DJ Jones

Today January 15 2014, word has just come to me from writer and historian Mark Skillz that we lost Pete DJ Jones.. For many reading this his name is unknown. He’s not often associated with the pioneering days of Hip Hop because he was older and many saw him as part of the emerging disco/club era when turn tables started to replace live bands.

Both Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Flash note that Pete was the first one they ever saw rock two turntables and spin two copies of the same record. This was in 1972.. His influence and his importance should not be understated or overlooked.  There are two pieces people should read to understand who this man was and why he was important..

First is an great interview from Tha Foundation Pete DJ Jones Intv

The second is this story we posted below a while back from Mark Skillz….We lost a true legend today May He Rest in Peace.

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As Hip Hop continues to evolve and becomes more of a corporate thing, many of its landmark, golden moments get lost. In this article, veteran writer and longtime DJ Mark Skillz unearthed one of Hip Hop’s pivotal moments when an emerging Kool Herc squared off with well-known popular DJ Pete Jones.

This battle was symbolic on many levels. For Kool Herc to go up against Pete DJ Jones meant that Hip Hop had arrived and there was no denying it. It was Student vs Teacher, Young vs Old, and Hip Hop vs Disco… It’s a moment in time we should not forget.

Props to Mark Skillz and Wax Poetic Magazine where this article first appeared

http://markskillz.blogspot.com/2006/07/one-night-at-executive-playhouse.html

Logo Kool herc vs Pete Jones

Pete DJ Jones vs. Kool DJ Herc:
One Night At the Executive Playhouse

By Mark Skillz

Mark skillz brown-225Back in the good old days of 1977 when gas lines were long and unemployment was high, there were two schools of deejays competing for Black and Latino audiences in New York City: the Pete D.J. Jones crowd and the devout followers of Kool D.J. Herc. One group played the popular music of the day for party-going adult audiences in clubs in downtown Manhattan. The other played raw funk and break-beats for a rapidly growing, fanatic – almost cult-like following of teenagers in rec centers and parks. Both sides had their devotees. One night the two-masters of the separate tribes clashed in a dark and crowded club on Mount Eden and Jerome Avenue called the Executive Playhouse.

The First Master: The Wise Teacher

You can’t miss Pete D.J. Jones at a party – or anywhere else for that matter, he is somewhere near seven feet tall and bespectacled, today at 64 years old he is a retired school teacher from the Bronx, but if you listen to him speak you immediately know he ain’t from New York – he’s from ‘down home’ as they say in Durham, North Carolina. But no matter where he was from, back in the ’70’s, Pete Jones was the man.

“I played everywhere”, Mr. Jones says in a voice that sounds like your uncle or grandfather from somewhere down deep in the south, even though he’s been in New York for more than thirty years. “I played Smalls Paradise, Leviticus, Justine’s, Nells – everywhere.”

“Looky here”, he says to me in the coolest southern drawl before he asks me a question, “You ever heard of Charles Gallery?”

“Yes”, I said, as I tell him that I’m only 36 years old and I had only heard about the place through stories from people who had been there. “Oh”, he says in response, “that was one helluva club. Tell you what, you know that club, Wilt’s ‘Small’s Paradise’?”

“Yep”, I said, “that place is internationally known – but I never went there either.”

“That’s ok”, he says still as cool as a North Carolina summer breeze, “When I played there GQ and the Fatback Band opened for me.”

“No way – are you talking about ‘Rock-Freak’ GQ, the same people that did ‘Disco Nights?’

“One and the same”, he says. He suspects that I don’t believe him so he says, “Hey, we can call Rahiem right now and he’ll tell ya.” As much as I would love to speak with Rahiem Vaughn I pass, I believe him.

pete dj jones-225In his heyday Pete DJ Jones was to adult African- American partygoers what Kool Herc was to West Bronx proto- type hip-hoppers, he was the be all to end all. He played jams all over the city for the number one black radio station at the time: WBLS. At these jams is where he blasted away the competition with his four Bose 901 speakers and two Macintosh 100’s – which were very powerful amps.

At certain venues he’d position his Bose speakers facing toward the wall, so that when they played the sound would deflect off of the wall and out to the crowd. The results were stunning to say the least. His system, complete with two belt drive Technic SL-23’s (which were way before 1200’s) and a light and screen show, which he says he’d make by: “Taking a white sheet and hanging it on the wall, and aiming a projector that had slides in it from some of the clubs I played at.” These effects wowed audiences all over the city. He went head to head with the biggest names of that era: the Smith Brothers, Ron Plummer, Maboya, Grandmaster Flowers, the Disco Twins, “Oh yeah”, he says, “I took them all on.”

On the black club circuit in Manhattan at that time – much like the Bronx scene – deejays spun records and had guys rap on the mike. “I ran a club called Superstar 33, ask anyone and they will tell you: That was the first place that Kurtis Blow got on the mic at”, says a gruff voiced gentlemen who, back then, called himself JT Hollywood – not to be confused with D.J. Hollywood, whom JT remembers as, “An arrogant ass who always wanted @#%$ to go his way.”

“I wouldn’t call what we did rappin’ – I used to say some ol’ slick and sophisticated @#%$ on the mike”, said a proud JT.

“We spun breaks back then too”, Pete Jones says, “I played “Do it anyway you wanna,” ‘Scorpio’, ‘Bongo Rock’, BT Express, Crown Heights Affair, Kool and the Gang, we played all of that stuff – and we’d keep the break going too. I played it all, disco, it didn’t matter, there was no hip-hop per se back then, except for the parts we made up by spinning it over and over again.”

There have been so many stories written about hip-hop’s early days that have not reported on the guys that spun in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the early and mid ’70’s, that many crucial deejays of that time feel left out.

Kool-Herc-the-father-300“Kool Herc and guys like that didn’t have a big reputation back then”, explains Jones, “they were in the Bronx – we, meaning guys like myself and Flowers, we played everywhere, so we were known. Their crowd was anywhere between 4 to 70. Mine was 18-22. They played in parks – where anybody could go, no matter how old you are you could go to a park. We played in clubs.”

With a sense of urgency Mr. Jones says, “I have to clear something up, many people think that we played disco – that’s not true. There were two things happening in black music at that time: there was the “Hustle” type music being played – which was stuff like Van McCoy’s “Do the Hustle” – I couldn’t stand that record. And then there were the funky type records that mixed the Blues and jazz with Latin percussion that would later be called funk. Well, hip-hop emerged from that.”

He places special emphasis on the word ‘emerged’. He says that because “If you know anything about the history of music, you know, no one person created anything, it ‘emerges’ from different things.

The Second Master: The Cult Leader

Kool Herc drivingThere must have been a height requirement for deejays in the ’70’s, because like Pete DJ Jones, Kool DJ Herc is a giant among men. In fact, with his gargantuan sized sound system and 6’5, 200 plus pound frame, the man is probably the closest thing hip-hop has ever seen to the Biblical Goliath. Today, some thirty years since his first party in the West Bronx, Kool Herc is still larger than life. His long reddish-brown dreads hang on his shoulders giving him a regal look – sort of like a lion. His hands – which are big enough to crush soda cans and walnuts, reveal scarred knuckles, which are evidence of a rough life. During our conversation, Kool Herc, whose street hardened voice peppered with the speech patterns of his homeland Jamaica and his adopted city of New York made several references to ‘lock up’, ‘the precinct’ and the ‘bullpen’, all in a manner that showed that he had more than a passing familiarity with those types of situations.

As the tale goes Kool Herc planted the seeds for hip-hop in 1973 in the West Bronx. Along with his friends Timmy Tim and Coke La Rock, and with the backing of his family – in particular his sister Cindy , the parties he threw back then are the food of urban legend. In the 1984 BBC documentary “The History of Hip Hop” an eight-millimeter movie is shown – it is perhaps the only piece of physical evidence of those historic parties. In the film, teenagers of anywhere between 17-20 years old are grooving to the sounds of James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turn It Loose“. Young men wearing sunglasses and sporting fishermen hats with doo rags underneath them, are seen dancing with excited young women, all while crowded into the rec room of hip-hop’s birthplace: 1520 Sedgwick Ave.

As the camera pans to the right, the large hulking figure of Kool Herc takes the forefront. Sporting dark sunglasses and wearing a large medallion around his neck, Kool Herc is decked out in an AJ Lester’s suit. He isn’t just an imposing figure over his set; he looms large over his audience as well. His sound system – a monstrous assemblage of technology, was large and intimidating too, so awesome was it that his speakers were dubbed the ‘Herculords‘. When Kool Herc played his gargantuan sized sound system – the ground shook. And so did his competition.

Afrika Bambaataa & Kool Herc

Afrika Bambaataa & Kool Herc

Legend has it that with his twin tower Shure columns and his powerful Macintosh amplifiers, he is said to have drowned the mighty Afrika Bambaataa at a sound clash. “Bambaataa”, Herc said with the volume of his echo plex turned up and in his cool Jamaica meets the Bronx voice, ‘Turn your system down…”

But the mighty Zulu chief was unbowed.

So once again Herc spoke into the mike, “Ahem, Bambaataa…turn your system down!” And with that, Herc turned the volume of the echo plex up, and bought in the notorious break-beat classic ‘The Mexican’ all the while drowning Bambaataa in a wall of reverberated bass and funk drumming. According to Disco Bee, “That was typical of Herc – if you went over your time, hell yeah, he’d drown you out.”

In his arsenal Herc had the mighty twin speakers dubbed the ‘Herculords’ and his crew, a mixture of high school friends and neighborhood kids called the ‘Herculoids’. The squad consisted of the Imperial Jay Cee, LaBrew, Sweet and Sour, Clark Kent, Timmy Tim, Pebblee Poo, Coke La Rock, Eldorado Mike and the Nigger Twins. According to Herc, “Coke and Tim were friends of mine, it’s like I got the Chevy, and I’m driving. You my man, so you roll too. So when Coke wanted to play – he play, you know what I mean?”

Coke La Rock

Coke La Rock

Although the core crew was Herc, Timmy Tim and Coke La Rock, many of the people that frequented these parties could also be dubbed Herculoids as well. Even though they weren’t members of the crew, many of these people would become disciples of a new musical gospel. They would help spread the musical message and further build upon the foundation that Herc had laid down. Much like the early Christians, who endured all manner of harassment, the early followers of Kool Herc, would lead what would later be called hip-hop, through the parks and rec centers of New York and then onto the international stage. These devotees’s would be active figures in this new genre from the late 70’s into the mid-80’s.

“Man, Herc was a monster”, remembers D.J. AJ Scratch, who Kurtis Blow paid homage to on the classic record “AJ”. “I wasn’t even on back then – I was trying to get in the game back then”, reminisced AJ, “I was a nobody, I was like a regular dude, you know what I’m saying? I was a Kool Herc follower – I was a loyal follower, I would’ve followed Kool Herc to the edge of the Earth.”

“Yo, Herc was unstoppable back then”, said D.J. EZ Mike – who alongside Disco Bee, were Grandmaster Flash’s left and right hand men, they helped Flash develop his quick-mix theories and rock shows back in the day. “Back then, no one could touch Herc and his system – it was just that powerful.”

Disco Bee

Disco Bee

Disco Bee concurs, “The first time I heard Kool Herc, I used to always hear his music, I used to live in these apartments and I would hear this loud ass music. We used to go to the park and we would hear his @#%$ from three or four blocks away! We would hear this sound coming out of the park. You’d be like ‘what is that sound?’ You’d hear (Disco Bee imitates the sound of the drums) ‘shoooop, shoooop, donk, donk, shooooop. You wouldn’t hear any bass until you started getting closer. But you could hear his music from very far. And you’d know that Kool Herc was in the park. We used to go to Grant Ave. where Kool Herc would be giving block parties. We’d hear him while we’re coming up the street, we’re coming up from the 9 and we’d be coming up the steps and you’d hear his music on Grant Ave. It used to be crazy.”

“Herc had the recognition, he was the big name in the Bronx back then”, explains AJ. “Back then the guys with the big names were: Kool D, Disco King Mario, Smokey and the Smoke-a-trons, Pete DJ Jones, Grandmaster Flowers and Kool Herc. Not even Bambaataa had a big name at that time, you know what I’m sayin?”

According to Herc’s own account, he was the man back then. “Hands down the ’70’s were mine”, he said. “Timmy Tim is the one that bought me ‘Bongo Rock’, and I made it more popular. He bought me that album, and after I heard that album I said to Coke “Listen to this @#%$ here man! We used that record and that was what kicked off my format called the ‘merry go round”.

“Pete D.J. Jones was basically a whole other level”, says AJ. “He played disco music, and Herc played b-boy music, you know what I’m sayin?”

Mark Skillz: “So, when you say he played ‘disco’ music what do you mean? Give me an example of a record that Pete Jones might play.

AJ: Ok, he played things like ‘Love is the Message’ and ‘Got to Be Real’ – stuff like that; he played stuff with that disco pop to it. He didn’t play original break-beats like what Kool Herc was on. He played like a lot of radio stuff. That’s what Pete D.J. Jones did – that’s what made him good. I mean he had a sound system but he played a lot of radio stuff. Kool Herc played the hardcore @#%$ you ain’t ever hear: Yellow Sunshine, Bongo Rock and Babe Ruth – a whole variety of stuff; James Brown ‘Sex Machine’, you know the version with the ‘Clap your hands, stomp your feet?’

Before hip-hop was a multi-billion dollar a year industry, it was a sub-culture. All of the elements were coming into place, sort of being cooked like a stew, in a melting pot: a spoonful of funk, a fistful of bass, a heap of raw energy, all cut up on a platter with a dash of angel dust.

The Battleground

Deep in the heart of the Bronx located on Mt. Eden and Jerome was one of the first indoor hip hop spots. The owners of the venue probably gave it other names over the years but the two most popular ones were the Sparkle and the Executive Playhouse.

AJ Scratch

AJ Scratch

“It was real dark [in the Executive Playhouse]“, remembers AJ, “it wasn’t really like put together, it had a little stage, it had like a little miniature light show, you know what I’m sayin’, it was like a low budget venue. Right around the corner from the Executive Playhouse was the Parkside Plaza – that was a disco. The Executive Playhouse was something that maybe the guys went into the Parkside Plaza and got the idea to open up a club. So they went right around the corner on Mt. Eden and Jerome and opened up the Executive Playhouse – maybe they had the idea, but it wasn’t comparable with the Parkside Plaza. You go in there [the Executive Playhouse] and would be looking around, and you probably wouldn’t wanna go to the bathroom, because of the lighting, you know what I’m saying? There were lights but it was dim. That was hip-hop back then everything was dimmed out.”

The drug of choice back then was weed sprinkled with PCP – the ‘dust heads’ and the stick-up kids were all over the place, “That was the vibe back then”, declared AJ “and you wanted to be a part of that. The lights, the breaks, the dancing, them talking on the mike with the echo – that was hip-hop back then. You would go through anything just to hear Kool Herc’s performance. Kool Herc was special back then. It didn’t matter what the venue was like. It was what he displayed the night of the show; he did his thing.”

The Protégé

By day Pete Jones was an English teacher in Brooklyn. However, at night, Pete taught another set of students a whole other set of skills.

“I had several young guys that came around me trying to learn the deejay business”, explains Mr. Jones, “Magic Mike, Herby Herb and a lot of others, but none of them could figure out how to hook my system up. Except for one guy: Lovebug Starski. He went everywhere with me.”

Lovebug Starski

Lovebug Starski

Lovebug Starski was one of the few deejays of that time that could play for either a hard-core hip-hop crowd with an underground deejay like Kool DJ AJ or for the adult audience’s downtown with Pete Jones or in Harlem with D.J. Hollywood. His original mentor was his stepfather Thunderbird Johnny, a man who ran after hour spots uptown in Harlem. Starski was one of the few cats that could rock the mike and the wheels of steel at the same time.

But Pete had another protégé whose talent was immeasurable. In fact, he would forever change the skill set necessary to be a deejay. He was one-part scientist another part electronics wizard who possessed a sense of timing that was not of this world.

“One of the baddest deejays I ever saw was Grandmaster Flowers”, Jones says, “He could blend. He was a mixer. The things he did with records were incredible. He could hold a blend like you wouldn’t believe. He was the baddest thing I had ever saw.” That was until he saw a young man that had grown up in the Hoe Ave section of the South Bronx.

He was named Joseph at birth, called Joey in the neighborhood but would later gain fame under another name, a name which was partly inspired by a comic book hero. E-Z Mike, his best friend since childhood remembers it like this, “He got the name Flash because he was fast at everything he did. When we played basketball as kids, none of us could keep up with him. No matter what we did, he was always faster than the rest of us. He could outrun us all.” Later a local guy named Joe Kidd gave him the title of Grandmaster.

Before he became the Grandmaster Flash of legend, he was a student of Pete DJ Jones’. Friends described him as being intense, “When that guy caught the deejay bug real bad around 1973, we didn’t know what was happening”, said E-Z Mike, “He had a messenger job”, Mike continues, “He would get paid and by the next day – he would be broke. We’d be like, ‘Yo, where’s all of your money?’ He spent it all on records.”

From 1973 to 1977 Flash and his crew which first consisted of Mean Gene, Disco Bee and E-Z Mike and then later Cowboy, Mele Mel, Creole and Scorpio, were struggling to gain a foothold in the Bronx scene. But they could not get around Kool Herc. He was a giant.

“We’d try and get on Herc’s system”, Mike recalls, “But Herc wasn’t going for it. Flash would ask, “Could I get on?” and Herc would be like ‘Not”. You see back then”, Mike explains, “Nobody wanted Flash to touch their system. They’d be like, “Hell no, you be messing up needles and records and @#%$.” Both Disco Bee and E-Z Mike agree that Herc used to publicly embarrass Flash on the mike by talking ‘really greasy’ about him.

There have been many stories told about Flash’s early sound system, both EZ Mike and Disco Bee confirm that although Flash was an electronic wizard (E-Z Mike says, “Flash could build a TV from scratch”), his first system was the technological equivalent of a ’75 hoopty.

Disco Bee recalls that, “Flash built his own cueing system. Anything he could think of Flash would try to invent it”, Disco Bee laughs, “His system looked so raggedy, awww man, we had some raggedy junk. We were soldering stuff together right before we’d get ready to play, because he just built this thing, and he didn’t finish it. We used to get to a spot early and set up everything and he would be soldering stuff trying to get it to work. Man, we had some raggedy stuff.”

“Awww man this is gonna make you laugh”, E-Z Mike says, “Flash had these two speakers that he built from scratch, they were about six and a half feet tall, they were wood, he had three speakers in each one and on the top he put a piece of plastic with Christmas lights on the inside of it, so that when he deejayed the top of the speaker would be lighting up. Then he took white plastic and wrapped it around the wood – so that the speakers wouldn’t look like they were wood. We didn’t have any bass – there was no bass whatsoever. Just mids and highs”, Mike remembers.

The only person willing to give Flash a break was Pete Jones.

“The first time I met Pete was when I went with Flash to ‘Pete’s Lounge’. Like I said, Flash had gotten real serious about this deejay stuff and he would hook up with Pete and learn a lot of @#%$ from him.”

It must’ve been on one of these meetings at Pete’s Lounge that Flash and Pete plotted against Kool Herc.

A Sound Clash on the West Side of Jerome Ave.

Pete DJ Jones

Pete DJ Jones

“When I battled Pete, it wasn’t even a battle, it was telling my audience, what you think you gettin’? And you tried disrespectin’ and all that; let’s see what the other side of the spectrum sound like by a guy by the name of Pete DJ Jones”, said Herc.

Jones remembers it a little differently, “I guess he was somehow down with the club, he was like the resident deejay [at the Executive Playhouse] and they wanted to get a big crowd, so I guess it was his idea to battle me.”

It was inevitable that the two masters would clash.

The way Herc describes Pete’s audience is as “The bourgeoisie, the ones that graduated from the little house parties, you grown now you out your momma’s house. You puttin’ on Pierre Cardin now, you wearing Halston, you getting’ into the Jordache and Sassoon era, you down there where Frankie Crocker hangs out at, places like Nell Gwynn’s, or the big spot, whadda ya call it? Oh yeah, Leviticus, you down there. ”

“I’d say it was a week before the battle”, Pete remembers, “When I was out one night, and I ran into the twins. They must’ve had some kind of falling out with Herc, cause they were real mad at him. They said, “I’ll tell you all of the records he’s gonna play”. And he wrote all of them out for me, right there on the street.”

The twins he was referring to were the Nigger Twins, a couple of dancers who were a part of Herc’s crew. “When they wrote out his playlist for me, they said, “He’s gonna play them in this order”, Pete recalls.

The night of the battle Pete had a few cards up his sleeve so he went on first. ‘I broke out all of the records that the twins told me about, and I played them in the order that he would play them in. The next thing I knew I saw him walking around talking on the mike saying, “It sounds like I’m listening to a tape of myself.” He sounded real frustrated. I figured if I went first and played what he was gonna play, it would look like to the crowd he wasn’t doing anything different. That was the edge I had over him that night.”

But Herc’s followers were a devoted bunch.

After Pete played Herc went on and he dug deep into his playlist for the rarest of records.

“That was Kool Herc’s venue, the Executive Playhouse was a place that he played at constantly, so maybe they was using Pete to get a little extra audience. But Pete had notoriety. Kool Herc was big back then, he was probably number one in the Bronx.” Remembers AJ. “No matter if he took his playlist or not that doesn’t matter.”

AJ – a man who is well into his 40’s is still a devout practitioner of the ‘keep it real’ mentality. “Nah, Pete didn’t get the edge over Kool Herc”, AJ says, “You know why I think he got the edge over Kool Herc to be honest with you. This is only my opinion: Pete DJ Jones was a deejay but he was mad lazy yo. Pete DJ Jones used to hire dudes to come and play for him. The Executive Playhouse was not Pete’s kind of crowd. It wasn’t that he was a lazy dude it just wasn’t his crowd. It wasn’t Nell Gwynn’s or Nemo’s, it wasn’t downtown, so he wasn’t comfortable, so he put on the people that could rock that kind of crowd.”

After Herc played it was Pete’s turn again, this time he played his R&B and funk records – but the crowd wasn’t feeling it. So he pulled out a couple of ringers, in the form of his protégés: Lovebug Starski and Grandmaster Flash.

“Flash tore Herc’s ass up that night”, remembers E-Z Mike. “When it came crunch time to see what was what: Pete put Grandmaster Flash on”, remembers AJ. That was the first time I ever saw Flash play. The people were amazed. You see, Flash was a deejay, he was doing all that quick-mixing and spinning around and stuff – the Bronx lost its mind that night because we had never seen anything like that before.”

To the crowd of hundreds it looked like Pete Jones was winning. No one knew who Grandmaster Flash was that night. He was an unknown deejay playing on the set of one of the most popular jocks of that time. People yelled and screamed because it was the first time that they had seen a deejay with a magician’s flair for showmanship. Nobody played like that before. Kool Herc would haphazardly drop the needle on the record – sometimes the break was there, often times it wasn’t. Pete Jones could mix his ass off – but he wasn’t entertaining to watch. Both men had huge sound systems, but they weren’t charismatic spinners. Flash was.

On this night, the crowd at the Executive Playhouse was entranced with Flash’s spinning techniques, which were really revolutionary at this time. He had perfected a new technique called the ‘backspin’.

E-Z Mike remembers the first time Flash did the backspin: “He spent the night at my house, he woke up out of his sleep and turned the equipment on, it was like 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. The first record he did it with was Karen Young’s “Hotshot” and he backspun it a bunch of times, and then turned to me and said “Yo, remember that and remind me about it when I wake up.” And he jumped back in his bed. When he woke up the next morning, he did it again.”

One could only imagine that night at the Executive Playhouse in front of hundreds of stunned spectators Flash cutting ‘Hotshot’ to pieces:

“Hot shot, hot shot, hot…hot shot hot shot hot…hot shot. Hot shot. Hot shot…hot…hot…hot.

“You know what at that battle, Flash showed the Bronx that he was for real”, said AJ. By Herc’s own admission by 1977 he was on the decline. Whether or not it had anything to do with him getting stabbed at the Executive Playhouse is open to speculation. What is a fact though, is that after this battle between two of the biggest stars of the era the name Grandmaster Flash was no longer relegated to a small section of the Bronx. His fame spread like wildfire throughout the city. According to more than just one person interviewed for this story, the long-term effects of the battle on Kool Herc were not good. In the weeks proceeding the battle Herc’s audience got smaller and smaller. They were leaving the Executive Playhouse for another hotspot: The Dixie, which was the home of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Four.

Soon The Dixie would become so crowded that by 4 a.m. when the house was still packed the only way they could get people out of there was by playing Jackie Wilson’s “Work Out”, but the fly girls and b-boys would still want to party, “We’d put that record on”, said Disco Bee, “And you’d look out on the floor and folks would be doing the Twist”.

The battle between Kool Herc and Pete Jones was also a pivotal moment in time because previous to it battles were all about equipment, records and who moved the crowd – Grandmaster Flash added the next dimension: showmanship. This was at a time when the sound system was king. Breakout and Baron had Sasquatch. D.J. Divine had the Infinity Machine, Kool Herc had the Herculords and Grandmaster Flash would later have a system called the Gladiator. Today’s deejays know nothing of sound systems; even fewer know how to hook one up.

Mark Skillz says peace, respect and special thanks to Jeff Chang, Davey D, Christie Z Pabon, Cindy Campbell, Kool Herc, Kool DJ AJ, E-Z Mike, KC the Prince of Soul, JT Hollywood, Pete Jones, Charlie Ahearn for the photos and Disco Bee.

markskillz.blogspot.com/

Remembering Some of My First & Favorite Break Beats as Hip Hop Turns 40

Kool Herc

Kool Herc

Today we celebrate the birth of Hip Hop with that first party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx..It was a back to school dance thrown by DJ Kool Herc and his sister Cindy Campbell .. They didn’t call it Hip Hop then.. the name used to describe dances and gatherings back in those days was Jam.. The term Hip Hop first coined by DJ Lovebug Starksi was later adapted and attached to the expressions of B-Boying/ (breakdancing), deejaying, graf and emceeing by Afrika Bambaataa..So the first Hip Hop Jam was 40 years ago today.. August 11th 1973…

With that being said, in my interview with Kool Herc.. I tried to get him to layout all the records he played and in fine fashion Herc would not give me the names.. That’s a long running joke we have.. But he did speak about the groups like Rare Earth and how he rocked them along with James Brown.. who has a ton of songs that dominated early Hip hop jams

I was asked yesterday what was the first Hip Hop record I ever heard.. Being a kid of the 70s, my first Hip Hop jam was not Rapper’s Delight by Sugar Hill Gang but instead it was records that would go onto to be mainstays at all Hip Hop parties..Songs like Chic‘s Good Times, Parliament‘s Knee Deep, Zapp’s More Bounce to the Ounce, Anita Ward’s Ring My Bells and Cheryl Lynn‘s To Be Real were some of the mainstream songs that went on to be flipped because of the percussion break downs..

Other cuts like Bob Jame‘s Take Me to the Mardis Gras aka Breaking Bells,  Apache by the Ventures and later Incredible Bongo Band (the Bronx National Anthem), Jimmy Castor ‘Its Just Begun’ , Babe Ruth The Mexican, and Funky Drummer by James Brown or CerroneRocket in the Pocket‘ sped up to 45 rpm were vintage..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEsTY46f1AE

Ralph McDonald

Ralph McDonald

But the first breakbeat jam I ever heard was on the Circle Line boat in June of 1977..This was a boat that took you up the Hudson River.. It was first time I saw people get on the floor and do what we call B-Boying..Back then they called it Rocking..  The song was Jam on the Groove by Ralph McDonald..What caught me was the fact that the DJ kept playing the record over and over again.. He wasn’t mixing or anything fancy like that.. He just would start the record over and everyone would dance ..we were doing the freak back then.. When the percussion break down came we formed a circle and watched these kids rock..

Below is a list of jams that were among the first I heard and immensely enjoyed rocking to..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wy5uXqtVRvs

2-Right up there with Ralph McDonald on that same party I heard this jam by Harlem Underground Band.. Cheeba Cheeba was infectious. I had no idea who it was until much later when I grabbed copies for myself on Paul Winely records which was starting to put out some early breaks..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRyyoQo0qj4

3-First time I heard this break Music Taking Over by the Jacksons was via Grandmaster Flash when he tore it up at Bronx High School of Science at dance he did in ’78 He was ripping this song every which way and sent a lot of people home to re-listen to their Jackson 5 records.. There were several places to cut this jam.. Flash ripped it toward the middle where Michael Jackson sings  ‘Lets Dance, Lets Dance

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSYKhlnXfnE

4-I used to hear this record all the time at block parties, on people’s boom boxes and out people’s windows ..Who knew 4 white guys from Germany would be a long time companion to Hip Hop.. Trans Europa Express by Kraftwerk  It’ll forever be a classic  and essential record..The other cut that folks used to rock my Kraftwerk was ‘We Are the Robots‘..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMVokT5e0zs

5-As an emcee this was one of my all-time favorite records to rhyme over.. Quite few deejays loved to cut this up both at the beginning as well as in the middle where you find an incredible break..Edwin Starr was that guy back in the days..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7aeGA4NfkI

6-Another break beat emcees fiended for was this classic from Juice called Catch a Groove..Folks gotta remember back the days the deejay was the main attraction, not the emcee, so it wasn’t like you could go order the deejay to play this cut, but when he did, everyone would crowd around and try and get their turn on the mic.. When I first got my copies they were on 45s. They cost me like 5 or 10 bucks a piece from Downstairs Records..  Years later I got the 12″ shown here.. The flip side on the 45 was the Sesame Street Song which was also pretty funky..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwBHYradr_o

6-A classic cut that I used to hear all the time around 78 was this gem from Captain Sky.. I always felt he was an off shot of Parliament.. But this was a staple jam

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0lQg4iWuHE

7-This was an essential record.. Everyone looked for the 12″ to get busy on.. New York at that time wasn’t a funk town as compared to what you would hear out west here in Cali.. We was more into James Brown.. but this song made everyone’s speakers shake and folks had no choice but to make a stank face and get down to this groove.. Barkays ‘Holy Ghost‘ was a Holy Grail of a record..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB5Ysr7Zf4o

8-This was an incredible jam that I first heard Bambaataa rocking probably around ’79 or ’80..  it soon became a staple for just about everybody..Instant Funk’s Funk is On was that jam.. The group definitely had a seat at the table of early Hip Hop..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1O3hDlVRP9E

9-This was an incredible jam that everyone rocked and like Catch a Groove and Just Wanna Do My Thing, it was a record you wanted to rhyme over. For deejays this was a fun record to cut.. Many got creative with it..Its been overlooked and underplayed as far as I’m concerned.. PleasureCelebrate the Good Things‘ was a must.. They had several other songs that were vintage break beats…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUS2cd9dHjc

10-This song was a party starter for sure.. There were two versions of it.. One was more disco sounding the other was more tribal with straight up conga.. Most people sampled the disco version over the years.. It was to this song that everyone did a dance called the Calypso Freak.. Herman Kelly‘s Dance to the Drummer’s Beat.. both versions..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG4QoZRgRTg

 

 

 

 

August 11th 1973 Hip Hop Had its First Party-An Intv w/ kool Herc & His Sister Cindy

 

Click HERE to listen to pt of our interview w/ Kool Herc

In celebration of the 39th anniversary of Hip Hop’s First party-August 11th 1973 ,we sat down with the father of Hip Hop music and culture the legendary Kool Herc.

He gave us an in-depth run down of Hip Hop in the early days. He speaks about the early party scene and talks about how he and sister Cindy made history when they threw a back to school party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx.

He talks about how he used to be a graffiti artist and how his sister had his back and shielded him from the wrath of his strict father who would’ve whupped that butt if he knew his son was defacing New York City property.

Kool Herc also lets us know that Hip Hop did not start in the South Bronx as is often erroneously reported. Herc never lived in the South Bronx, he lived in the West bronx which is a totally different area.

In this interview Kool Herc talks about his Jamaican background. He talks about how he grew up in the same township as Bob Marley and he explains how and why Jamaican culture is an important root within Hip Hop.

One important aspect of Jamaican culture Herc speaks to us about is the sound system. In this interview he talks about the type of equipment he used and why he named it the Herculords.

What was really fascinating in this sit down, was hearing Herc go into detail about the different clubs and parties he threw. He describes the clientele which ranged from some of New York’s most notorious sharp dressing mob type gangstas to high school kids from the projects around the way.

Herc gives us a run down of his playlist and talks about his approach for keeping the crowd satisfied. He speaks about his early deejay battles most notably with Pete DJ Jones. He also talks about the importance of funk music and bands like the Incredible Bongo Band.

Herc concludes this first segment by talking about Hip Hop’s early emcees including his own crew member Coke La Rock. Herc also talks about his other crew members including Timmy Tim.

He talks about the role DJ Hollywood played in Hip Hop. He also gives major praise to Mele-Mel and his brother Kid Creole for inventing the style of rap we all embrace to this day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJkojOSppUE

We caught up w/ Cindy Campbell who we consider to be the first lady of Hip Hop. We talked to her about the work she’s done on behalf of her brother Hip Hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc. We talk to her about what took place August 11 1973 at 1520 Sedgwick Ave which was home to the first Hip Hop party.

Cindy explains that the party started out as a fundraiser for her to get some school clothes. She talked about how they actually had Old E 800 and Colt 45 being sold there and how it was a 25 cent for women and 50 cent for guys.. They made 500 bucks

She also explained how she herself brought slow jam records for her brother to spin..

Cindy also talks about other deals she’s done for her brother including how she talked Harry Belafonte into making sure Herc’s character was positive in the movie Beat Street.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SMVGLEr6nA

 

Happy Bday Afrika Bambaataa & DJ Kool Herc: A Look back w/ the Founding Fathers of Hip Hop

Afrika Bambaataa & Kool Herc

Today April 19th, we celebrate the birthday of one of Hip Hop’s founding fathers, Afrika Bambaataa. On Monday (April 16th) we celebrated the birthday of the Father of Hip Hop Kool Herc.. Sadly not many radio stations and other media outlets that have greatly benefited from Hip Hop music and culture which Herc and Bam tirelessly helped bring to the forefront have stopped or will stop to take time to give either of them a shout out at the very least.

We’re more likely to hear a birthday shout out to Kim Kardashian then to our pioneers but in today’s microwave society where people are commodities and ultimately disposable, one should not be surprised. Celebrating and even acknowledging the histories and pioneering figures of marginalized and oppressed communities aren’t often done especially if it can lead to folks rising up and questioning the direction and narratives being put forth by those in the mainstream who are in power.

This is not limited to Hip Hop. In 2012 all one has to do is look at the current wave of attacks on ethnic studies programs both in college and in high schools all over the country. We see the banning of ethnic studies and accompanying books in states like Arizona. We see attempts to rewrite and white wash history books in states like Texas, where iconic figures from Cesar Chavez to the Black Panthers are stricken from the pages. It’s our charge in Hip Hop to counter that by at the very least holding up the accomplishments and stories of those who came before us so that we can learn and build upon the legacies they laid down..

There’s so much one can say about Herc and Bam, hence when writing about him, its hard to know where to begin. I guess when writing about Herc we should note he was an athlete who was given the nickname Hercules (Herc for short) because of his height and muscular build. He was also down with a graffiti crew called the Ex Vandals. Most importantly Herc was into music and was always seeking ways to play it.

According to Herc he had a nice little rep for himself and thus had garnered a lot of respect..In August of 1973, he and his sister Cindy Campbell decided to throw a back to school party as away to raise a couple of dollars for school clothes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_2CHTE975Q

The story goes Herc brought down his fathers speakers to the rec center of their building 1520 Sedgwick Ave, they charged 50 cent for fellas to come in and the rest is history.. The music Herc played that night was funk music, that at that time was popular but slowly getting less and less airplay on the radio. Songs like Sex Machine and Give it Up and Turn It Lose by James Brown or Jimmy Castor‘s It’s Just Begun were among the jams Herc highlighted. The success of that party led to Herc doing others jams and it wasn’t too long before folks in the Bronx were seeking out Kool Herc parties.

It was during this time that Herc developed a system of playing records that he dubbed the Merry Go Round. He basically would take the hottest part of a song, usually the percussion break down and extend indefinitely by going from one record to the next by passing everything but the juicy part of the record.

During those early jams, Herc would keep the crowd excited by shouting them out on the mic. He once explained to me that he wanted to make folks feel good and important and one way of doing that was calling out their name on the mic. He also noted that it was a way to keep the peace. So in the beginning one might’ve heard Kool Herc shout out ‘his mellow-ski.. Mark Mark or his boy Kev-ski. Slang terms in the early 70s were phrases like ‘My mellow’ or adding the word ‘ski’ at the end of someone’s name.

At the time it was big deal to get hear your name called out at a party by Kool Herc who was the center of attention and had a huge sound system he dubbed the Herculords. He later turned over the announcing duties to his friend Coke La Rock who became one of Hip Hop’s first emcees. Other members Timmy Tim and Clark Kent got down with the crew and collectively they were known as the Herculoids.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJkojOSppUE

When it comes to talking about Afrika Bambaataa, it should be noted that he was known in the Bronx long before he touched a turntable. Bam started out as a gang leader.. He was a warlord for one of NYC’s largest gangs in the 1970s known as the Black Spades

According to Bam, in spite of his gang affiliations he was always into music and well aware of culture and the Black liberation struggles. Even as a gang leader, some of the tactics he employed for overpowering his rivals were gleaned from military strategies he read about used by African leaders in particular the Zulu Tribe of South Afrika..

Bam really turned his attention to music and Hip Hop’s then emerging culture after one of his best friends Soulski was got shot and killed by police in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx… Bam talks about how at that time NYPD had a division that was targeting NY’s large gang problem and the Spades were ready to go up against them as a result of Soulski being killed. He noted that the resulting death underscored the crackdown that was coming on the gangs who were starting to die down..

Bam soon formed a group called the Organization which later evolved into the Mighty Zulu Nation.. Bam explained that he wanted use Zulu as a way to turn lives around and refocus folks energy from banging to music. Early on Zulu was still seen as entity to be feared and not toyed with. Outlaw ways didn’t die down overnight. Bam explained it took a lot of meetings and conversations to get folks to walk a different path..Eventually many did as Zulu Nation blossomed into an organization with thriving chapters a;ll over the world.

Along with forming Zulu now known as the Universal Zulu Nation, Bam got into music and deejaying, and soon developed a reputation for playing unique and hard to find jams (break beats). He eventually became known as the Master of Records..and till this day prides himself on rocking what he describes as ‘break beats’ of the future..

We cover a lot of this as well as what was going on in the early days of Hip Hop in this interview.. Reflect and Enjoy.. Happy Birthday to my good friend Afrika Bambaataa

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL1YntDNRHo

Happy Bday Afrika Bambaataa & DJ Kool Herc…Looking back at the Early Years of Hip Hop

Afrika Bambaataa & Kool Herc

Today April 19th, we celebrate the birthday of one of Hip Hop’s founding fathers, Afrika Bambaataa. On Monday (April 16th) we celebrated the birthday of the Father of Hip Hop Kool Herc.. Sadly not many radio stations and other media outlets that have greatly benefited from Hip Hop music and culture which Herc and Bam tirelessly helped bring to the forefront have stopped or will stop to take time to give either of them a shout out at the very least.

We’re more likely to hear a birthday shout out to Kim Kardashian then to our pioneers but in today’s microwave society where people are commodities and ultimately disposable, one should not be surprised. Celebrating and even acknowledging the histories and pioneering figures of marginalized and oppressed communities aren’t often done especially if it can lead to folks rising up and questioning the direction and narratives being put forth by those in the mainstream who are in power.

This is not limited to Hip Hop. In 2012 all one has to do is look at the current wave of attacks  on ethnic studies programs both in college and in high schools all over the country. We see the banning of ethnic studies and accompanying books in states like Arizona. We see attempts to rewrite and white wash history books in states like Texas, where iconic figures from Cesar Chavez to the Black Panthers are stricken from the pages. It’s our charge in Hip Hop to counter that by at the very least holding up the accomplishments and stories of those who came before us so that we can learn and build upon the legacies they laid down..

There’s so much one can say about Herc and Bam, hence when writing about him, its hard to know where to begin. I guess when writing about Herc we should note he was an athlete who was given the nickname Hercules  (Herc for short) because of his height and muscular build. He was also down with a graffiti crew called the Ex Vandals.  Most importantly Herc was into music  and was always seeking ways to play it.

According to Herc he had a nice little rep for himself and thus had garnered a lot of respect..In August of 1973, he and his sister Cindy Campbell decided to throw a back to school party as away to raise a couple of dollars for school clothes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_2CHTE975Q

The story goes Herc brought down his fathers speakers to the rec center of their building 1520 Sedgwick Ave, they charged 50 cent for fellas to come in and the rest is history.. The music Herc played that night was funk music, that at that time was popular but slowly getting less and less airplay on the radio. Songs like Sex Machine and Give it Up and Turn It Lose by James Brown or Jimmy Castor‘s It’s Just Begun were among the jams Herc highlighted.  The success of that party led to Herc doing others jams and it wasn’t too long before folks in the Bronx were seeking out Kool Herc parties.

It was during this time that Herc developed a system of playing records that he dubbed the Merry Go Round. He basically would take the hottest part of a song, usually the percussion break down and extend indefinitely by going from one record to the next by passing everything but the juicy part of the record.

During those early jams, Herc would keep the crowd excited by shouting them out on the mic. He once explained to me that he wanted to make folks feel good and important and one way of doing that was calling out their name on the mic. He also noted that it was a way to keep the peace. So in the beginning one might’ve heard Kool Herc shout out ‘his mellow-ski.. Mark Mark or his boy Kev-ski. Slang terms in the early 70s were phrases  like ‘My mellow’ or adding the word ‘ski’ at the end of someone’s name.

At the time it was big deal to get hear your name called out at a party by Kool Herc who was the center of attention and had a huge sound system he dubbed the Herculords. He later turned over the announcing duties to his friend Coke La Rock who became one of Hip Hop’s first emcees. Other members Timmy Tim and Clark Kent got down with the crew and collectively they were known as the Herculoids.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJkojOSppUE

When it comes to talking about Afrika Bambaataa, it should be noted that he was known in the Bronx long before he touched a turntable. Bam started out as a gang leader.. He was a warlord for one of NYC’s largest gangs in the 1970s known as the Black Spades

According to Bam, in spite of his gang affiliations he was always into music and well aware of culture and the Black liberation struggles. Even as a gang leader, some of the tactics he employed for overpowering his rivals were gleaned from military strategies he read about used by African leaders in particular the Zulu Tribe of South Afrika..

Bam really turned his attention to music and Hip Hop’s then emerging culture after one of his best friends Soulski was got shot and killed by police in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx… Bam talks about how at that time NYPD had a division that was targeting NY’s large gang problem and the Spades were ready to go up against them as a result of Soulski being killed. He noted that the resulting death underscored the crackdown that was coming on the gangs who were starting to die down..

Bam soon formed a group called the Organization which later evolved into the Mighty Zulu Nation.. Bam explained that he wanted use Zulu as a way to turn lives around and re-focuse folks energy from banging to music. Early on Zulu was still seen as entity to be feared and not toyed with. Outlaw ways didn’t die down overnight. Bam explained it took a lot of meetings and conversations to get folks to walk a different path..Eventually many did as Zulu Nation blossomed into an organization with thriving chaapters a;ll over the world.

Along with forming Zulu now known as the Universal Zulu Nation,  Bam  got into music and deejaying, and soon developed a reputation for playing unique and hard to find jams (break beats). He eventually became known as the Master of Records..and till this day prides himself on rocking what he describes as ‘break beats’ of the future..

We cover a lot of this as well as what was going on in the early days of Hip Hop  in this interview.. Reflect and Enjoy.. Happy Birthday to my good friend Afrika Bambaataa

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL1YntDNRHo

Hip Hop Culture Celebrates 36 Years, Zulu Nation Celebrates 37..We Dig Deep w/ Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa in the Building.. Incredible photos from this past weekends Zulu Anniversary.. Click HERE to see more

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=245658&id=507894491&fbid=459290364491

Today November 12th we celebrate the 36th Anniversary of Hip Hop culture and the  37th Anniversary of the Universal Zulu Nation..Folks from all over the world are gathered in New York City this weekend for celebrations at the  Hip Hop Cultural Theater 2309 Frederick Douglass Blvd..Special guests will be the legendary group X-Clan who are celebrating their 20th anniversary.

It’s at this time of year we dig deep and explore various aspects of culture and history. We decided to lace folks with excerpts from an in-depth interview myself and fellow journalist Mark Skillz did with Afrika Bambaataa several years ago. He went in and gave us a lot keen insight about the early days into the pioneering days of the ’70s. We talk about the gangs  and gang culture and how that lead to the forming of Zulu nation. Bam opens up and talks about his Warlord days and the types of steps he and others took to raise consciousness. He puts an end to the misinformation about how everybody started breakdancing instead of fighting. Instead he goes in and explains how steps were taken to bring about peace during those rough and tumble years.

Bam clarifies when he first emerged on the scene. he talks about his early trips to Afrika and how he was inspired by Fela Kuti. Bam notes that many think he came around after Kool Herc. He goes in and explains in detail when he first emerged on the scene and why.

Bam talks about the work he did with the late Disco King Mario and he talks about the influence Brooklyn based deejays like DJ Plummer, Grandmaster Flowers, Maboya and others had on the early scene. He talks about the Jamaican and Caribbean Influence and how certain aspects of  scenes were inspired Black radio deejays in the United States.

Bam also goes in and talks about how the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam impacted early Hip Hop culture.

You can peep this incredible interview by clicking the links below.

Breakdown FM: Afrika Bambaataa Interview pt1

Break down FM: Afrika Bambaataa Interview pt2

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

August 11 1973 1520 Sedgwick Ave: We Celebrate the Birthday of Hip Hop-The Kool Herc Story

Here is the Kool Herc Story from the movie The History of Rap. Widely know as the Father of Hip Hop, Kool DJ Herc was the catalyst to a whole new movement called Hip Hop. The History of Rap Movie was Written and Produced by Kurtis Blow Walker. Co-Produced by Grandmaster Flash, DJ Hollywood and Lovebug Starksi. Directed by Tommy Sowards. Edited by Jochen Hasmanis and Kurtis Blow Walker. For your very own promo copy of the film email us at kbkrushgroove@aol.com.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIRc8YNzYS4

DJ Kool Herc

Below are several other interviews and documentaries snippets that celebrate Hip Hop’s History.. Here’s one from the late Malcolm McCalren

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhisX4mVoDI

We caught up w/ Cindy Campbell who we consider to be the first lady of Hip Hop. We talked to her about the work she’s done on behalf of her brother Hip Hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc. We talk to her about what took place August 11 1973 at 1520 Sedgwick Ave which was home to the first Hip Hop party.

Cindy explains that the party started out as a fundraiser for her to get some school clothes. She talked about how they actually had Old E 800 and Colt 45 being sold there and how it was a 25 cent for women and 50 cent for guys.. They made 500 bucks

She also explained how she herself brought slow jam records for her brother to spin..

Cindy also talks about other deals she’s done for her brother including how she talked Harry belafonte into making sure Herc’s character was positive in the movie Beat Street.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SMVGLEr6nA

Here’s our 2005 landmark Breakdown FM interview we did with Kool Herc. He gives a brilliant history lesson on the early days of this culture..

http://www.swift.fm/mrdaveyd/song/56812/ pt1

Click HERE to listen to pt of our interview w/ Kool Herc

He gave us an indepth run down of Hip Hop in the early days. He speaks about the early party scene and talks about how he and sister Cindy made history when they threw a back to school party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx.

He talks about how he used to be a grafitti artist and how his sister had his back and sheilded him from the wrath of his strict father who would’ve whupped that butt if he knew his son was defacing New York City property.

Kool Herc also lets us know that Hip Hop did not start in the South Bronx as is often erroneously reported. Herc never lived in the South Bronx, he lived in the West bronx which is a totally different area.

In this interview Kool Herc talks about his Jamaican background. He talks about how he grew up in the same township as Bob Marley and he explains how and why Jamaican culture is an important root within Hip Hop.

http://www.swift.fm/mrdaveyd/song/56817/pt2

Click HERE to listen to pt2 of Kool Herc

We continue our interview with Hip Hop’s Father-DJ Kool Herc. Here in part 2 he breaks down which legendary rappers would be on his all-time dream team.. One of the more interesting choices is Pebbly-Poo who was down with Masterdon and one of Hip Hop’s first dominating female figures. Herc also explained how Pebbly-Poo was so dope that he made her a part of the Herculoids.

Herc really goes into depth about the Sugar Hill Gang and the controversy surrounding group member Big Bank Hank. He talks about how Hank lived in the same neighborhood with him and that he tried not to get involved with the beef Grand Master Caz had with him over the rhymes Hank bit…

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

August 11 1973: We Celebrate Hip Hop’s Birthday: The Kool Herc Story

Here is the Kool Herc Story from the movie The History of Rap. Widely know as the Father of Hip Hop, Kool DJ Herc was the catalyst to a whole new movement called Hip Hop. The History of Rap Movie was Written and Produced by Kurtis Blow Walker. Co-Produced by Grandmaster Flash, DJ Hollywood and Lovebug Starksi. Directed by Tommy Sowards. Edited by Jochen Hasmanis and Kurtis Blow Walker. For your very own promo copy of the film email us at kbkrushgroove@aol.com.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIRc8YNzYS4

DJ Kool Herc

Below are several other interviews and documentaries snippets that celebrate Hip Hop’s History.. Here’s one from the late Malcolm McCalren

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhisX4mVoDI

We caught up w/ Cindy Campbell who we consider to be the first lady of Hip Hop. We talked to her about the work she’s done on behalf of her brother Hip Hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc. We talk to her about what took place August 11 1973 at 1520 Sedgwick Ave which was home to the first Hip Hop party.

Cindy explains that the party started out as a fundraiser for her to get some school clothes. She talked about how they actually had Old E 800 and Colt 45 being sold there and how it was a 25 cent for women and 50 cent for guys.. They made 500 bucks

She also explained how she herself brought slow jam records for her brother to spin..

Cindy also talks about other deals she’s done for her brother including how she talked Harry belafonte into making sure Herc’s character was positive in the movie Beat Street.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SMVGLEr6nA

Here’s our 2005 landmark Breakdown FM interview we did with Kool Herc. He gives a brilliant history lesson on the early days of this culture..

http://www.swift.fm/mrdaveyd/song/56812/ pt1

He gave us an indepth run down of Hip Hop in the early days. He speaks about the early party scene and talks about how he and sister Cindy made history when they threw a back to school party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx.

He talks about how he used to be a grafitti artist and how his sister had his back and sheilded him from the wrath of his strict father who would’ve whupped that butt if he knew his son was defacing New York City property.

Kool Herc also lets us know that Hip Hop did not start in the South Bronx as is often erroneously reported. Herc never lived in the South Bronx, he lived in the West bronx which is a totally different area.

In this interview Kool Herc talks about his Jamaican background. He talks about how he grew up in the same township as Bob Marley and he explains how and why Jamaican culture is an important root within Hip Hop.

http://www.swift.fm/mrdaveyd/song/56817/pt2

We continue our interview with Hip Hop’s Father-DJ Kool Herc. Here in part 2 he breaks down which legendary rappers would be on his all-time dream team.. One of the more interesting choices is Pebbly-Poo who was down with Masterdon and one of Hip Hop’s first dominating female figures. Herc also explained how Pebbly-Poo was so dope that he made her a part of the Herculoids.

Herc really goes into depth about the Sugar Hill Gang and the controversy surrounding group member Big Bank Hank. He talks about how Hank lived in the same neighborhood with him and that he tried not to get involved with the beef Grand Master Caz had with him over the rhymes Hank bit…

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Toyota Turns to Gangsta Rap to Help Turn around its Image

Not sure what to say about this Toyota and its Swagger Van commercial.. Yeah its funny to a degree.. you can’t go wrong it’s a tried and true formula. Its the classic ‘fish out of water’ skit.. The art of irony. Get a non typical family-Translation white folks and have them rap and folks pay attention. Hey it got me typing up this little missive..so it worked.. At the end of the day its entertainment .

On another level.. I think we need to acknowledge that Hip Hop, has saved way too many businesses that ultimately disrespect it. We can through the years of fashion statements Hip Hop made from Timbalands on up to baggy panths which you can now buy at Macys. Skinny jeans? -Yeah rockers wore them, but Hip Hop blew them up. 

We can talk about the various drinking trends.. from Ole E (Old English malt Liquor)which was sold at the Kool Herc‘s historic first party at 1520 Sedgewick in the Bronx on up to Patron, Hennesy and whatever expensive concoction we getting into nowadays.

If we have fools acting up and causing drama, the salacious coverage and ensuing controversy saves the day. Ask Bill ‘Oreilly who in many circles is more known for his arguments involving the Rap world and Rap icons  far more then he is any political issue.

I mean if we really wanna get technical, Fox was unknown as a network until the swagger of In Living Color came along and made them a destination place. Even MTV which was floudering after their initial boost from Michael Jackson owes a fat check to Hip Hop. Can You say ‘Yo MTV Raps’?

Were any of us really talking about the Surreal Life or the VH1’s reality shows until Flava Flav came along? How many spin off shows came from his bigger than life persona? We had like 5 different shows from starring spurned bacholoratte NY who in turn spawned off shows from her suitor Chance and company.

Would had cared about Kim Kardashian even with her sex tape had it not been for this country getting acclamaited to a woman of her build  thanks to hours of rap videos featuring video vixens prepping us.  As a matter of fact the acceptance of curvy women is a thing we owe to the Hip Hop video.

Radio stations?? Don’t get me started.. The Hot 97s, the KMELs, Power 106s, jamming this and jamming that.. Many of those stations started out as rock or dance stations. Hip Hop put them on the map and kept them there. Look at their histories and tell those owners to pay up.  In the case of stations like KMEL and Hot 97 they going on 20yrs in the same format, much longer then many of their rock counterparts..

Y’all ever here of Summer Jam..? The history behind it was it started ouyt as a rock concert in Boston.. Nobody cared until Hip Hop put its stamp on it. Now it’s an annual event that earns many radio stations up to a third of it’s annual budget.

Tailor Swift? Say what you want, yes she was known. Yes, she sold millions, but Kanye put her ass on the map in a ways that she could only dream of.. 

I could go on and on, but you get the point.. So here we have Toyota.. a car company that has been racked with bad publicity and was at the bottom of the barrel. Guess what they turning to to bring them back? Yeah you guessed it.. My question is when will Hip Hop bring Hip hop back..  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql-N3F1FhW4

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The History of Hip Hop (1985 Reprint)

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The History of Hip Hop
by Dave ‘Davey D’ Cook (reprint from 1985-The Power of Rap)

Nowadays if you ask most people to give a definition of “rap”, they’re likely to state that it’s the reciting of rhymes to the best of music. It’s a form of expression that finds its roots embedded deep within ancient African culture and oral tradition. Throughout history here in America there has always been some form of verbal acrobatics or jousting involving rhymes within the Afro-American community. Signifying, testifying, Shining of the Titanic, the Dozens, school yard rhymes, prison ‘jail house’ rhymes and double Dutch jump rope‘ rhymes are some of the names and ways that various forms of rap have manifested

Modern day rap music finds its immediate roots in the toasting and dub talk over elements of reggae music. In the early 70’s, a Jamaican dj known as Kool Herc moved from Kingston to NY’s West Bronx. Here, he attempted to incorporate his Jamaican style of dj which involved reciting improvised rhymes over the dub versions of his reggae records. Unfortunately, New Yorkers weren’t into reggae at the time. Thus Kool Herc adapted his style by chanting over the instrumental or percussion sections of the day’s popular songs. Because these breaks were relatively short, he learned to extend them indefinitely by using an audio mixer and two identical records in which he continuously replaced the desired segment.

In those early days, young party goers initially recited popular phrases and used the slang of the day. For example, it was fashionable for dj to acknowledge people who were in attendance at a party. These early raps featured someone such as Herc shouting over the instrumental break; ‘Yo this is Kool Herc in the joint-ski saying my mellow-ski Marky D is in the house‘. This would usually evoke a response from the crowd, who began to call out their own names and slogans.

As this phenomenon evolved, the party shouts became more elaborate as dj in an effort to be different, began to incorporate little rhymes-‘Davey D is in the house/An he’ll turn it out without a doubt.’ It wasn’t long before people began drawing upon outdated dozens and school yard rhymes. Many would add a little twist and customize these rhymes to make them suitable for the party environment. At that time rap was not yet known as ‘rap’ but called ‘emceeing‘. With regards to Kool Herc, as he progressed, he eventually turned his attention to the complexities of deejaying and let two friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent (not Dana Dane’s dj) handle the microphone duties. This was rap music first emcee team. They became known as Kool Herc and the Herculoids.

Rap caught on because it offered young urban New Yorkers a chance to freely express themselves. This was basically the same reason why any of the aforementioned verbal/rhyme games manifested themselves in the past. More importantly, it was an art form accessible to anyone. One didn’t need a lot of money or expensive resources to rhyme. One didn’t have to invest in lessons, or anything like that. Rapping was a verbal skill that could be practiced and honed to perfection at almost anytime.

Rap also became popular because it offered unlimited challenges. There were no real set rules, except to be original and to rhyme on time to the beat of music. Anything was possible. One could make up a rap about the man in the moon or how good his dj was. The ultimate goal was to be perceived as being ‘def (good) by one’s peers. The fact that the praises and positive affirmations a rapper received were on par with any other urban hero (sports star, tough guy, comedian, etc.) was another drawing card.

Finally, rap, because of its inclusive aspects, allowed one to accurately and efficiently inject their personality. If you were laid back, you could rap at a slow pace. If you were hyperactive or a type-A, you could rap at a fast pace. No two people rapped the same, even when reciting the same rhyme. There were many people who would try and emulate someone’s style, but even that was indicative of a particular personality.

Rap continues to be popular among today’s urban youth for the same reasons it was a draw in the early days: it is still an accessible form of self expression capable of eliciting positive affirmation from one’s peers. Because rap has evolved to become such a big business, it has given many the false illusion of being a quick escape from the harshness of inner city life. There are many kids out there under the belief that all they need to do is write a few ‘fresh’ (good) rhymes and they’re off to the good life.

Now, up to this point, all this needs to be understood with regards to Hip Hop. Throughout history, music originating from America’s Black communities has always had an accompanying subculture reflective of the political, social and economic conditions of the time. Rap is no different.

Hip hop is the culture from which rap emerged. Initially it consisted of four main elements; graffiti art, break dancing, deejay (cuttin’ and scratching) and emceeing (rapping). Hip hop is a lifestyle with its own language, style of dress, music and mind set that is continuously evolving. Nowadays because break dancing and graffiti aren’t as prominent the words ‘rap’ and ‘hip hop’ have been used interchangeably. However it should be noted that all aspects of hip hop culture still exists. They’ve just evolved onto new levels.

Hip hop continues to be a direct response to an older generation’s rejection of the values and needs of young people. Initially all of hip hop’s major facets were forms of self expression. The driving force behind all these activities was people’s desire to be seen and heard. Hip hop came about because of some major format changes that took place within Black radio during the early 70’s. Prior to hip hop, black radio stations played an important role in the community be being a musical and cultural preserver or griot (story teller). It reflected the customs and values of the day in particular communities. It set the tone and created the climate for which people governed their lives as this was a primary source of information and enjoyment. This was particularly true for young people. Interestingly enough, the importance of Black radio and the role djs played within the African American community has been the topic of numerous speeches from some very prominent individuals.

For example in August of ’67, Martin Luther King Jr addressed the Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters. Here he delivered an eloquent speech in which he let it be known that Black radio djs played an intricate part in helping keep the Civil Rights Movement alive. He noted that while television and newspapers were popular and often times more effective mediums, they rarely languaged themselves so that Black folks could relate to them. He basically said Black folks were checking for the radio as their primary source of information.

In August of 1980 Minister Farrakhon echoed those thoughts when he addressed a body of Black radio djs and programmers at the Jack The Rapper Convention. He warned them to be careful about what they let on the airwaves because of its impact. He got deep and spoke about the radio stations being instruments of mind control and how big companies were going out of their way to hire ‘undignified’ ‘foul’ and ‘dirty’ djs who were no longer being conveyers of good information to the community. To paraphrase him, Farrakhon noted that there was a fear of a dignified djs coming on the airwaves and spreading that dignity to the people he reached. Hence the role radio was playing was beginning to shift…Black radio djs were moving away from being the griots.. Black radio was no longer languaging itself so that both a young and older generation could define and hear themselves reflected in this medium.

Author Nelson George talks extensively about this in his book ‘The Death Of Rhythm And Blues‘. He documented how NY’s Black radio station began to position themselves so they would appeal to a more affluent, older and to a large degree, whiter audience. He pointed out how young people found themselves being excluded especially when bubble gum and Europeanized versions of disco music began to hit the air waves. To many, this style of music lacked soul and to a large degree sounded too formulated and mechanical.

In a recent interview hip hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa spoke at length how NY began to lose its connection with funk music during this that time. He noted that established rock acts doing generic sounding disco tunes found a home on black radio. Acts like Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones were cited as examples.

Meanwhile Black artists like James Brown and George Clinton were for the most part unheard on the airwaves. Even the gospel-like soulful disco as defined by the ‘Philly sound’ found itself losing ground. While the stereotype depicted a lot of long haired suburban white kids yelling the infamous slogan ‘disco sucks’, there were large number of young inner city brothers and sisters who were in perfect agreement. With all this happening a void was created and hip hop filled it… Point blank, hip hop was a direct response to the watered down, Europeanized, disco music that permeated the airwaves..

FYI around the same time hip hop was birthed, House music was evolving among the brothers in Chicago, GoGo music was emerging among the brothers in Washington DC and Black folks in California were getting deep into the funk. If you ask me, it was all a response to disco.

In the early days of hip hop, there were break dance crews who went around challenging each other. Many of these participants were former gang members who found a new activity. Bambataa’s Universal Zulu Nation was one such group. As the scene grew, block parties became popular. It was interesting to note that the music being played during these gigs was stuff not being played on radio. Here James Brown, Sly & Family Stone, Gil Scott Heron and even the Last Poets found a home. Hence a younger generation began building off a musical tradition abandoned by its elders.

Break beats picked up in popularity as emcees sought to rap longer at these parties. It wasn’t long before rappers became the ONLY vocal feature at these parties. A microphone and two turntables was all one used in the beginning. With the exception of some break dancers the overwhelming majority of attendees stood around the roped off area and listened carefully to the emcee. A rapper sought to express himself while executing keen lyrical agility. This was defined by one’s rhyme style, one’s ability to rhyme on beat and the use of clever word play and metaphors.

In the early days rappers flowed on the mic continuously for hours at a time..non stop. Most of the rhymes were pre-written but it was a cardinal sin to recite off a piece of paper at a jam. The early rappers started off just giving shout outs and chants and later incorporated small limricks. Later the rhymes became more elaborate, with choruses like ‘Yes Yes Y’all, Or ‘One Two Y’all To The Beat Y’all being used whenever an emcee needed to gather his wind or think of new rhymes. Most emcess rhymed on a four count as opposed to some of the complex patterns one hears today. However, early rappers took great pains to accomplish the art of showmanship. There was no grabbing of the crotch and pancing around the stage.

Pioneering rapper Mele-Mel in a recent interview pointed out how he and other acts spent long hours reheasing both their rhymes and routines. The name of the game was to get props for rockin’ the house. That meant being entertaining. Remember back in the late 70s early 80s, artists weren’t doing one or two songs and leaving, they were on the mic all night long with folks just standing around watching. Folks had to come with it or be forever dissed.

Before the first rap records were put out (Fat Back Band‘s King Tem III’ and Sugar Hill Gang‘s ‘Rapper Delight’), hip hop culture had gone through several stages. By the late 70’s it seemed like many facets of hip hop would play itself out. Rap for so many people had lost its novelty. For those who were considered the best of the bunch; Afrika Bambaataa, Chief Rocker Busy Bee, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Four (yes initially there were only 4), Grand Wizard Theodore and the Fantastic Romantic Five, Funky Four Plus One More, Crash Crew, Master Don Committee to name a few had reached a pinnacle and were looking for the next plateau. Many of these groups had moved from the ‘two turntables and a microphone stage’ of their career to what many would today consider hype routines. For example all the aforementioned groups had routines where they harmonized. At first folks would do rhymes to the tune of some popular song.

The tune to ‘Gilligan’s Island‘ was often used. Or as was the case with the Cold Crush Brothers, the ‘Cats In the Cradle‘ was used in one of their more popular routines. As this ‘flavor of the month’ caught hold, the groups began to develop more elaborate routines. Most notable was GM Flash’s’ Flash Is to The Beat Box‘. All this proceeded ‘harmonizing/hip hop acts like Bel Biv DeVoe by at least 15 years.

The introduction of rap records in the early 80s put a new meaning on hip hop. It also provided participants a new incentive for folks to get busy. Rap records inspired hip hoppers to take it to another level because they now had the opportunity to let the whole world hear their tales. It also offered a possible escape from the ghetto…. But that’s another story..we’ll tell it next time.

written by Dave ‘Davey D’ Cook
c 1985

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