Interview of DJ Kool Herc essay

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The reason I do this is because it's the hottest part of the song that the dancers love and go absolutely nuts over. This ignited a cultural revolution and is how the term "break dancing" formed.

DJ EP: As I understand it, "breaking" has another meaning.

DJ KH: Oh yeah. My "b-boys" (break-boys) and "b-girls" (break-girls) are dancers who "breakdance" while I'm deejaying. But the term, "breaking" also refers to the slang word for "getting excited," "acting energetically," and/or "causing a disturbance." Double entendre.

DJ EP: I love breaking in the clubs or on the streets. I don't know, tell me if you agree, but there's something so amazing and intense about the energy of deejaying street and park parties as opposed to clubs like Twilight Zone, Havelo, or the Executive Playhouse.

DJ KH: There's no doubt about it. They're absolutely electrifying, probably because park and street parties are spontaneous. A b-boy or b-girl sandwiched in the middle of a huge crowd executing their own dance. it's like a musician to his solo; the b-boy or b-girl gets his or her own time, even if it's only for thirty seconds, to metaphorically solo their instrument -- themselves!

DJ EP: Ditto. So Kool Herc, have you impacted fellow artists?

DJ KH: Of course I have! Or so I'd like to think that I've not only impacted but have paved the way for my successors. Namely two DJs come to mind: Grandmaster Flash (awesome name by the way) and Afrika Bambaataa. Grandmaster Flash is part of a group called the Furious Five. Their music is socially conscious and informs people about the hardships that inner city life unfortunately brings.

But before Grandmaster Flash was part of the Furious Five, he experimented with his deejaying style and perfected the following: backspin technique, punch phrasing, and scratching. He definitely got backspin technique from me. It emulates my "breaking" method of having duplicate copies of a record on different turntables, isolating the percussive part of a song from one record, then playing the same part on the other record, thereby extending the time break-dancers have to dance to the sick beats. Punch phrasing is exactly what it sounds like. A song sometimes has extra add-ons, like horns or screams. In punch phrasing, these sounds are isolated and are rhythmically "punched" over the established beat by utilizing a mixer. And scratching is basically the addition of a DJ's own unique touch to the record. The DJ "scratches" the record to actively give the song a different and unique sound.

DJ EP: That sounds sick. What about Afrika Bambaataa?

DJ KH: Afrika Bambaataa has an interesting story. He first started out in a gang, known as "The Black Spades" in the Bronx. He was a warlord in charge of recruiting new members and expanding the gang's "turf," a controlled area for the purpose of selling drugs. He was in a real dark place in his life, until he traveled to Africa. He saw a film about an African leader, Zulu, who was affectionate and kind in his ways. Bambaataa was so inspired by this that he decided to utilize his deejaying skills to positively affect disgruntled youth of the Bronx.

DJ EP: It sounds like he really turned his life around.

DJ KH: Oh, most definitely. Peace is an important message Bambaataa tries to implement throughout his community and wherever he performs, for that matter. I know that I set out to accomplish (and I believe this holds true for DJs collectively) a positive and creative environment through the delectable combination of sound and movement.

DJ EP: I think that's why musicians do what they do and why they love what they do so much -- precisely because music is not a luxury, but rather it is a utility to the human spirit. Music embodies the inarticulate expression of human nature. Musicians and DJs alike are influential mechanisms through which this process can be transmitted.

DJ KH: Word.


1) Chang, Jeff. Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. St.

Martin's Press, New York: 2005.

2) Hager, Steven. "Afrika Bambaataa's Hip-Hop." Village Voice September 21,

1982. Print.

3) Ogg, Alex with Upshall, David. The Hip Hop Years, London: Macmillan,…[continue]

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