DJ Kool Herc

Clive Campbell (born April 16, 1955), also known as Kool Herc, DJ Kool Herc and Kool DJ Herc, is a Jamaican-born disc jockey who is credited with originating hip hop music in The Bronx, New York City. His playing of hard funk records of the sort typified by James Brown was an alternative both to the violent gang culture of the Bronx and to the nascent popularity of disco in the 1970s. In response to the reactions of his dancers, Campbell began to isolate the instrumental portion of the record which emphasized the drum beat—the "break"—and switch from one break to another to yet another.

Early lifeEdit

Clive Campbell was the first of six children born to Keith and Nettie Campbell in Kingston, Jamaica. While growing up, he saw and heard the sound systems of neighborhood parties called "dancehalls", and the accompanying speech of their DJs, known as "toasting". He moved to the Bronx, New York in November, 1967.[1]

Music careerEdit

Career beginningsEdit

The creation of the Cross Bronx Expressway by Robert Moses (completed 1963, with further construction continuing through to 1972) had uprooted thousands in the Bronx, displaced communities, and led to "white flight" due to lowered property values in its wake.[2] Many landlords resorted to arson in order to recoup money through insurance policies. A violent new street gang youth culture emerged there around 1968, and had spread with increasing lawlessness across large parts of the Bronx by 1973.[3]

Campbell attended the Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School in the Bronx, where his height, frame, and demeanor on the basketball court prompted the other kids to nickname him "Hercules". He began running with a graffiti crew called the Ex-Vandals, taking the name Kool Herc.[4] Herc recalls persuading his father to buy him a copy of "Sex Machine" by James Brown, a record that not a lot of people had, and one which they would come to him to hear.[5] He and his sister, Cindy, began hosting back-to-school parties in the recreation room of their building, 1520 Sedgwick Avenue.[6] Herc's first soundsystem consisted of two turntables and a guitar amplifier, on which he played records like James Brown's "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose", The Jimmy Castor Bunch's "It's Just Begun" and Booker T & the MG's "Melting Pot".[4] With Bronx clubs afflicted with the menacing presence of street gangs, uptown DJs catering to an older disco crowd with different aspirations, and commercial radio also catering to a demographic distinct from kids in the Bronx, Herc's parties had a ready-made audience.[4][7][8]

Current affairsEdit

Bronx at a February 28, 2009 event addressing the "West Indian Roots of Hip-Hop."]]Kool Herc appeared in Hollywood's motion picture take on hip hop, Beat Street (Orion, 1984), as himself. Some time in the mid-1980s, his father died, and he became addicted to crack cocaine. "I couldn’t cope, so I started medicating," he says of this period.[9] In 1994 he appeared on Terminator X & the Godfathers of Threatt's album, Super Bad.[4] In 2005, he wrote the foreword to Jeff Chang's book on hip hop, Can't Stop Won't Stop. In 2006, he became involved in getting hip hop commemorated at Smithsonian Institution museums.[10]

Since 2007 he has become involved in a campaign to prevent 1520 Sedgwick Avenue being sold to developers and moved out of its Mitchell-Lama affordable housing scheme.[11] In the Summer of 2007, New York state officials declared 1520 Sedgwick Avenue the "birthplace of hip-hop", and made it eligible for national and state registers.[6] The city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development ruled against the proposed sale in February 2008, on the grounds that "the proposed purchase price is inconsistent with the use of property as a Mitchell-Lama affordable housing development". It is the first time they have so ruled in such a case.[12]


According to a DJ Premier fan blog[13], The Source's website [14] and other sites, DJ Kool Herc had fallen gravely ill in early 2011. "Friends of DJ Kool Herc say he ... lacks health insurance," per another report.[15]He had surgery for kidney stones, with a stent placed to relieve the pressure. He needs followup surgery but St. Barnabas Hospital, the site that performed the previous surgery, has requested that he put down a deposit prior to the next surgery, because he has missed several followup visits. The hospital stated it would not turn away uninsured patients in the emergency room. Herc's sister Cindy Campbell says that they have requested disclosure of the total sum required but the hospital has not yet given it to them.[16] DJ Kool Herc and his family have set up an official website on which he describes his medical issue and the larger goal of establishing the DJ Kool Herc Fund to pioneer long term health care solutions.[17]


  1. Chang, pp. 68–72
  2. Shapiro, p. iv
  3. Chang, pp. 48–65. Chang suggests a connection with the rise of the gangs to the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Hutton, and to the decline of the Black Panther party in the face of COINTELPRO activities among other factors.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Shapiro, pp. 212–213
  5. Ogg, p. 13
  6. 6.0 6.1 Roug, Louise. "Hip-hop may save Bronx homes", Los Angeles Times, February 24, 2008. Link retrieved September 9, 2008.
  7. Ogg, p. 14, p. 18.
  8. Toop, p. 65
  9. Gonzales, Michael A. "The Holy House of Hip-hop: How the Rec Room Where Hip-hop Was Born Became a Battleground For Affordable Housing", New York, October 6, 2008.
  10. Template:Cite web
  11. Template:Cite web
  12. Lee, Jennifer 8. "City Rejects Sale of Building Seen as Hip-Hop’s Birthplace", New York Times, March 4, 2008.
  13. Template:Cite web
  14. Template:Cite web
  15. Headlines, Democracy Now, February 1, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-01.
  16. Template:Cite news
  17. Official Website, Official DJ Kool Herc Website, February 2, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-02.

External linksEdit

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