Jamaican Music

Google Credits Jamaican American with Birth of Hip Hop

DJ Kool Herc Jamaican Father Hip Hop
Written by Xavier Murphy

Google celebrated the 44th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop with a custom Doodle on August 11, 2017. The Doodle credited a Jamaican-American DJ who used the name “Kool Herc,” 18 years old back on August 11, 1973, as the creator of the genre now known as hip-hop. DJ Kool Herc was born Clive Campbell on April 16th, 1955 in Kingston, Jamaica.

During a back-to-school jam in the Bronx, New York, Kool Herc decided to play music in a different way and devised the technique of using “breaks” to play only the instrumental sections of songs instead of playing them in their entirety. During the “breaks,” the DJ’s friend Coke La Rock revved up the crowd at the jam with a microphone.

The custom Google Doodle celebrating the event was designed by famed graffiti artist Cey Adams, who created interactive turntables with which users could mix samples from legendary tracks. The emphasis was on the founding pioneers of hip-hop, with a narration by the hip-hop icon Fab 5 Freedy.

Providing background to the Google project was Lyor Cohen, the former head of Def Jam Records and current YouTube Global Head of Music, the 1973 jam occurred when the Bronx neighborhood had just been demolished by a new Expressway, and people were going through hard time. Young people needed an outlet, which came in the form of “a beat, a voice to call their own,” and the Bronx DJs provided it. Anybody with a little means and willing to do hard work could transform their turntables into an instrument of expression.

Being so accessible meant that hip-hop took hold as a grassroots movement that evolved into a distinct culture. Hip hop represented rebellion against the expected norms of the time, especially the popularity of disco music, which many in the community felt had unjustly eclipsed groundbreaking work by James Brown and other soul artistes of the 1960s.

Cohen believes that hip-hop has succeeded in what its founders set out to do: it gave marginalized people of the world an accessible culture that spoke to their experience and brought them together.

About the author

Xavier Murphy