Wed | Jun 3, 2020

Hip-hop’s founding father Kool Herc proud of his roots - Coming to Jamaica for music confab

Published:Monday | February 10, 2020 | 12:19 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
Kool Herc
Kool Herc

The ‘Founding Father of Hip Hop’ is a title that the Jamaican creator of the genre wears very well, and he laughs when asked how it feels to be so acknowledged.

“Despite everything, I have never forgotten my roots,” DJ Kool Herc told The Gleaner. “There are so many people who have played a part in making Jamaican music great – The Skatalites, The Paragons, Big Youth, U-Roy, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Shinehead – he’s a legend in his own right, Sean Paul, Super Cat – I would love to see him again because I like where his style is coming from. I loved Dennis Brown, he was the father. Sir Coxsone, that was his best friend.”

He reiterated: “I’ll never forget my roots. All these people, and more, I gotta give them their props.”

Reflecting on his own historical importance to helping to originate hip-hop music, Kool Herc stated, “I’m the first person who started my style of deejaying coming from Jamaica, and this was in the Bronx in the ’70s. I moved to the States with my mother and I started to have jams in an old building. It got very popular and then the American kids got hold of the toasting, that’s the element that they took from us.”

According to Kool Herc, it wasn’t too fashionable to be Jamaican back in the day, but that didn’t stop him from helping to put Jamaica on the map musically. “No, it wasn’t popular, but they had to acknowledge us. When I met Biggie [Smalls], he said, ‘Herc, thank you for doing what you did’,” he shared. Kool Herc, who is now more involved in doing speaking engagements, says, however, that he “likes the progressiveness of the music” and wants to see more of this kind of energy.

History records that Herc’s Back to School Jam, hosted on August 11, 1973, at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, was the event that started a movement, which is now a billion-dollar industry.

The Jamaican trailblazing pioneer, who will be in the island this week for the Jamaica Music Conference (JMC) scheduled for Kingston, February 13-16, is excited to be coming home. “I ­haven’t been back in too long,” he stated. “I am looking forward to just being there and, also, I want some fruits, some real Jamaican fruits.”

It is expected that the hip-hop guru will have a wealth of knowledge to share with the JMC audience. He will be one of the panellists at the conference, and is scheduled to appear on both the ‘Artiste in Focus’ and ‘From Then ‘Til Now: The Evolution of the Reggae Mecca’ panels on Saturday, February 15.

With more than 30 panel discussions, workshops, plenaries, networking ­opportunities, entertainment showcases, artiste features, exhibitions, and special events planned, the 7th annual JMC will provide invaluable information. As part of its mission and shared vision with JaRIA and other Reggae Month partners, the JMC has implemented content that will help inform and contribute to the health and wealth of reggae music as a whole.

Kool Herc’s bio states that not only did he found hip hop at his jam sessions, he also commandeered the mic to rally dancers with rhymed exhortations (calling dancers “break-boys” and “break girls”, or B-boys and B-girls), laying the groundwork for rapping. Herc’s DJ style was quickly mimicked and popularised by figures such as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. Though openly acknowledged as hip-hop’s founding father (Grandmaster Flash called him “a hero”), Herc never saw commercial ­success. Stabbed at one of his own parties, he withdrew from ­performing, and by the time rap was rising as a commercial force, he was working in a record store. He has surfaced at various points in the decades since, ­appearing in a movie and on discs by Terminator X and the Chemical Brothers.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com