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Hip Hop History – LL Cool J

LL Cool J – short for “Ladies Love Cool James” – was born in 1968 in Long Island, New York, and grew up in Queens.  He started rapping aged nine, and music provided a way to escape the suffering he endured.  He had a tough childhood because his parents had a violent relationship.  His father shot his mother and grandfather with a 12-gauge shotgun, in front of him, when he was four years old.  Both survived, and in the hospital his mom met her second husband who was just as abusive.  He frequently abused LL mentally and physically while his mom left home to work.  “Roscoe’s constant beating changed me, I went from this normal kid who got straight A’s and loved school to a troublemaker.” wrote LL in his biography.

His grandfather who was a jazz saxaphonist, bought him $2000 worth of equipment including two turntables, an amplifier and a mixer which helped him get into making music.  LL said “By the time I got that equipment, I was already a rapper. In this neighborhood, the kids grow up in rap. It’s like speaking Spanish if you grow up in an all-Spanish house. I got into it when I was about 9, and since then all I wanted was to make a record and hear it on the radio.”  He developed a demo tape and aged just 16, signed to Def Jam, a new label set up in 1984 by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin.

LL’s and Def Jam’s first single was “I Need A Beat” and it was an underground hit, selling 100,000 records:

The commercial success of “I Need a Beat”, along with the Beastie Boys’ single “Rock Hard”, helped lead Def Jam to establish itself and get a distribution deal with Columbia Records in 1985.


LL left school and recorded his first album, “Radio” which was “a hugely successful mix of conventional song structure and pop-oriented rap.” according to Biography.com. The album’s singles included:

“I Can’t Live Without My Radio”:

and “Rock the Bells” was also a single from the album “Radio”:

Wikipedia explains “The album was primarily produced by Rick Rubin, who provided a sparse and minimal production style. “Radio” also features a sound that is punctuated by DJ scratching, mostly brief samples, and emphasis of the downbeat. LL Cool J’s b-boy lyricism conveys themes of inncer city culture, teenage promiscuity, and braggadocio raps.

LL’s DJ on the album was Cut Creator. A Queens native and former trombonist, he met LL at a block party and they began performing together.  LL also had another DJ, Bobcat.

“Reflecting the new school and ghettoblaster subculture in the U.S. during the mid-1980s, Radio belongs to a pivotal moment in the history and culture of Hip Hop. Its success contributed to the displacement of the old school with the new school form and to the genre’s mainstream success during the period. Its success also served as a career breakthrough for LL Cool J and Rick Rubin. “Radio” has been recognized by music writers as one of the first cohesive and commercially successful Hip Hop albums.”

New School v. Old School

“The new school started in 1983-84 and was initially characterized in form by drum machine led minimalism, often tinged with elements of rock. It was notable for taunts and boasts about rapping, and socio-political commentary, both delivered in an aggressive, self-assertive style. In image as in song its artists projected a tough, cool, street b-boy  attitude. These elements contrasted sharply with the funk and disco influenced outfits, novelty hits, live bands, synthesizers and party rhymes of artists prevalent in 1984, and rendered them old school. New school artists made shorter songs that could more easily gain radio play, and more cohesive LPs than their old school counterparts. By 1986 their releases began to establish the Hip Hop album as a fixture of the mainstream.”

The album “Radio” sold 500,000 copies in its first five months and went on to go platinum.  It entered the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart in December 1985, and remained there for forty-seven weeks, while also entering the Pop Albums chart for thirty-eight weeks in January 1986.  Critics regard it as LL’s greatest work and it ranks in many lists of the best albums / best Hip Hop albums / best Rock albums of all time.

An iTunes reviewer has said of its sound, “Rubin’s production combined the sonic economy of punk rock with the malevolent bellow of a tricked out ghetto blaster, providing the sonic blueprint for an entire generation of Hip Hop producers”.

“Bigger and Deffer”

“Bigger and Deffer” was LL’s second album, released in 1987.  It sold 3 million records in the U.S. alone and was at #1 for 11 weeks on the Billboard R&B chart.  DJ Pooh produced this album.

“I’m Bad” was a single from the album (original video):

“I Need Love” was revolutionary as it is considered the first Hip Hop love ballad.  Wikipedia notes that “It was not the first rap love song, however; in 1982 the Sugarhill Gang had recorded “The Lover in You”, which reached Number 55 on the R&B charts.)  The drums were played with a Roland TR-808 and the keyboard tone was played with a Yamaha DX7.

“I Need Love”:

“Go Cut Creator Go” was another single featuring his DJ:

“Walking With a Panther”

“Walking With a Panther” was LL’s third album, released in 1989.

“Jingling Baby” was a single from the album (original video):

“Going Back to Cali” was also a single from the album.

“Going Back to Cali” (original video):


“The “Walking With a Panther” album however was often criticized by the Hip Hop community as being too commercial, materialistic, and for focusing too much on love ballads. The album peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200 and was LL Cool J’s second #1 R&B Album where it spent four weeks.  The previous album “Bigger and Deffer” , which was a big success, was produced by The L.A. Posse.  The L.A. Posse was made up of DJ Bobcat, Dwayne Simon, and Darryl Pierce.  But on ” Walking With a Panther” Dwayne Simon was the only one left willing to work on it.   Bobcat said he wanted more money for the album after realizing how much of a success the previous album really had become but Def Jam refused to change the contract which made him leave Cool J.  According to DJ Bobcat this is the reason that “Walking with a Panther was met with very mixed reception at the time of its release.

“I’m That Type of Guy” was another single from “Walking with a Panther” (original video):

“Big Ole Butt” was also a single (original video):

“One Shot at Love” was another single, a slow love ballad:

“Mama Said Knock You Out”

In response to the criticism levelled at the previous album, “Mama Said Knock You Out” featured one of the best producers at the time – Juice Crew’s Marley Marl.  Before “Mama Said Knock You Out” was released, many people felt that LL Cool J’s career was waning; his grandmother, who still believed in his talent, told him to “knock out” all his critics.

The title track, “Mama Said Knock You Out” (original video):

The diss record “To Da Break Of Dawn” was named number 11 on XXL ‘s 20 greatest diss records of all time:

“Around the Way Girl”, which sampled clips from the Mary Jane Girls song “All Night Long”:

“Six Minutes of Pleasure” (original video) was a single off the album:

“The Boomin’ system”, another single (original video):

Kool Moe Dee Beef

“LL became the target of choice for striving rappers, with no posse of his own to watch his back” according to The Vibe History of Hip Hop.

LL and Kool Moe Dee had beef, according to Wikipedia becasue “Kool Moe Dee was a member of one of the earliest hip hop crews, the Treacherous Three,  and noted that LL Cool J stole his style, while disrespecting lyricists who came before him by not showing any appreciation, and making claims of being the best, when he was too fresh of a face to have acquired such acknowledgment.  This  started a long-running feud between them. From different interviews and magazines at the time, Kool Moe Dee felt that LL was actually believing his own hype based on the popularity and success of the “Bigger and Deffer”  album.

LL responded to Kool Moe Dee’s attacks with “Jack The Ripper”, the B-Side to “Going Back to Cali”:

Kool Moe Dee fired back with an even more aggressive response entitled “Let’s Go”:

LL responded with “To The Break of Dawn” and “Mama Said Knock You Out”, to which Kool Moe Dee replied “Death Blow”:

LL then replied with “(NFA) No Frontin Allowed” and “I Shot Ya (Remix)”.

Another song where Kool Moe Dee mentioned the beef was “To The Beat Y’all”:

LL believed that his higher record sales proved superiority and that he won the beef.  Kool Moe Dee however believed that the fact LL refused to battle him, showed that his rapping skills were superior, and therefore he won.

Kool Moe Dee commented “I always said that the reason LL can never win a battle is because he talks so much about himself – that he can’t talk about anything else. He used his charisma, energy and vocabulary, which is basically a combination of my style, T La Rock, and Run, but in battling it’s more. Like when I hit him with the Ls (lower level, lackluster etc) it wasn’t just insulting, but it had poetic value to it”. He also continued that part of his issue with LL (as well as Run) were that ….he felt like “nothing that came before them mattered, and that his money could validate that.”

“14 Shots to the Dome”

‘”14 Shots” saw LL adopting the sound of his West coast gangsta rap contemporaries, especially that of Ice Cube and Cypress Hill . Many fans saw this as a jarring departure, and the album met mixed critical and commercial response compared to his previous releases, only being certified Gold by the RIAA’.

I love the beat on this single “Pink Cookies In a Plastic Bag Getting Crushed By Buildings” (original video):

“How I’m Comin'” was a single from “14 Shots” (original video):

“Back Seat” was another single (original video):

Mr Smith

In ’95 LL released “Mr Smith” having starred in a sitcom “In The House”.  The album sold 2 million copies and had several hits.

“Doin’ It” was a single from “Mr Smith” (original video):

“Hey Lover” won LL a Grammy.  It featured Boyz 2 Men and sampled Michael Jackson’s “The Lady In My Life”:

“Loungin’ was another single (original video):

LL collaborated with Keith Murray, Fat Joe & Foxy Brown on “I Shot Ya (Remix)”:


In 1996 LL released a Greatest Hits album.  Then in ’97 he released the album “Phenomenon”.

This is the title track from the album (original video):

“4,3,2,1” featured Method Man, Redman, DMX, Canibus & Master P.

“Father” was another single (original video):

Canibus Beef

“When LL perceived that Canibus’s verse on “4,3,2,1” was a thinly veiled diss against him, he came back with his verse on the same song.

Canibus responded with “2nd Round K.O.”:

LL responded with “The Ripper Strikes Back”:

Shani Saxon in Vibe said that “LL’s new role model status prevented him from getting raw and dirty”.

Wyclef got involved with “What’s Clef Got To Do With It?”:

and LL shot back with “Rasta Imposta” which Shani Saxon called “a welcome return to LL’s not-so-Mr.-Nice-Guy roots”.  But because the battle happened in the aftermath of the murders of Tupac and Biggie, all the artists involved made a point of saying that it wouldn’t get violent.

“Rasta Imposta”:


The G.O.A.T. album letters stood for “The Greatest Of All Time”.  It debuted at number one on the Billboard album charts,and went platinum. LL Cool J thanked Canibus in the liner notes of the album, “for the inspiration”.  LL Cool J prepared for the album by visiting the inmates at Rikers Island a week before writing material for the album. He returned to the basement of his grandmother Ellen Griffith’s house to write some of the tracks.

One single was “Imagine That”:

“Homicide” was another track:

“U Can’t Fuck With Me” is a diss on actor/singer Jamie Foxx, building on a feud between him and LL Cool J that started on the set of the 1999 movie “Any Given Sunday”.

“U Can’t Fuck With Me”, featuring Snoop Dogg, Xzibit and Yayo Felony Artist:

“Ill Bomb” was another track on the album:


LL Cool J’s next album 10 was released in 2002, was his 10th album  (10th including his greatest hits compilation All World).  The album reached platinum status.

“Luv U Better” was a single from 10 produced by Pharrell and The Neptunes:

“The Definition”

“The Definition” album was released in 2004. The album debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts. Production came from Timbaland, 7 Aurelius, R. Kelly, and others.

“Headsprung” was the lead single (original video):

“Todd Smith”

“Todd Smith” was released in 2006. It includes collaborations with  112, Ginuine, Juelz Santana, Teairra Mari and Freeway.

The first single was the Jermaine Dupri-produced “Control Myself” featuring Jennifer Lopez:

“Exit 13”

In 2006, LL Cool J announced details about his final album with Def Jam Recordings, the only label he has ever been signed to.

LL and DJ Kayslay teamed up to release his first mixtape as a prelude to “Exit 13” titled “The Return of the G.O.A.T.”.  The mixtape is available here:


Other contributors for this album included 50 Cent, Sheek Louch, Fat Joe, Ryan Leslie, Wyclef Jean, The-Dream, Lil Mo, KRS-One, Funkmaster Flex, Richie Sambora and Darlisa Blackshere.

“Rockin’ With The G.O.A.T. was a single (original video):

“Cry” was also a single:

“Feel My Heart Beat” was another single:

LL has released some other tracks since then.  He has also had a major acting career since 1985 when he played a rapper in the film “Krush Groove”.  He’s also had fashion businesses, written four books and started music businesses.  He has expressed support for both Republican and Democrat politicians but has said he is an Independent.  On his song “Mr. President” he raised political issues (original video):

LL Cool J was in the news in 2012 when he stopped an intruder attempting to burglarize his house , inflicting serious injury on the suspect.  In 2013, he has announced due to popular demand, he would run for Detroit Mayor in the next election. Quoting he will “use the Joe Louis fist to knock people out, with respects to his Momma’s request from years ago”.

He married his wife Simone I. Johnson in 1995 and they have four kids.

His official website is here: http://llcoolj.com/

He’s on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/llcoolj

And Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/llcoolj


Hip Hop History ~ Eric B. and Rakim



Eric B.  (first picture) was born in Queens in ’65 and Rakim (second picture) in Long Island.  Rakim converted to Islam when he was 16 and was much influenced by The Nation of Gods And Earths which is where he took his name – Rakim Allah – from.  Eric B. (Eric Barrier) was the producer and DJ, Rakim the rapper.

Eric played drums and trumpet in high school, switching to turntables before he graduated.  He soon started DJing for the WLBS radio station in New York where he met a promoter, Alvin Toney, from Queens.  Eric was looking for rappers to collaborate with and the promoter recommended as the first choice, Freddie Foxx, who lived in Long Island.  They went to Freddie’s house but he wasn’t there so instead they went to the second choice, Rakim, and the pair started collaborating.

Rakim’s friend and roommate Marley Marl let them use his home studio. The first track they recorded, “Eric B. Is President”, was released as a single on the independent Zakia Records in ’86. But after Def Jam’s founder Russell Simmons heard it, the duo were signed to Island Records and began recording an album in Manhattan’s Power Play Studios in early 1987

Early tracks were quite minimalist in their production.  On “Eric B. Is President”, Eric sampled the bassline from Fonda Rae’s “Over Like A Fat Rat” plus the beat from James Brown’s “Funky President (People Its Bad)”.

(Incase you want to check them out, the Fonda Rae track is on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRj0V9Q9D9A and the James Brown track is on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_ODghRTeyQ ).

The classic James Brown loop used in the track was groundbreaking at the time.  Stetasonic later rapped that “James Brown was old until Eric and Ra came out”.  Allmusic has said that ‘Eric B. was hugely influential and his taste for hard-hitting James Brown samples, touched off a stampede through the Godfather of Soul’s back catalogue, that continues to this day”.  Rakim insisted in a Rolling Stone interview, “I don’t think we were the first ones to use James Brown, but we were the first to use it right.”

“Eric B. Is President”:

Lyrically, Rakim was also ground breaking.  As Wikipedia puts it, “At the time rappers like Run-DMC, Chuck D and KRS-One had been leaping on the mic shouting with energy and irreverence, but Rakim took a methodical approach to his microphone fiending. He had a slow flow, and every line was blunt, mesmeric.”  Steve Huey praised his “literate imagery, velvet-smooth flow, and unpredictable, off-the-beat rhythms.”

Rakim still tops fan polls as the greatest MC of all time. Allmusic says “He crafted his rhymes like poetry, filling his lines with elaborate metaphors and complex internal rhymes, and he played the beat like a jazzman, earning a reputation as the smoothest-flowing MC ever to pick up a mic.  His articulation was clear, his delivery seemingly effortless, and his influence on subsequent MCs incalculable.  Together, their peerless technique on the microphone and turntables upped the ante for all who followed them, and their advancement of Hip Hop as an art form has been acknowledged by everyone from Gang Starr to the Wu-Tang Clan to Eminem.”

In his writing technique, Rakim was innovative because his dedication to the craft enabled him to create lyrics that were more intricate than was usual at the time.  While many rappers developed their technique through improvisation, his strength was writing.  For example, his use of internal rhymes, where words rhyme not just at the end of a line but also in other places, was unique.

Rakim later said, “[I] used to write my rhymes in the studio and go right into the booth and read them. When I hear my first album today I hear myself reading my rhymes – but I’m my worst critic. That’s what I hear, though – because that’s what it was. I’d go into the studio, put the beat down, write the song in like an hour, and go into the booth and read it from the paper…”

The B-Side of “Eric B. Is President” was “My Melody”:

Another contributor to their sound was Rakim’s brother Stevie Blass Griffin.  He was a multi-instrumentalist and performed on the first album “Paid in Full” as well as its follow up, “Follow The Leader”.

The track “I Know You Got Soul” Sampled the Bobby Byrd song of the same name as well as James Brown:

Or alternatively here is a live performance of “I Know You Got Soul” from ’91 at The Apollo where the crowd reaction shows just how massive the duo were:

Here is the original video for the title track from the album “Paid In Full”:

Incidentally, at the time, the concept of getting paid in full for rapping, was also groundbreaking.  The Vibe History of Hip Hop states it “was the first album that told both fellow rappers and consumers that there was a lot of money to be made in the rap business.  It was hard to believe that brothers really could get paid in full with all the handshaking and radio payola going on – nevertheless, the album sold more than gold”.

“I Ain’t No Joke” was also on their debut album and this video has the lyrics too:

Because of this track, “As The Rhyme Goes On”, Eminem was inspired to lift some lines for his “The Way I Am”:

The legacy of Paid In Full continues to this day.  Wikipedia explains that “Rakim’s rapping set a blueprint for future rappers and helped secure East Coast Hip Hop’s reputation for innovative lyrical technique.  William Cobb stated in his book To the Break of Dawn that his rapping had “stepped outside” of the preceding era of old school Hip Hop and that while the vocabulary and lyrical dexterity of newer rappers had improved, it was “nowhere near what Rakim introduced to the genre”.  The New York Times‘ Dimitri Ehrlich, who described the album as “an artistic and commercial benchmark”, credited Rakim for helping “give birth to a musical genre” and leading “a quiet musical revolution, introducing a soft-spoken rapping style.”

Regarding the influence of Eric B.’s contribution, “Paid in Full, which contains gritty, heavy, and dark beats, marked the beginning of heavy sampling in Hip Hop records.  Of the album’s ten tracks, three are instrumentals.  As a DJ, Eric B. had reinstated the art of live turntable mixing.  And his soul-filled sampling became influential in future Hip Hop production.”

Their second album, “Follow The Leader” was less minimalistic – Eric used more samples and more live instrumentation courtesy of Stevie.  Rakim also used more vivid and elaborate metaphors, for example comparing his love for rapping with being addicted to drugs in the song “Microphone Fiend”:

“Follow The Leader” – original video:

“Lyrics of Fury” – this track used the beat from James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” before it was well known:

The E-notes website explains ‘From the 90s Hip Hop had an ever-widening mainstream audience  and rap began to separate into “schools”: the “gangsta” sound of N.W.A., Ice-T and the Geto Boys; the “Native Tongues” psychedelic funk-rap of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest; the consciousness-raising of Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions; and, of course, the highly staged pop rap of Hammer and Kriss Kross. Eric B. and Rakim, however, remained true to their own unique sound, described by Rolling Stone’s Alan Light as “Rakim’s cool, menacing delivery of intricate rhymes over Eric’s subtly shifting beats.” The Voice’s George elaborated, revealing, “Rakim’s intonation itself conjures wintry images of cold-blooded killers, chilly ghetto streets and steely-eyed hustlers. There’s a knowing restraint in his voice that injects danger into even harmless phrases.”‘

So in 1990 Eric B. and Rakim released their third album, “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em”.  Allmusic states that rap fans began to lose interest in the duo at this point because there were many other new acts on the scene.  Rakim did some message raps on this album such as “In The Ghetto”.  I really like the music on this one too:

Also on the album was “Step Back”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31GYKGx2L6I and another track was “No Omega”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJ9zYRIvFp4 although I’m not feeling these that much.

He later said about his relative lack of commercial success: “You could sell a couple records and keep your integrity or you could go pop and sell a bunch of records and be gone tomorrow. I was trying to stick to my guns at that point.”

Tracks that didn’t feature on the duo’s albums around this time included:

“Set ‘Em Straight” which featured on a compilation Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em in 1990:

“Know The Ledge” was a track on the soundtrack to the film Juice in ’91:

and “What’s On Your Mind” was on the soundtrack to House Party II:

Their fourth album “Don’t Sweat The Technique” got better reviews than their third.  The Boston Herald complimented Eric B.’s “diverse mix of beats and melodies … from hard funk to more subdued blues and jazz”, concluding that “The potent combination of articulate raps and catchy beats makes ‘Don’t Sweat‘ a real burner”

The track called “Don’t Sweat The Technique” was very funky (original video):

“What’s Going On” was also on this album: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTW9nTY5bU0

Other songs were “What’s On Your Mind”, the opening track, which was a commercially successful ballad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18LIKBPOCow

And another track, against the Gulf War, was “Casualties of War” (original video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHXFKjfrlqI

This was the last album the duo did together.  Wikipedia explains “During the recording of the album, both members expressed an interest in recording solo albums. However, Eric B. refused to sign the label’s release contract, fearful that Rakim would abandon him. This led to a court case involving the two musicians and their former label. The legal wrangling eventually led to the duo dissolving completely. Eric B. has clarified that the monetary problems stemmed from labels like Island and others claiming ownership of the masters — not from any financial disputes between him and Rakim.”

Eric B. released a self-titled solo album in ’95 on the independent label 95th Street Recordings, which he both produced and rapped on, which was not very well received.  There has been some controversy regarding the extent to which Eric B. was the producer on Eric B. and Rakim tracks.  Marley Marl, MC Shan and Large Professor are among some producers and engineers that have been said to have contributed to the tracks.

Rakim, now a solo artist, released a single in ’93, “Heat It Up” which featured on the soundtrack for the Mario Van Peebles film Gunmen.  Here is one of several different versions that exist:

Finally in ’97 Rakim released a solo album – The 18th Letter, which features production by Clark Kent, Pete Rock, Nick Wiz, and DJ Premier.  Some versions of the album included a greatest hits CD called The Book of Life too.

I love this track, “Guess Who’s Back”:

Track four was “Its Been A Long Time”:

“When I’m Flowin'” was a more chilled track:

In ’99 Rakim released another album The Master, and this track from it is “Waiting For The World To End”:

“All Night Long” was the fifth track on the album:

Here is the track “When I B On The Mic” which was a single:

“Strong Island” track 15:

And a love song “I’ll Be There”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=us7knVTD0WE

In 2000 Rakim signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath record label and started work on an album to be titled Oh, My God.  It underwent numerous changes in artistic direction and personnel and was delayed several times.

While working on the album, Rakim made guest appearances on numerous Aftermath projects, including the hit single “Addictive” by Truth Hurts, as well as the Dr. Dre-produced “The Watcher Part 2” by Jay-Z, and Eminem’s 8 Mile soundtrack.

However, Rakim left the label in 2003 and Oh, My God was indefinitely shelved.  After Rakim eventually left he stated that the reason he departed the label was because of creative differences with Dre.  Rakim used a metaphorical example that Dre wanted Rakim to write about killing someone, while Rakim wanted to write about the resurrection of someone.  Rakim signed with Dreamworks Records shortly afterward, but the label closed shortly after that.

Rakim released a live album – The Archive, Live, Lost and Found – in 2008, featuring live performances, unreleased and rare material.

He released his third solo album, The Seventh Seal in 2009.  He explained “The number 7 has a lot of significance. The seventh letter of the [Supreme] alphabet is G—that stands for God. There are seven continents, seven seas. The Seventh Seal deals with that and also some revelations in the Bible. Some call it the end of the world, but for me it’s the end of the old and the beginning of the new. By me naming my album that, I’m using it metaphorically in Hip Hop. I’m hoping to kill the old state of hip hop and start with the new.”

Tracks from The Seventh Seal included  “Walk These Streets”:

And the single  “Holy Are You”:

Rakim’s influence today is in rappers who have used his unique rapping style and attribute it as inspiration:  Rappers such as  GZA, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan, NaS, Kool G. Rap, Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G., Eminem and many more.

Rakim’s website: www.Rakim.com

Eric B. and Rakim’s website: http://www.ericbnrakim.com/

Eric B. and Rakim on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EricBandRakim

Eric B. on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ERICB

Rakim on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rakimgodmc

Hip Hop History ~ Sha-Rock


Sha-Rock was born in ’62, one of three sisters and a brother in North Carolina.  In one house there was a piano Sha-Rock used to play to take her mind off the violence – Dad used to beat her mom until she left him.  After the family moved, Sha-Rock had to be bused thirty miles to another school which made her mom and her partner Bob furious.  They would also attend rallies and protests and were interested in the case of the Wilmington 10 Black Panthers.  After a shooting incident involving the police and a next door neighbour who was a Panther, the family moved to the Bronx, New York for two years.  Sha-Rock was eight years old.  Bob had a reel to reel tape which was off limits to the kids and Sha-Rock would listen to Isaac Hayes, The Delfonics, and The Sylistics when her parents were out.  In ’71 the family moved to Harlem.  Sha-Rock started listening to Nikki Giovanni, Betty Wright, and Slyvia.

Her first performance was playing the lead part of an African dancer in an African ensemble for Black History Month at IS 10 (also known as Horace Greeley Middle School).  Her mother told her off for looking ‘stiff and scared and not putting her all into it’.  Sha-Rock says “One thing I’ve learned from that experience was never doubt or short change myself.  Don’t get me wrong, mom wasn’t some kind of stage mom that didn’t give her children their props.  But, mom was right.  I was more focused on how the other girls were dancing than perfecting my part in the dance routine and not giving my all.  From that day forward, I learned to focus on me, and what it was I needed to do.  I needed to master the craft; whatever it may be … and then move onto the next”.  in ’73 the family moved back to the Bronx and she attended IS 145 (also known as Joseph Pulitzer Middle School) and then Evander  High School.

Sha-Rock met her friend JJ (MC Jazzy Jeff, not to be confused with DJ Jazzy Jeff) at IS 10 and he went on to become an MC with her in The Funky Four Plus One.  Back then, “He was kind of on the nerdy side, but we both had a lot in common, one thing being we both loved music.  During lunch period, he would always go home and get his boom box [he lived a block away from the school] so we could all hang out in the schoolyard park.  JJ had all of the songs that he had taped from the radio.  Chaka Khan and Rufus’ Sweet Thing, Boz Scaggs’ Low Down, Ohio Players’ Roller Coaster, and Vicki Sue Robinson’s Turn The Best Around to name just a few.”

One day at a house party, JJ introduced Sha-Rock to his cousins, Mike and Pee Wee who were B-Boys, part of the Nine Crew.  Sha-Rock started breaking and became a secret weapon of the crew.  Through breaking Sha-Rock met Keith and Kevin the Nigger Twins, B-boys down with Kool Herc, and others down with Africa Bambaataa and the Zulu Kings.

At one park jam, Sha-Rock heard DJ Kool Herc and two MCs, Coke La Rock and Timmy Timand, the first MCs she witnessed on the mic.  “They would MC by making all of the announcements for the upcoming jams and giving shootouts.  Their rhymes weren’t intense or for a long period of time.  They were known for bigging up the crew and Herc by letting the crowd know whose party it was.  They would shout over the mic “The sounds you hear is deaf to your ear…have no fear ’cause Herc is here.”

While Sha-Rock was attending Evander High School she helped hand out flyers for Richie Tee and overheard him telling another boy about auditions for MCs the Brother’s Discos were having.    She expressed interest and Richie took her to DJ Breakout’s house for the audition.  Here she met Jazzy D who named her Sha-Rock, KK Rockwell and Keith Keith – who along with Rahiem, who joined later, and Jazzy Jeff, were to be The Funky Four Plus One – the ‘Plus One’ being Sha-Rock.  Jazzy D was the manager of the group until Lil’ Rodney C (the member who replaced Rahiem) took over after their first national tour.

After the audition Sha-Rock thought “KK and Keith had rhymes for days.  They had routines that they did together and they sounded good.  I knew I had to come harder … Even though they were amped and hyped up from the way I was rocking the mic, I still had the impression for some reason that they weren’t really feeling the girl on the mic thing.  It was almost as though they weren’t one hundred percent convinced that a girl could really be an MC.”  So she started writing rhymes – the first one, on the bus:

“I realised that I didn’t have any contact numbers for anyone so I could ask for directions.  Then, it all started coming together, my first rhyme.

“I have this book from A-Z.  It’s a little black book that belongs to me.  It has your name, number, and address, too so when I wanna talk I’ll just call up you.  And, when I’m by myself and all alone, I just turn to the Rs and reach for the phone.  Sha-Rock, I’m rocking’ on.”

By that time, the people on the bus were looking at me as if I was crazy because I was mumbling the words.  I didn’t write anything down, so I would recite the words over and over again.”

A few days later at the Boston Secor Community Center Sha-Rock publicly performed as an MC alongside the others for the first time.

In her book “Luminary Icon: The Story of the Beginning and End of Hip Hop’s First Female MC”, Sha-Rock states:

“Although there have been several stories that may have floated around over the years from writers, MCs and some Hip Hop historians about the authenticity of who was the first female MC, forget what you have heard, I was the first female MC.  Females were not extinct from the onset of Hip Hop culture.  I was there from the beginning.  Many groups followed by incorporating a female as well.  There were many females whom had just begun to emerge as up and coming MCs whose intentions were to place their mark on the streets of the Bronx.  Everybody in New York City knew not only was I the first female MC, but I also was the best female MC.” Also. “Depending on what park jams you were at, you may have seen a female rocking the mic, but that did not mean that she was the first female MC”.

Females who were also near the start of Hip Hop include MC Smiley, Peeblee Poo, Lil’ Lee and Queen Lisa Lee.

Regarding MC Smiley; “The first time I had the opportunity to meet MC Smiley, she was a MC for The Mercedes Ladies, and she was a very good MC. One of the stories that I had heard was that she was a MC for the L Brothers, but the Funky Four was already in effect.  We had played and battled the L Brothers many times in the 63 park.  It was a school yard where most pioneers had the opportunity to rock.  However, the only MCs that was rocking at the time with the group was Kevi Kev and Master Rob, who were brothers, and occasionally Starsky, who presently goes by the name of The Cheifrocker Busy Bee.  And besides, MC Smiley was a member of the Mercedes Ladies, in which they have and always acknowledged that I, Sha Rock, was first.”

On Peeblee Poo; “I had met Peebles around 1982 and she was with a group who was called Master Don and the Death Committee.  They had just released their first single called Funk Box Party.  There were several songs that were released also during that year.  Planet Rock by Africa Bambaataa, The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, but when I heard the song Funk Box, I almost lost my mind. . I felt that not only was the beat hot, Peeblee’s style and voice made the song come alive.  And I just had to tell her that.  We begin to form some kind of bond after that. … When I asked Peebles about it, she replied that being the first female was never her claim.  She stated that she was going solely on her claim to be the first female soloist”.

Sha-Rock says of Lil’ Lee “One day, the Brothers Disco had given a jam at 23 park, which was located in the Bronx.  Lil’ Lee had introduced herself to me and she had also relayed to me that she liked the way that I rhymed.  She had asked if we could hang out together.  I agreed.  She never told me she was an MC.  I later saw her at a park jam that DJ A.J. had given and she was rocking on the mic.  Since that day, I hadn’t seen or heard of her rocking at any park jams, or when Hip Hop was moved into the clubs.”

Sha-Rock gives respect to Queen Lisa Lee: “”There were several female MCs whom I’ve had great pleasure of knowing, and still to this day have mad respect for their skills on the mic.  Queen Lisa Lee is at the top of the list … I’ve always felt that she could have been the next Sha-Rock, and to tell you the truth, she probably felt as if I could have been the next Lisa Lee.  Lisa was more than confident about her skills.  And she had a right to be.  She was just that good.”  Taste was another MC, who like Lisa Lee, worked with Africa Bambaataa.

Other female MCs from the early days included the rest of The Mercedes Ladies – Baby D (D’Bora), Sherri-Sher, Zina-Zee, DJ LaSpank, and Eve-a-Def.  Sweet P and Sty-Sty were later members.  Also, MCs Sweet & Sour, and Debbie D, Sparky D, as well as Sequence, the all-female group consisting of Cheryl The Pearl, Angie B (now known as Angie Stone) and Blondy.

The Funky Four Plus One was made up of  Jazzy Jeff, KK Rockwell, Keith Keith, Sha-Rock and Raheim, the last member to join.  DJ Breakout was their DJ.  They were established before Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, who Rahiem later joined, to be replaced by Lil’ Rodney C.  There was great rivalry between The Funky and The Furious.

Sha-Rock describes how the Funky Four Plus One would perform: ” We became the first rap group to use mic stands in our routines.  We would set them upfront by DJ Breakout and Baron while they’d cut up the song as we rhymed … We were like the hood version of Gladys Knight and The Pips … We had become the first group to incorporate rhyming and harmonizing.  Before us, most MCs were just saying the basic rhymes.  Harmonizing was when the whole group would say a rhyme together in a singing format.”

“Rahiem was also known for bringing a different flavour of harmonizing and singing to the group.  He was an asset to the group because he could mimic any song that was out and could flip it so that the song would fit the routine that we were doing.  He performed as one of the original members of the funky four up until May of ’79.  There were no groups at the time that had that particular formula like us.  We made everyone step their game up. … KK and Keith’s routine allowed them to go back and forth between each other rhyming patterns.  Their routines made the Funky Four even stronger.

“We even started using melodies from sitcoms that were on television, such as Gilligan’s Island.  We would switch it around to MC about what we may have been going through at the time.  Sometimes, we would make up stuff or bragged about material stuff we wanted.  The difference between us and other groups was that we were story tellers.  Each of us could rhyme for minutes on the mic before passing the mic to the next person.”

The Funky Four Plus One had a group of young men and women from Uptown (where Jazzy D and DJ Breakout lived) who would rock with the group whenever they performed, because Jazzy D didn’t want them to be associated with street gangs.  “The men would wear all white shirts with black lettering that read Brother’s Disco.  The females would wear shirts that had Sister’s Disco written across them.  And, of course, I would wear the famous green shirt with yellow letters that read I’m Sha-Rock and I can’t be stopped.

“The Brother’s and Sister’s Disco had many roles.  They would serve as security for the group, but they were also responsible for getting the crowd hyped.  They knew all of our routines and they would echo the last words that we’d say in each line.  The Sister’s Disco would also monitor the behaviour of other females to ensure there were no beefs or problems when it came to me.  As I look back, that could have been one of the reasons why I never had any problems.  Their presence alone would let anyone know that they were here for business.”

“we were also known for having the best sound system in New York City.  It was so serious that we even had a name for our sound system.  We called it the mighty Sasquatch.  That set us apart from the rest.  Our sound system was exceptional.  We made speakers out of fifty five gallon barrel oil cans.  We also put about five or six inch lifts on them so the sound would carry.

“We even incorporated mid range and base speakers inside, and laid them on the ground.  We had a string of tweeters, so if another DJ was DJing in the same park or venue as we were, we could drown them out with the tweeters alone.

“All of the extra bells and whistles we had made the records sound very crisp and clear.  It was as if it was being played live.  You could be seven or eight blocks away from the jam and you still would be able to hear every rhyme clear as though you were there.”

“We threw jams everywhere.  In parks, school yards, and local community centers.  We weren’t making any real money for any of the shows that we were giving, especially outside.  Now, for the jams inside, we did get paid.  BAck then, we weren’t charging a lot of money to get into the jams.  Your average jam would cost anywhere from three to five dollars to get in, a big difference from twenty to thirty dollars that are charged these days.  After the jam, we would at least have enough money to pay for the train ride, cab fair, or enough to get some White Castle.  For us, the payoff came from the recognition and the credibility we received from the streets.  The hood loved us, we loved them, and that was invaluable.”

During the Battle era which swept the New York City area, The Funky and the Furious had several battles.  One battle that meant a lot to Sha-Rock was held at The Audubon ballroom in Manhatten, where Malcolm X gave his historical speech and was gunned down.  Sha-Rock knew in her heart of hearts “that we could take them” but “At times, I felt as though Rahiem thought that we were inferior to The Furious.  I felt that we were number one.”  The night off the battle, Rahiem said he was sick and did not give his all.  Also, “The plan was that we were going to tire the crowd out by all of the routines and the crowd participation that we had in store however, little did we know that they would switch it up on us.  I didn’t know how they did it, but they were able to get the time changed so that they would get on two groups before we did … By the time we were scheduled to go on stage, the crowd was exhausted.”  The Furious won the Battle and the Funky came second.  Soon it was found that Rahiem had planned to join the Furious Five and KK and Keith felt he had sabotaged the Funky’s performance in the battle.  Sha-Rock was upset and also left the group briefly.

In ’79 The Sugar Hill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight” and Sha-Rock explains that even though everyone was feeling the song, “MCs in the communities, however, began to feel slighted.  We had been on the grind for years, and out of nowhere three guys from New Jersey whom no-one had ever heard of had this hit record and the world would know them as the first rappers/MCs.  And, to be honest, I had a problem with that.”

That year The Funky Four Plus One signed to Enjoy Records first, followed by Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five.  Next they moved to Sugar Hill Records and so did the Furious Five.

“The Sugar Hill Gang’s record was playing on every radio station around the world.  None of us were fans of Sugar Hill Gang, but we respected the fact that she was able to pull it off.  My thoughts were if she could take three non MCs and throw them together to make an admirable success, then Lord knows how far she could take us.  We all felt that if we could sign with Sugar Hill Records, we would reach international stardom. … I think we all had it in our minds that we were going to rock with Sugar Hill Records.  We were young and we weren’t really too concerned with the legal ramifications.  We were just excited to be offered a contract and having the opportunity to tour, like so many young artists are today.”

Rapping and Rocking The House was released in ’79 under Enjoy Records and it was the longest rap record for at least a decade.

That’s the Joint from 1980 – recorded in one take:

The Funky Four Plus One felt that Sugar Hill Records showed favouritism to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, for example providing for them “a new beat [Freedom] that we had just started rocking to in the Bronx, not to mention it was the hottest song that theDJs were spinning at the time”.

In ’81 Sha-Rock had her first child Sha-ti-a.  Later with her husband Michael Jackson, who she married in ’86, she had Michael, and Sencere, as well as adopting Keith.

In ’82 the group released Do You Want to Rock (Before I Let Go):

In ’83 “Feel It” (The Mexican) came out:

On the first Sugar Hill tour, The Funky Four Plus One performed alongside headliners The Sugar Hill Gang, The Gap Band, Sequence and The Furious Five.  But while The Sugar Hill Gang and Sequence were getting paid, after several sold out performances The Funky only received $500 each, even though the rate was supposed to be $300 per night.

Once off tour the group would set up shows themselves in the Bronx and New York City and earn better money that way, than by shows booked by the label.  They appeared on the Duke Baldwin Cable show as the first Hip Hop group to be shown on Cable TV.  They started doing shows in Downtown Manhattan where punk rockers hung out.  There they met Fab Five Freddy, whose friend Debbie Harry from Blondie was hosting Saturday Night Live.  He said he thought The Funky Four Plus One should appear on the show which they did.   By this time the members of the group only received $800 each in royalties from sales of That’s The Joint.  After months without being given a promised sales report, the group started to try and get out of the contract.  Rodney and KK wanted out but Syvia Robinson would only let these two go, not the entire group.  Sha, Jeff and Keith signed a new contract.  The group was effectively split up.  Rodney C and KK Rockwell became a duo and The New Funky Four were Jazzy Jeff, Keith Keith, Ikey C and Sha-Rock.

Sha-Rock, Queen Lisa Lee and Debbie D formed a new group The US Girls and appeared in the movie Beat Street before disbanding.

Here is a clip from the movie Beat Street featuring Us Girls:

Sha-Rock now lives in Texas with her family, works as a Training Officer in the correctional  field, and volunteers for the Rich Girlz Club as well as educating people about Hip Hop history and culture.  She has received several awards for her contribution to Hip Hop.

Justin Bua has written that “Unlike the majority of today’s female MCs, Sha-Rock wasn’t selling sex nor was she looked upon as being a sex object.  Simply put: she was a talented MC.  She wasn’t flashy, gimmicky, or cliche in any way, shape or form.  She was just a girl from the Bronx who loved to rap and was there first.  There’s something to be said about being the first.  Its easy to look back and glorify the beginnings of a culture.  The truth is, pioneers often suffer, creatively, personally, professionally, because not only are they quickly forgotten, but they also don’t get paid their due.  Its easy to forget how hard it is to be ahead of the curve, to to have your finger on the pulse before everyone else.  Sha-Rock was the first female  MC in the game and because of that she was scrutinised.  Men were stepping to her and trying to battle her.  But when they put her on the spot, they quickly realised her skill set was on par with the best.  When MCs stepped to Sha, she served fools.  As Grand Wizard Theodore said to me, “Sha would tell a story that we all could visualise.  She was ridiculously intelligent; the way she flipped her words was profound.  Sha-Rock was our generation’s MC Lyte.  she was the best of the era”.  While Latifah is the Queen, Sha-Rock was the first to rule.  She paved the way for all future female MCs and for that, we should pay our respect.”

Here website is here:


And her book “Luminary Icon” can be purchased here:


Grandmaster Flash – Hip Hop History #3


Grandmaster Flash is a legendary DJ who is still gigging internationally and his shows are off the chain – if you get a chance to watch him, go because you will have an awesome night!  A pioneer of Hip Hop from its early days, Flash was born in Barbados in ’58 and grew up in the Bronx, New York.  He says of his dad “My father was a very heavy record collector. He still thinks that he has the stronger collection. I used to open his closets and just watch all the records he had. I used to get into trouble for touching his records, but I’d go right back and bother them.”  At school Flash learnt electronics at a vocational school because his mom wanted him to have a trade.

Some people credit him as the first person to make a crossfader for mixing two turntables.  Crossfaders did exist in some top of the range audio equipment prior to his making one, but the earliest hip-hop DJs didn’t have mixers or access to the expensive top of the range equipment. Kool Herc “got two Bogart amps, two Girard turntables, and then I just used the channel knobs as my mixer. No headphones.”

  As a teenager Flash learnt off other DJs like Pete Jones, Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flowers.  Flash developed Herc’s “Merry go round” technique which was performed visually by watching the record – he made it an auditory technique using headphones.  The “merry go round” came to be called backspin technique, quick mix theory, or beat juggling.  It worked by using two copies of one record so that the break could be isolated and repeated indefinitely (using the fader, to switch to the start of the break on the second record playing, as soon as the same break on the first record finished, and so on).

By using headphones to audition and cue up records before playing them – his  “peek-a-boo system”,  Flash invented “clock theory” now called beat matching – aligning the tempo of records so that they can be mixed together seamlessly.

Flash is also credited with inventing punch phrasing – isolating very short parts such as a guitar lick, vocal or horn hit on a record, and using the crossfader to rhythmically ‘punch’ or ‘stab’ the phrase on top of another record playing a beat.  Like scratching, this is turntablism – using the turntables as a musical instrument.

Flash developed scratching too – moving the record back and forth to cue it up he called “the rub”.  He practiced in his partner Gene Livingston’s apartment, and Genes kid brother – Grandmaster Theodore – took the rub, kept rubbing, and invented scratching!

Like Kool Kerc before him, Flash assembled his own crew, including Melle Mel, Cowboy and Kid Creole which was called Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five.  Incidentally, Cowboy is credited by some with inventing the term “Hip Hop”, by imitating the rhythm of marching soldiers, when he was mocking a friend in the army.  Unlike many DJs at the time, Grandmaster Flash had records released – under the name of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.  

“Superrapping” was released in ’79 on Enjoy Records;

and “Freedom” on Sugar Hill Records:

Flash didn’t perform on most records because Sugar Hill would get funk musicians to recreate disco hits while the MCs rapped over the top.  So the records didn’t necessarily reflect the Hip Hop scene.  In Flash’s performances to this day he still uses the mic a lot as well as scratching, but neither were really captured on vinyl in the early days except for

The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” in ’81;

This was the first documented scratching captured on a record.

Another significant release was “The Message” in ’82;

although only Melle Mel performed on the song out of the group.  In live performances Flash was central but this wasn’t reflected on vinyl.  Flash sued Sugar Hill for non payment of royalties that year and the group disintegrated.  

On his own Flash has regularly released albums since then.  He’s won several awards and has his own clothing line G.Phyre. 

His website including tour dates is here: http://grandmasterflash.com/

Afrika Bambaataa – Hip Hop History #2


Born in ’57 in the South Bronx in New York, Afrika’s parents were activists in the black liberation movement, and his mom had an awesome record collection.  He became a warlord of a division of the Black Spades, and expanded it into one of the most successful gangs, with thousands of members.   Afrika visited Africa after winning an essay contest and came back inspired by the communities he visited, wanting to stop the violence and create a community in his neighbourhood.

He changed his name to Afrika Bambaataa Aasim after a Zulu chief who led an armed rebellion which was a precursor to the Anti-Apartheid movement.  With other DJs such as Kool Herc and  Kool DJ Dee, he began hosting Hip Hop parties. And he formed the Universal Zulu Nation, a group of socially and politically aware Hip Hoppers, to use the culture to draw angry kids out of gangs and into being creative.  Zulu Nation was the very first Hip Hop organization, born in ’73.

Musically, Afrika was a producer as well as a DJ who helped develop turntablism.  He  created Planet Rock, a tune which invented an entire genre – “electro-boogie” rap and dance music.

Planet Rock Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lDCYjb8RHk

Afrika is credited with naming Hip Hop, since the term was used by MCs but he used it as a name to describe the four elements of the culture – DJs’ music, MCs’ lyricism and poetry,  b-boys’ and b-girls’ dancing, and writers’ graffiti art.

He helped spread Hip Hop throughout the world with a European tour in ’82 to promote the values of hip hop based on peace, unity, love, and safely having fun.

In 1983 he released Looking for the Perfect Beat

YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RJlYzBhLg4

His third release was Renegades of Funk

YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYzakWz3JxU

Afrika has supported many social and political causes.  In ’85 he collaborated on an Anti-Apartheid album, Sun City and also in ’89 the Stop The Violence Movement 12″, Self-Destruction which went gold and raised $400,000 for community anti-violence education programs.

In Planet Rock ’98,” he made an early example of electro house. Since then he’s been a judge supporting independent artists in the Independent Music Awards, and is currently working for Cornell University which has the largest collection of historical hip hop music in North America.

DJ Kool Herc – Hip Hop History #1



DJ Kool Herc is arguably the father of Hip Hop as we know it.  Born in 1955, aged 12 his family migrated to The Bronx from Kingston Jamaica.  Back there, sound systems would play at dance halls and DJs would toast (speak to the crowd) on the mic.  Kool was nicknamed Hercules because of his size. With his sister Cindy they started back-to-school parties in the communal area of their building.

They played tracks like:

James Brown – Give It Up Or Turn It Loose http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTJEu7Tngaw

Jimmy Castor Bunch – Its Just Begun http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P0fpBgzuws

Booker T. and the MG’s – Melting Pot http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW08GnKufQ8

Herc ran with a graffiti crew too, and also part of the emerging Hip Hop culture were B-Boys and B-Girls who invented breakdancing.  The dancers would go crazy when certain percussive parts of songs were played – the break.  So Herc invented a way of repeating just the break over and over.  He called this the Merry-Go-Round, now called beat juggling, where you use two copies of the same record on each turntable and when the break ends on one, you switch to playing where it starts on the other.

As well as the music, Herc was on the mic too.  In Jamaica, incidentally MCs are actually called DJs.  He would punctuate the music with rhymes such as  “To the beat, y’all!” “You don’t stop!” “This is the joint! Herc beat on the point” and “B-boys, b-girls, are you ready? keep on rock steady”.

At the time the new Hip Hop music wasn’t allowed in clubs which played Disco for an older crowd, or on commercial  radio.  So parties like Herc’s were the only place kids could go to hear the music.

In the community at the time, a Cross Bronx Expressway had just been constructed.  It uprooted thousands, displaced communities, and lead to “white flight” when property values dropped near the roadway.  Many landlords burnt down homes to recoup money through insurance.   A violent new street gang youth culture emerged around 1968, and spread with increasing lawlessness across large parts of the Bronx by 1973.

Steven Hagar claims “For over five years the Bronx had lived in constant terror of street gangs. Suddenly, in 1975, they disappeared almost as quickly as they had arrived. This happened because something better came along to replace the gangs. That something was eventually called Hip Hop.”

Herc never threw a block party for the money or the fame.  “I never chased the glory train.  And nobody expected it to go this far.  I don’t have to make a record to be known.  My record is Hip Hop, nobody have that title.  When the record finishing play, you’ve forgotten about it.  But when they check the record of who started the culture, only one name will come to it.  Like the presidency.  Who started the presidency?  George Washington.  That’s who I am to this game.  Nobody can take that away from me”.

Some people in Hip Hop today are multimillionaires thanks to the culture Kool Herc and others pioneered 40 years ago.  But Herc has recently been suffering from painful kidney stones due to not being covered by healthcare insurance.  His family set up the Kool Herc Fund to help him and also campaign for others who suffer from the healthcare system in the U.S.  Check it out here: http://djkoolherc.com/