As we all know Hip Hop’s four elements – emceeing, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti – all existed before August 11, 1973. So, how exactly did this day become the official birthdate of the culture? Here’s how.
How did August 11 become Hip Hop’s birthday?
On that Saturday evening in ’73, there was a party. It was a back to school jam thrown by local music maker, DJ Kool Herc. The party was held at 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx. This is the date that all the elements of Hip Hop came together. Kool Herc, a Jamaican-American whose real name is Clive Campbell, was instrumental in creating the sound of Hip Hop. Herc used his roots of having a DJ rapping over the music. He also brought the reggae sound system set-up to parties.
He’s mostly known for what has been dubbed the “Merry-Go Round.” This technique he used to elongate certain parts of funk records the dancers would go wild for. The section of the record is also known as “the break” and those sections of these funk records became known as the “breakbeats.” What was crafty about Herc’s setup was that he’d find the right section of the record and create a loop. Live in front of the crowd using two turntables and the crossfader on the mix. This allowed the dancers to go ballistic to the extended breakbeat.
Hip Hop’s birthday might be in November
When Canadian media personality Nardwuar interviewed Universal Zulu Nation leader, Afrika Bambaataa, the leader claimed Hip Hop’s birthday was November 12, 1974.
Bambaataa explained, “when we decided to call this whole culture hip-hop. Hip-hop even goes further than that.” In pure Nardwuar fashion, the human serviette dug deeper. This is when Bambaataa revealed “that’s the date that I decided we should name this as a whole culture and start moving from there. November was the time where people used to party inside in the centers or community gymnasiums or many of the inside clubs that we had and where people would come and have an enjoyment time. Everybody got together and got down to the hip-hop music that was being played by all the great pioneers at that time.”
When did you fall in love with Hip Hop?
Truth be told, it doesn’t matter when Hip Hop’s birthday is. Yeah, I said it. In our ears, feet, hands, creative minds, and souls, Hip Hop has been here forever. In the very early stages of my relationship with her, I thought Hip Hop was my imaginary friend. Only I was able to see her. I was the only one that kinda-sorta heard her on the radio. I only needed a hanger to hear her clearly. They were broadcasting her message only to only my radio. As time went on, I found out that I was sharing my imaginary friend with many others. While I felt sad at first, I also felt welcomed into a secret frat. We had our own secret odd language, we danced weird, and drew on walls.
As busy as Hip Hop was, she always made time for me. We would go for long walks and talk. She helped me through my most difficult times. We don’t talk as much as we used to, however, I do know she’s always there for me. I use what she taught me in daily life, and she has inspired me in too many ways to list. Hip Hop is a mindset, it’s a philosophy, a dance, a poetic lyric, a drawing, a way of life. No matter how old I get, I will celebrate Hip Hop every day for being born. I’m thankful she’s been here for 45 (or 44) years.