Would Hip Hop Exist Without Jamaica?

Would Hip Hop Exist Without Jamaica?

Some might find this question ridiculous yet it is a very justified question one may ask. In fact Hip Hop might have never been created without the influence of a certain Jamaican, or at least it might not exist as we now know it. As a Jamaican I was very interested to find out just how much influence my country of birth had on the creation of this genre of music. From my research, this is what I discovered:

It is generally accepted that the roots of hip-hop are planted deeply in the fusion of America and Africa. African music was taken to North and South America by West African slaves. There, they developed it into their own musical styles and it gradually became popular over time. Gospel, blues and jazz are all part of this history in the U.S., while reggae, calypso and ska started in the Caribbean.

All of these influences were brought together by Clive Campbell (Kool D.J. Herc) who is regarded as the father of hip-hop. He was born in Jamaica in 1955 and later moved to the Bronx in 1967, at the tender age of twelve. With his original style of R & B, soul, funk, and obscure disco, he quickly became the driving force of the hip-hop way of life.

  
who created hip hop?
Image via genius.com

It is widely accepted that Herc was the first DJ to purchase two copies of the same record for just a small break (rhythmic instrumental segment) in the middle. By mixing back and forth between the two copies he was able to double, triple, or indefinitely extend the break. By doing this, he effectively deconstructed and reconstructed so-called ‘found sound’, using the turntable as his musical instrument. That concept in its entirety came from Jamaica.

Modern rap music finds its origins deeply embedded in the toasting and dub talk over elements of reggae music. In the early 70’s he attempted to incorporate his Jamaican style of dj which involved reciting improvised rhymes over the dub versions of his reggae records. Unfortunately, reggae wasn’t received positively by the majority of New Yorkers. Kool Herc realized this quickly and modified his style by chanting over the instrumental or percussion sections of the day’s popular songs. Because these breaks were relatively short, he learned to extend them indefinitely by using an audio mixer and two identical records in which he continuously replaced the desired segment.

His first professional job as a disc jockey was at the Twilight Zone in 1973. His fame exploded. In addition to his original break beats, he was also known as the man with the loudest system around. Whenever he held a party, it was a phenomenal and very loud event. Other prominent disc jockeys such as Afrika Bambaataa began trying to take Herc’s crown. Below is a quote from Jazzy Jay of the Zulu Nation:

“Herc was late setting up and Bam (Afrika Bambaataa) continued to play longer than he should have. Once Herc was set up he got on the microphone and said “Bambaataa, could you please turn your system down?” Bam’s crew was pumped and told Bam not to do it. So Herc said louder, “Yo, Bambaataa, turn your system down-down-down.” Bam’s crew started cursing Herc until Herc put the full weight of his system up and said, “Bambaataa-baataa -baataa, TURN YOUR SYSTEM DOWN!” And you couldn’t even hear Bam’s set at all. The Zulu crew tried to turn up the juice but it was no use. Everybody just looked at them like, “You should’ve listened to Kool Herc.”

Herc’s career began to fall in 1977. The emergence of Grandmaster Flash and Bambaataa’s various crews with their polished emcee styles began to overshadow Herc. He was later stabbed three times at one of his own parties and was never the same. He played his last Old School party in 1984.

It is sad that a person like this is not a common part of the modern hip hop vernacular. Jamaican born Kool Herc, the father of this new form of music that has now been embraced by the masses all over the globe.

Let us ensure that his significant contribution to the musical art form is not forgotten.

  

Source: wikipedia

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[…] With regards to music, we have produced such an extensive list of prominent  and influential names that even attempting to list a small fraction of them would require too many pages. The name “Bob Marley” is sure to be recognized on every facet of the planet. Besides the obvious Reggae music, Jamaicans have played major roles in the creation of other genres of music namely, Hip- Hop and Reggae-ton. […]

Mark Mclaughlin
Guest

so true and no one gives credit where credit is due.

Herbert S. Daly
Guest

The Jamaican sound systems and deejays were what made hip-hop possible. Picture a basement party in Brooklyn in the early to mid-70s hosted by some expatriate yardies. The room is packed and sweaty, there’s a DJ with two turntables at the far end busy flipping and occasionally rhythmically scratching vinyl discs, a selector choosing the hardest most danceable dub cuts, and a maniac on the mic going off with some insane scat-singing over the bass-heavy riddim. Now picture an African-American born and raised in NYC who’s been invited and is witnessing all this for the first time. Some gears are… Read more »

Jeff Bergmann
Guest

So many do not know this important part of the story.

James Battle
Guest

It’s been a oneness in NY all the while when I was coming up. Garveyites flocked to the city in early century and dispersed in all directions. We’ve been intermarrying and interpartying for a long time. It’s my West Coast friends who have a harder time imagining these origins. Music was an outgrowth of larger things going on in the regional culture.

Jacqueline Richards
Guest

Years ago, I was thrilled to see a documentary on TV showing how hip hop was started by a Jamaican scratching and doing his reggae ‘dub’ on the streets of NY, I believe in the early 70s… It was in B&W.. slightly hazy now. I didn’t see a repeat and have searched and still unable to find it. Found many others but not that particular one. Any help?

Evon Bennett
Guest

This is so true i could relate to that because at the age of 8 my father used to promote dance, I came in contact with those beat by a sound name sir cox son dad, who played a lot of King stitch follow by a sound name son junior and king tubby s most of the music was by channel one studio and they were of a rap like nature, just play some of the early music by general echo and muma liza and see the rap style in their music, I could go earlier when i use to… Read more »

Evon Bennett
Guest

This is so true i could relate to that because at the age of 8 my father used to promote dance, I came in contact with those beat by a sound name sir cox son dad, who played a lot of King stitch follow by a sound name son junior and king tubby s most of the music was by channel one studio and they were of a rap like nature, just play some of the early music by general echo and muma liza and see the rap style in their music, I could go earlier when i use to… Read more »

Herbert S. Daly
Guest

The Jamaican sound systems and deejays were what made hip-hop possible. Picture a basement party in Brooklyn in the early to mid-70s hosted by some expatriate yardies. The room is packed and sweaty, there’s a DJ with two turntables at the far end busy flipping and occasionally rhythmically scratching vinyl discs, a selector choosing the hardest most danceable dub cuts, and a maniac on the mic going off with some insane patois scat-singing over the bass-heavy riddim. Now picture an African-American born and raised in NYC who’s been invited and is witnessing all this for the first time. Some gears… Read more »

Mark Mclaughlin
Guest

so true and no one gives credit where credit is due.

Tension General
Guest

Toasting as they use to call it on the microphone start in the 60s bk in jamaica i dancehalls a guy called :king stitch: aslo afta him was delinger and many more toasting icons. If it wasnt for these guys hip hop would exist. And today wat we called dancehall music. So alot oc respect to those who start the thing in america, but jamaica is where it all begons. Blessed im out.

Bro Blue
Guest

Its strange how we can jump to point out how grateful the Jamaican music industry is to the world but never thought how grateful the world is to the Jamaican music industry (if they really have one). Let me point out foremost: Jamaica music industry is rooted in NEW ORLEANS. It owes its existence to ANTOINE “FATS” DOMINO. The mento we recorded between the 1950s and the 1960s was not going anywhere. I urge you to listen to all the songs done from the pre-Ska era onward and you will hear the American flattery as clear as crystal—its influence is… Read more »

Jacqueline Richards
Guest

Years ago, I was thrilled to see a documentary on TV showing how hip hop was started by a Jamaican scratching and doing his reggae ‘dub’ on the streets of NY, I believe in the early 70s… It was in B&W.. slightly hazy now. I didn’t see a repeat and have searched and still unable to find it. Found many others but not that particular one. Any help?