On August 11, 1973, DJ Kool Herc and his sister Cindy threw a party in the Bronx at their building—which is now a landmark—at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. Herc tried out a new technique where he rotated two copies of the same record. It was a way to extend a short section of music so that people could dance longer. As one record ended, he cued the second record and repeated the process.
This technique and that party became the blueprint for what we call hip-hop today.
It wasn’t called hip-hop just yet, but the founding five elements—DJ-ing, breaking, MC-ing, graffiti, and beatboxing—were swiftly emerging as a unique culture. There are multiple stories about how the actual term hip-hop came to be, and they’re all interesting. However, Grandmaster Caz—another hip-hop pioneer—has the most interesting turn of events, which most hip-hop aficionados believe to be true.
In a 2015 interview with DJ Vlad, Caz explains that hip-hop was initially a derogatory term. According to Caz, people would see kids practicing various elements and say things like, “When are y’all going to stop that hippity hop stuff?” He goes on to say that the term was officially defined by Keith Cowboy, a flashy emcee who was at a club celebrating a friend who was getting ready to leave for the army. Cowboy got on the mic and started chanting, “hip, hop, hip, hop,” in an army marching cadence as a way to make fun of his friend. That evolved and became a chant that the popular MCs kept doing. Lovebug Starsky fine-tuned it, and “Hip hop to the hip hip the hop” emerged as a rhythmic chant he started to use in his rhymes.
In 1979, Sugar Hill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight,” which is credited as the first commercial rap song. Everyone knows the opening line of that song.
At that time, neighborhood rappers weren’t really interested in actually recording songs. They looked at rapping as a fun party thing, so Sugar Hill came along and gave the world a new perspective. It’s alleged that the members of Sugar Hill Gang stole a lot of their lyrics from the grandmasters, but that doesn’t negate Sugar Hill’s influence in helping hip-hop go global. This was also around the time that people began referring to MCs as rappers and also using rap as another word for the culture.
Hip-hop is a genre that has seen many changes and spans multiple generations. It’s being taught in colleges around the world and continues to evolve.
Today, people have taken to Twitter to show love by posting interesting facts and cool throwback photos and sharing stories about when they got their first album. (Insert your favorite hip-hop birthday anthem here.)
Here’s a quick rundown of how people are celebrating hip-hop’s birthday with #HappyBirthdayHipHop and #DJKoolHerc.
On August 11th 1973, DJ Kool Herc, founding father of hiphop, threw a “back to school jam” at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. This event is officially recognized as the birth of hiphop. ????
— REVOLT TV (@revolttv) August 11, 2020
Dear Hip Hop, thank you for everything. Here’s to another year of beats, rhymes and life, b-boying, graffiti writing, dominating the culture conversation, and most of all, inspiring the world. Shout out to Kool Herc, always and forever. #HappyBirthdayHipHop pic.twitter.com/V6s8PM4Dsm
— ill Will (@officialillwill) August 11, 2020
47 years ago today, DJ Kool Herc threw his first-ever “Back to School Jam” block party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. Happy Birthday Hip Hop. I owe my life to this culture because without it I would have been lost. ???????????????????? #HappyBirthdayHipHop pic.twitter.com/73EVbteOlB
— Black Hesher (@shemrokchrist) August 11, 2020
#HappyBirthdayHiphop. I give thanks and gratitude to the pioneering Women and Men of this culture we know as #HipHop. It’s brought more people together than politics and in many cases religion. Most powerful influence on the planet. Most profitable too. pic.twitter.com/bf7GVgQSJl
— Sway Calloway (@RealSway) August 11, 2020
I’m celebrating Hip Hop Culture all day… Time to get blown ???? ???? and watch Wild Style… Then Beat Street… If you call yourself a Hip Hop Head and never seen these, thank me later… #happybirthdayhiphop #HipHopMusic #HipHopCulture #hiphophistory pic.twitter.com/WYiIsH6WaN
— Uncle Stan???? (@UncleStan12345) August 11, 2020
— ???? Frogger Neal ???? (@froggneal) August 11, 2020
— #IAmNotAThreat #IAmABlackSon #BlackLivesMatter (@IamGregordeee) August 11, 2020
— ‘LLERO (@LLERO_ONLINE) August 11, 2020
On August 11, 1973, #DJKoolHerc threw one of the most memorable and influential parties in the history of music, in the rec-room at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, giving birth to the genre of hip hop. #Happy47thBirthdayHipHop pic.twitter.com/ZLfgdzoEpq
— Ruben Diaz Jr. (@rubendiazjr) August 11, 2020
DJ Kool Herc with DMC & Run! #70shiphop #pioneers #80shiphop #djkoolherc #rundmc #adidas #kangol #hiphop #90shiphop #hhbitd #instalike #ripjmj #hiphopbackintheday https://t.co/1gboc1Ikfe pic.twitter.com/vVAPunkmSL
— hiphopbackintheday (@HHBITD) July 6, 2018
— Ruben Diaz Jr. (@rubendiazjr) August 11, 2020