The godfather of hip hop.
He was born Clive Campbell in Kingston, Jamaica in 1955. He moved to the Bronx in 1967, at the age of twelve. While attending High School he spent a lot of time in the weight room. That fact coupled with his height spurred the other kids to call him Hercules. By 1969, he was partying regularly at local clubs, but noticed that the crowds he joined frequently objected to the city's distant, cocksure DJs. They would play records and cut them off for no apparent reason and seemed to only play things they liked, not things the crowd liked. After a while seeing DJs, well, DJ and hearing out the complaints of the crowds he decided he could easily do the same thing. His first gig was for his sister's birthday party, and later came his first professional job at the Twilight Zone in 1973.
Herc's reputation quickly grew because he knew which records the crowd would love and spent a lot of time looking for tracks that were either very popular or very rare.
However, he was more interested in the break section of the song. At the end a song, the vocals would stop and the beat would just ride for short period before fading out -- that's the break beat. His desire to capture this moment for a longer period of time would be a very important step for hip hop. He would purchase two copies of the same record and play them on separate turntables next to each other. He would play the break beat on one record then throw it over to the other turntable and play the same part. Playing this part, which was the most danceable part of a song, over and over, he would rock all-night dance parties in in New York.
This early, archaic version of sampling and looping also led to other innovations : since Herc only needed a short part of a song he would use songs from practically every genre. He would dig in crates and look everywhere to find the perfect break beat for his parties. His capacity to find rare tunes to DJ was an other of his trademarks.
In addition to his break beats, Herc also became known as the man with the loudest system around. At this time Afrika Bambaataa and other competing DJs began trying to take Herc's crown. Jazzy Jay of the Zulu Nation recalls one momentous meeting between Herc and Bam:
Herc was late setting up and Bam 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."
Meanwhile, Herc's fame grew. Whenever he would throw a party it was a huge event. In 1975 he started working at the place in the Bronx he had wanted to play at since he started DJing, the Hevalo, with his crew, the Herculoids. His innovations spurred the hip hop movement to rise out of the Bronx.
However in 1977 Herc was stabbed three times at one of his own parties, sidelining him during most of the 1980s as hip hop spread throughout the US. He played his last "Old School" party in 1984. He appeared as himself in the film Beat Street and most recently appeared on Terminator X's The Godfathers of Threat and with the Chemical Brothers on their album Dig Your Own Hole, acknowledging his tremendous influence on electronic music.
Herc is pretty much retired now, and is still widely considered as the godfather of hip hop.
Nota Bene : I don't know much about (or like, for that matter) hip hop, I just saw a nodeshell, so I did research and killed it. So if you have any questions, don't ask me. Sorry. :-)
- And thanks where thanks are due : Wikipedia and Google's unbelievably intuitive MentalPlexTM.