In the hot Bronx, New York summer of 1973, Jamaican-American DJ Clive Campbell (aka Kool Herc) was asked to play records at his sister Cindy's "back to school jam" their apartment complex rec room. Having brought two copies of the same funk and soul records—many selected by Cindy—he put one on each turntable and cut back and forth between the drum sections (the "breaks") to extend the track. Meanwhile, his pal Coke La Rock toasted over the music. That night is considered by many to have been the birth of hip-hop. In celebration of hip-hop's 50th anniversary, Spin interviewed Kool Herc and Cindy:
How many times would you play a break?
HERC: I wouldn't go too far. Two times. I'll just extend it two times. And James Brown says "Clyde" [for drummer Clyde Stubblefield] — that's my name. So James Brown shouted me out. Oooh. Then the break comes in. I used that to start me off, and then go into the Isley Brothers and [Babe Ruth's] "The Mexican." Oooh, I like this. And then Jimmy Castor Bunch. Them were the records, man. I lay claim to it: That's a Herc record. I'd say, "You never heard it like this before, and you're back for more." That's it.
I wasn't doing no scratching shit. No. That's tricks. Tricks are for kids. I played music. It was grown folks' groove. They can't dance to no scratching.
CINDY: It's amazing how certain songs, you know it's a Herc song, 'cause he found those songs and introduced them to the world. And it gave life to these artists — and residuals, too. So many of them have been sampled so many times.
HERC: And my sister, she knows her music. "Trans-Europe Express" [by Kraftwerk]? I got that from her. She put me onto that. And Queen's "We Will Rock You." That was her. Her name was PEP 1.
CINDY: When hip-hop was evolving, we didn't know what it was. You became a graffiti artist. You started tagging your name. If you were brave enough to go out there with a marker and spray paint, that's what you would do.
I did PEP I, with a roman numeral one, so if anybody came after me, they might want to say they were PEP 2. We became graffiti artists. And the next thing, when the music started going, you became a break dancer. Some people took it to the next level, where it became them. But our thing was giving the parties. We were producers. We gave the party, promoted it, found the venue, did all of that. And everybody came and became a part of it.
illustration from Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree