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Perspective: The Birth Of A Culture

DJ Kool Herc, NYC, 2006
Richard Alexander Caraballo
DJ Kool Herc, NYC, 2006

On August 11, 1973, Cindy Campbell of the south Bronx decided to throw a back to school party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. She knew good music was essential. So she asked her big brother, Clive, or DJ Kool Herc, to spin the records. The Jamaican born immigrant brought to his sets Jamaican influences like big beats, loud, heavy bass, and the practice of toasting — talking rhythmically over the music. That night he decided to introduce a novel idea.

Herc knew that everyone’s favorite part of a song was the breakbeat, the section when the instruments fall out and the beat takes over. He asked, what if you could extend that breakbeat? He took two copies of a record on two turntables and using a crossfader alternated between the two beats, extending the breakbeat, indefinitely. Herc introduced what he called the merry go round to stunned, hyped acclaim and both parties and popular music changed. This was the birth of hip hop.

DJing, MCing, breakdancing, graffiti arts, and knowledge of self and community are the five elements of hip hop, and 48 years later it’s a global phenomenon, a 15 billion dollar a year industry, filled with experimentation. Once dismissed as fad it is now feted with distinguished honors, like Kendrick Lamar’s 2018 Pulitzer prize for DAMN.

Don’t front. You don’t have to like hip hop but you do have to respect it. After all, it’s way more than profanity, drug dealing, and violence. Take a look below for my list of 10, make that 20, albums you should hear.

So, on August 11, take a beat, listen, and celebrate not just a genre but a culture.

I am Joseph Flynn and that is my perspective.

Recommended Classic Hip Hop Albums (O.K. I had to go with 20 instead of 10, but this is a testament to the eclectic nature of hip hop. Enjoy)!

1. Kendrick Lamar: DAMN.

2. Missy Elliot: Supa Dupa Fly

3. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

4. Tyler, the Creator: Flower Boy

5. Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

6. Salt-N-Pepa: Very Necessary

7. Outkast: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

8. A Tribe Called Quest: The Low End Theory

9. Wu Tang Clan: Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers)

10. Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

11. The Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique

12. Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP

13. Dr. Dre: The Chronic

14. Queen Latifah: All Hail the Queen

15. Nas: Illmatic

16. Jay-Z: Reasonable Doubt

17. Tupac: Me Against the World

18. De La Soul: 3 Feet High and Rising (Due to a beef with the label, Tommy Boy Records, De La’s work is barely available for streaming. If you can’t find it, try Digable Planets: Reachin’(A New Refutation of Time and Space).

19. The Notorious B.I.G.: Ready to Die

20. Ice-T: O.G. Original Gangster

Joseph Flynn is the executive director for equity and inclusion in the Division of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and an associate professor of curriculum and instruction.