If you’re not a hip-hop head, you might not know that a Jamaican was one of the founding fathers of the genre. This year, DJ Kool Herc (real name Clive Campbell) will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The ceremony will take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on November 3, 2023. Some argue the honor is decades overdue.
Campbell is the third Jamaican to be recognized, alongside Bob Marley (1994) and Jimmy Cliff (2010).
To this day, he continues to shape the culture through his music.
From Jamaica To The Bronx
Campbell was born in Kingston, the Jamaican capital. He emigrated to The Bronx as an adolescent in the 1960s.
In 1973, while at his sister’s birthday party on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Campbell’s talent as a DJ was readily apparent. Because of his height, he was nicknamed “Hercules.”
Campbell’s sister, Cindy, was an innovator in her own right. She promoted her brother’s events, created handwritten flyers and even did styling duties for her brother. In a male dominated industry, her involvement was significant.
Of the Sedgwick Avenue party, Cindy said, “I promoted the whole thing, I got the cards, I put Herc’s name on there. He was just interested in playing his music.”
Over time, Campbell’s skills gained a broad following. Hip Hop Scriptures notes, “Herc became aware that although he knew which records would keep the crowd moving, he was more interested in the break section of the song. At this point in a song, the vocals would stop and the beat would just ride for short period. His desire to capture this moment for a longer period of time would be a very important one for hip-hop.”
Today, 1520 Sedgwick Avenue is an important stop on hip-hop tours.
A Unique and Evolving Style
Campbell continued to DJ at various events through the 1970s and 1980s. One of his earliest professional gigs was at Twilight Zone in 1973, and Hevalo in The Bronx.
He was inspired by American music, but also paid homage to his Jamaican heritage. History notes that Campbell, “often emulated the style of Jamaican “selectors” (DJs) by “toasting” (i.e., talking) over the records he spun. But his historical significance has nothing to do with rapping. His contribution to hip- hop was even more fundamental.”
Campbell Already Received Numerous Awards
Campbell has been recognized quite a few times in his career.
In 1994, former New York governor, Mario Cuomo, gave him the people’s Hall of Fame Award. The following year, Campbell was highlighted by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.
The Source, Vanity Fair, and Entertainment Weekly are just three publications that have honored Campbell.
Campbell also wrote the forward for “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of The Hip-Hop Generation.”