DJ Kool Herc Inducted Into Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame By LL Cool J
This weekend, Hip-Hop pioneer and architect DJ Kool Herc officially entered the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. The Jamaican-born, Bronx, New York-raised Clive Campbell was joined by his sister Cynthia at a ceremony at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. There, Herc was inducted into the Hall by an artist with that same distinction—LL Cool J. On Friday (November), Herc and Cindy C. took the stage for an emotional moment.
LL punctuated the moment with a necessary history lesson. “Sometimes it takes a while for the true significance of an action to become apparent. The neighborhood party that took place on August 11, 1973 in the rec room of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx is one of those things. Cindy Campbell, a high school student at the time, she wanted to raise some money for back-to-school clothes. So she invited all her friends and charged them 25¢ for the ladies; 50¢ for boys—and most importantly, she also asked her older brother Clive, who was 18, to DJ. Now we don’t know how much money Cindy managed to make that night or what clothes she was able to buy, but we do know that she changed the course of history—music history. That party has come to be recognized as the birthplace of Hip-Hop,” LL explained from the podium. “Her brother Clive, better known to the world as DJ Kool Herc, has been justly called ‘the father of Hip-Hop.’ Using to two turntables to isolate and extend hot instrumental breaks of classic Soul and R&B tracks like James Brown’s ‘Give It Up Or Turn It Loose,’ and kicked the dance floor into a frenzy. Clive was larger than life in every sense of the word—[named after] Hercules. Soon, all of New York City knew him as DJ Kool Herc.”
LL credited Herc’s Kingston, Jamaica upbringing and appreciation for toasting in Dancehall music to set up his style and attitude. The G.O.A.T. and Rock The Bells founder also linked Herc’s DJ’ing with the three elements: rapping, graffiti, and breaking. “Herc had his hand in every aspect of Hip-Hop that would eventually take over the globe.” Cool J emphasized the street aspect of Hip-Hop’s self-made origins. “[Hip-Hop is] a culture that changed my life and changed the lives of millions and millions of people. When [DJ Kool] Herc first started, there were no accountants or record companies that believed in it. But Herc believed in it.” He continued, “This is Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary, so it’s all the more appropriate that were are here to honor and recognize one of the founding fathers of Hip-Hop, DJ Kool Herc.”
Herc acknowledged the tears in his eyes after moments of charged applause. He credited the likes of James Brown, Marcus Garvey, and Harry Belafonte—another artist from the islands who found success in New York City. However, he also used the moment to acknowledge a very important woman—arguably Hip-Hop’s Godmother. “All the people, man, built me up. But my sister, she needs some props, too,” asserted Herc. Cynthia took the mic to honor her brother, who—with a cane in one hand—held an award high in another.
Herc joins fellow BX representatives Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five in the Hall, as well as a growing list that includes LL, Public Enemy, Eminem, JAY-Z, Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur, Run-D.M.C., N.W.A., and 2023’s other inductee, Missy Elliott. Although Herc is a pioneering DJ, credited with his “merry-go-round” system of prolonging breakbeats in songs, he did not pivot to a recording career—something Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and other contemporaries did. However, Herc has maintained his position as a game-changing DJ and sound selector during the last decade.
The event is able to be streamed on DisneyPlus.
Ambrosia For Heads salutes DJ Kool Herc and Cynthia Campbell.