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Making music with music: Kool Herc and the evolution of sampling

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  1. Introduction
  2. 1960's: Holding out-door block parties
  3. Kool Herc and his technical advancement.
  4. the musical choices of Herc and Bambaataa
  5. Using drum machines
  6. Conclusion


Kool DJ Herc is a Jamaican American musician and producer, who is credited as a pioneer of hip-hop during the 1970s as a result of his trendsetting musical technique and influence on hip-hop culture as a whole. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1955 as Clive Campbell and he immigrated to the Bronx in 1967 when he was 12 years old. He used this dichotomy of his two cultures to create a syncretism of African Diaspora with music. He mixed his native Caribbean culture with that of black American natives. This constant flux between hip-hop and dancehall reggae is in fact still seen today. While attending Alfred E. Smith High School he spent a lot of time in the weight room. That fact coupled with his height spurned the other kids to call him Hercules?and he indeed transcended the common man. Herc was the originator of break-beat deejaying, wherein the breaks of funk songs?being the most danceable part?were isolated and repeated for the purpose of all-night dance parties. His "breaks" were symbolic in a sense, for the youthful dancing audience??b-boys? and "b-girls??were allowed a release of tension from the gang violence that permeated their environment. Kool Herc provided them with a vehicle for freedom of expression and creativity. Furthermore, his confidence and swagger initially put his live performance above his contemporaries; however, his inability to keep up with new musical advances and commercialization was the root of his demise. In the 1980s, later DJs, such as Grandmaster Flash, refined and developed the use of break beats. Kool Herc's input, nevertheless, has been essential for the hip-hop genre, and can be referenced in the controversy over the use of sampling in the present day.

[...] The enforcement of copyright and intellectual property laws in the past would have put an immediate halt to DJ Kool Herc's musical activity. Today, no one would argue that a major sample from an earlier work should be paid for. What became sticky was when producers took small bits and pieces from earlier songs. For example, if an artist sampled a small snippet of a song, played it backwards, and added a harmony from a popular TV show behind it, the line of infringement becomes blurred. [...]


[...] Kool Herc's swagger was indisputable, and his confidence often caused distress for his fellow contemporaries. This intimidation was not permanent however, as Herc's competition--Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, and the recording industry surpassed him. Herc and Bambaataa are truly known for their musical choices and blending of one song into another, rather than for the complex turntable maneuverings, techniques, and tricks that marked later DJs such as Grandmaster Flash. Grandmaster Flash would later develop future turntable manipulations such as cutting, and introduce a percussion system known as the beat-box. [...]

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