the unknown side of what's bumpin' in the trucks

From the vaults #3: update

In posse on 2008/03/04 at 4:00 pm

Looks like the building where DJ Kool Herc used to throw parties back in 1973 has been given official historic status in NYC. 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, credited as the birthplace of hip hop, is no longer for sale and will be protected from here on in. I talked to Kool Herc about 1520 last August when he came to town for Under Pressure.

Tony Tone & Kool Herc

Bronx native DJ Kool Herc is known throughout the world as one of the original pioneers of hip hop. In 1973, he was throwing parties in the community room at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, parties that eventually made their way into the neighbourhood parks, basements, banquet halls and nightclubs. Those events sparked the worldwide phenomenon that we know as hip hop culture, and Herc is still spinning today. I spoke to Herc about the push to add 1520 Sedgwick to the National Register of Historic Places, and keep the people that have helped this culture grow in the building.

Scott: So, I’m calling you, man, because you’re becoming a regular fixture in Montreal’s summertime activities…

DJ Kool Herc: (laughs) Yeah, I can see that. I just love the atmosphere, the dancers and the people, man. I’ve met a lot of people from Canada over the years and I’m happy to be involved again.

S: I was reading that the building where you started throwing parties back in the day is under consideration for historical-landmark status in the Bronx. What does that mean to you?

KH: Well, Scott, just like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, the building is eligible for historic-site status.

S: So it’s not quite official yet?

KH: No, it’s not. It just got the first stage of recognition from the government, but there are more hurdles to jump over. We want the landlord to be on board. We’ve got a little fire, and a little notoriety, so we want him to come around too. This just brings people’s attention to what’s happening to a lot of these old spots and places that play an important part in the city’s history. My support has helped them slow down the process that would lead to gentrification.

S: If it becomes official, what happens? Do they put money into restoring and maintaining the building, or a plaque or something?

KH: That I don’t know. I’m learning about this as we go along, but we had the protests earlier in the year downtown, which opened my eyes up to how many people want to save the birthplace of hip hop. They’re also trying to put up a hip hop museum right now, and that’s in the process too. That’s supposed to be in the Bronx as well.

S: Does all of this feel like it’s long overdue?

KH: Naw. Brother, listen, they don’t know me! People don’t remember DJ Kool Herc, and I’m certainly not known in the music industry.

S: So people need to be educated about the history of hip hop.

KH: Exactly! And dudes jumping around sayin’ they hip hop and doing well under the hip hop flag, well, we’ll see how concerned they are about their history. Country music got the Grand Ole Opry, Elvis got Graceland, and now hip hop is struggling to have its birthplace recognized. It shouldn’t be that struggle. A lot of people should start making noise and using their power to shine some light on this.


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