“Now if that ain’t science I don’t know what is / The ingenuity of these young black kids” -MURS, “The Science”


Who played the first guitar chord? Who composed the first melody? It is difficult to point to the moment when a new form of music is invented. The case of hip hop is different. In 1973 in the South Bronx, New York, the Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc (Clive Campbell) made a technological breakthrough and invented what we now call the breakbeat, the building block of hip hop and many types of dance music. Kool Herc realized that crowds loved to dance to the “break,” or the part of a song where there are no words and just a strong beat. Rather than play one song all the way through, he switched back and forth between two copies of the same record to play the same “break” over and over again. Like many great technological discoveries, Kool Herc took tools he already had, in this case two record players (turntables) and a mixer, and used them in a new way that changed music.

Kool Herc recently became sick, and he cannot afford to pay for the treatment he needs. His family, friends and fans are trying to raise money. In the United States, people have to pay for their own medical care, or they depend on the company they work for to pay for it. About 59 million people lack health insurance and often cannot afford adequate healthcare. In a February 1 statement to MTV news, Kool Herc said, “We are fighting for health care not just for me, but for everyone.”