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"My favorite artist was James Brown. That's who inspired me ... When I came over here I just put it in the American style and a perspective for them to dance to it. In Jamaica all you needed was a drum and bass. So what I did here was go right to the 'yoke'. I cut off all anticipation and played the beats. I'd find out where the break in the record was at and prolong it and people would love it. So I was giving them their own taste and beat percussion-wise ... cause my music is all about heavy bass ..."   - Kool Herc

DJing exists in many types of popular music, but the DJ is especially important in the hip hop world. The DJ is the person that keeps the party going, he is the one responsible for lacing down dope beats that the MC’s can rhyme over. The first hip hop DJ was Kool Herc. In 1973, Herc was asked to DJ a party for a relative. During his set he would use two turntables and switch from record to record without cutting the music. Kool Herc was the first to use a continuos mix of music. Herc also invented the break-beat by cutting together two samples of James Brown’s hit, ‘Get on the Good Foot’. The break beat allowed dancers to have a continuos rhythm to step to. Soon Herc was doing this cutting from record to record to invent different ‘breaks’

The way Herc mixed the records was very rudimentary and often at times he was guessing about where and when to switch records. In 1974, this all changed when a DJ named Pete Jones uses a toggle switch, so that he can change which record he hears through his headphones. This made him able to match beats better and made the transitions between beats a lot smoother. DJ mixers were soon produced that had this toggle switch for headphones as well as a crossfader that allowed seamless crosses between records.

In 1977 a DJ known as Grand Wizard Theodore invented the most popular technique used by DJ’s in the hip hop world today. The ‘scratch’, so the story goes, was invented while Theodore was practicing in his room. His mother came in and while she talked to him, Theodore stopped the record by laying his hand on it. She continued talking and he started moving his hand back and forward over the record. This was the birth of the scratch. Theodore began using the scratch over other records while they played and the scratch became an instant success.

DJ Kool Herc

DJ tools: 2 turntables and a mixer

DJing is not much more than that. It has evolved some over the past twenty years, but basically is just cutting up beats and dropping scratches. Certain techniques for mixing are common, but most DJ’s know that they have to find there own style that works for them. DJing, however, is not as easy as it sounds. In fact it takes years to master just a simple scratch. The DJ is a highly coveted position in the hip hop community. Good DJ’s are paid very well to perform their talents and no rapper is any good on stage without an equal as good DJ behind him.

 

 

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