Everything Sad About Hip HopHip hop music was formally unveiled on an August night in 1973, when DJ Kool Herc started cutting two identical records back and forth to keep the freshest part playing, making the world's first break beat. It was only a matter of a few short years until the "up jump the boogie to the bang bang boogie," and another few years to "Sucker MCs call me sire," and then things really started rolling, and within a decade there was Puffy rapping about money while dressed in money driving a money car made of money. And who lost out? Kool Herc himself. The man is the walking embodiment of hip hop's shunning of its quasi-spiritual roots:
The scene went mainstream. In 1985, Run-DMC’s self-titled debut album went gold. And the hip-hop era had begun. By that time, Herc had developed a crack habit. “My father died, my music was declining, and things were changing,” he once told me. “I couldn’t cope, so I started medicating. I thought I could handle it, but it was bigger than I was.” These days, Herc won’t talk to journalists without being paid for his time... The day I was talking to La Rock, we ran into Herc, standing in front of his car. Herc glared at us. “I hope you’re getting paid, Coke!” he screamed. (He wasn’t.)
Kool Herc was a guy from the South Bronx who founded something that became a worldwide phenomenon and left him behind. It's made him bitter, naturally—although with a good consultant, he could probably make a healthy living on his role in hip hop history for the rest of his life. See what happened, hip hop? You blew up and made a shitload of money and forgot what it was all about. Now hip hop is almost totally disconnected from any sense of creativity for its own sake. The old heads are embittered. The young heads have no concept of "selling out." It's all really sad. For further metaphor, see the full New York story of the struggle to save the building where Herc founded hip hop from the hands of rapacious developers. It's classic. If the building is saved nobly and Herc makes a valiant comeback, it will signal a hip hop renaissance in the making. If the building eventually turns to shiny new condos occupied by Steve Stoute, well, that will be just how things are now. (Or it might become a tourist attraction). Bring it back, that old New York rap...