“I used to rap to impress my friends, to pass the time while I was gettin’ it in, just so happens, I’m so illegal with the pen, they ain’t want me doin’ anything illegal again, I lost a lot of dogs to these streets, I got Grammy Awards on these beats, thank God for Kool Herc, without your shit I probably would’ve got murked…”
Jay-Z and DJ Kool Herc, photographed together in 1997.
Herc is credited as being the founder of hip-hop in the early-1970s in The Bronx. He would isolate the instrumental portion of the record, which emphasized the drum beat—the “break”—and switch from one break to another. Using the same two turntable set-up of disco DJs, he would use two copies of the same record to elongate the break. Kool Herc’s announcements and exhortations to dancers (whom he called “break-boys” and “break-girls”) helped lead to the syncopated, rhymed spoken accompaniment we call “rapping.”
During his and Eminem’s second “Home & Home” show at Yankee Stadium on September 14, 2010 Hov shouted out Herc during his set, saying he had ran into the pioneer while they were leaving the first show and “made sure he was with US tonight.” Herc then appeared on stage to rapturous applause; “We wouldn’t be here without you,” Jay told him. In an interview with Elliott Wilson in 2013 Jigga reminisced on the historic shows, saying that is was “beyond a dream come true because growing up—at best you may think that you can make it to the [Madison Square] Garden as a musician. And then having Kool Herc and being in the Bronx, the home place of hip-hop, [knowing how] symbolic it was.”