When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

Overview

Before there was hip hop, there was DJ Kool Herc.

On a hot day at the end of summer in 1973 Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive Campbell, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaks—the musical interludes between verses—longer for dancing. He called himself DJ Kool Herc and this is When the Beat Was Born. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill's book ...

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Overview

Before there was hip hop, there was DJ Kool Herc.

On a hot day at the end of summer in 1973 Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive Campbell, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaks—the musical interludes between verses—longer for dancing. He called himself DJ Kool Herc and this is When the Beat Was Born. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill's book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.

Winner of the 2014 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Sarah Harrison Smith
Hill tells the story of the birth of hip-hop with his own catchy rhythm, and Taylor's illustrations bring out the enthusiasm and sense of community at the heart of this trend-setting sound.
Publishers Weekly
Here’s a twofer: an expert biography of a hip hop and rap pioneer, and a not-to-be-missed picture-book debut by Taylor, a Washington, D.C.–based artist. Herc, an aspiring DJ and reluctant immigrant from Jamaica to the Bronx, was working a house party at his Sedgwick Avenue housing project when inspiration struck: he put the same record on two turntables to extend the break in a song (“when the lyrics ended and the music bumped and thumped”) and added verbal riffs drawn from Jamaican chanting and toasting. “Kool Herc’s music made everybody happy,” writes Hill (Dave the Potter). “Even street gangs wanted to dance, not fight.” Hill walks the fine line between knowledgeable reporter and passionate fan (as is clear in his vivid author’s note), and Taylor does the same, using a meticulous inkline and washes of textured earth tones to convey both a sense of observational precision and a mural-like expressionism. Whether Taylor is zooming in on Herc’s dexterous hands manipulating the turntables or pulling back for a birds-eye view of the first break dance performances, he makes readers feel like they’re present at hip-hop’s inception. Ages 6–10. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"...an expert biography of a hip hop and rap pioneer, and a not-to-be-missed picture-book debut by Taylor, a Washington, D.C. –based artist"—Publishers Weekly

 

 

"Hill also highlights the positive social force of hip-hop and the boundless energy of musical joy. It’s all matched by Taylor’s freewheeling artwork. A treat from an underrepresented corner of music history." — Booklist

 "Hill’s descriptive writing is paired with Taylor’s vibrant artwork, which features large crowds dancing, close-up shots of breakdancing, or Herc’s hands masterfully spinning the dual turntables." — School Library Journal

 "Hill’s narration deftly balances detail and momentum, addressing technical innovations while conveying the excitement of listeners on the scene at the birth of something new. Taylor’s delicate linework is swept with streaks of earthy browns and muted greens and reds, suggesting swirls and blasts of sound bombarding the old school crowds." — BCCB

Children's Literature - Vicki Foote
The story of the beginning of hip hop music is told in this biography about a boy from Jamaica who lived in the Bronx. Clive always liked music, and he also liked to dance and play basketball. He grew to be six feet five inches tall and became known as Kool Herc. When his father brought home a huge sound system, Kool Herc and his sister set up a party during which he acted as the disk jockey. Kool Herc plugged in two turntables, and he began calling out names and chants during the breaks. He made up little rhymes similar to the jump rope rhymes that he heard on the playground. He set up his system in the street, and even the street gangs began to dance. Illustrations show the different moves in their dances such as the toprock, turtle, and windmill. Herc formed a crew called the Herculoids and became well-known for his rap and hip hop music. An “Author’s Note” with a timeline provides more specific information. A bibliography is included. Bold and vibrant illustrations show the action in colorful close-ups. This interesting biography would be a good addition to schools and libraries. Young readers could read it independently. Reviewer: Vicki Foote; Ages 6 to 9.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—As a child in Jamaica, Clive Campbell aspired to be a DJ. At 13, he moved to the Bronx, where he gained the nickname Hercules because he grew to be more than six feet tall. He shortened the name to Herc, added Kool, and is credited as a pioneer of hip hop. He created a new art form for his parties when he plugged in two turntables to create longer breaks for dancing and began chanting the names of his friends during the breaks. Hill's descriptive writing is paired with Taylor's vibrant artwork, which features large crowds dancing, close-up shots of breakdancing, or Herc's hands masterfully spinning the dual turntables. This is a fine introduction to the topic, and the extensive time line, which spans from 1973 to 1986, will help students with reports and show them how this American art form was created.—Glynis Jean Wray, Ocean County Library, Toms River, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
The origin of one of the most influential cultural movements in recent times--hip-hop--is presented through the story of DJ Kool Herc, the man who "put the hip hip hop, hippity hop into the world's heartbeat." Young Clive fell in love with music as a child in Jamaica, watching a popular DJ unpack crates of records to set up for house parties. When he moved to the Bronx, Clive became Kool Herc, and when he had the opportunity to throw his own dance parties, he became DJ Kool Herc. Herc's innovative style as a DJ, stretching the breaks in songs from seconds into minutes, allowed the creativity of others to erupt, such as break dancers, rappers and MCs. Hip-hop was born. Hill and Taylor have accomplished something special with this picture book, capturing the energy of the early hip-hop movement and presenting it in a manner that is accessible for children. The rhythm and balance of text make this an engaging read-aloud for young children, while the subject matter and animated style of the full-page illustrations will appeal to independent readers as well. This effervescent celebration of the roots of hip-hop will make readers feel the beat. (author's note, timeline, bibliography) (Picture book. 4-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596435407
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 8/27/2013
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 98,821
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Laban Carrick Hill is the author of America Dreaming: How Youth Changed America in the 60s, Harlem Stomp!: A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance, which was a National Book Award finalist, and Dave the Potter, a Caldecott Honor book, illustrated by Bryan Collier. He lives in Burlington, Vermont.

Theodore Taylor III is an artist, designer, and photographer living in Washington, D.C. When the Beat Was Born is his first picture book.

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