Now widely recognized as the father of hip-hop, Clive “DJ Kool Herc” Campbell first arrived in New York as a young boy in the late 1960s. His journey into the city’s street culture began as a graffiti writer with a local crew named the Ex-Vandals, but as an avid music fan, his attention quickly shifted to the turntables.
Marrying the bass-heavy sensibilities of his native Kingston, Jamaica, to the party vibe of the Bronx, Herc created a soundsystem that could dominate any rival. As a DJ, he also kept a careful eye on his audience – one day realizing that his neighborhood’s best dancers were standing on the sidelines, waiting for the toughest percussion-led sections of his tunes to come in before they hit the floor.
Isolating these rhythms, juggling and extending them for maximum impact, Herc pioneered what the world now knows as the breakbeat. In so doing, he laid the foundations for one of the world’s most enduring and prolific musical genres.
However, the years have not always been kind to him. In the late 1970s, Herc withdrew from the scene after being stabbed at a party. As hip-hop spread across the globe and his peers became stars, he found himself working in a Bronx record store and, following the death of his father, entered a period in which he began to “medicate” himself with crack cocaine.
In 1998, Frank Broughton caught up with Kool Herc on his home turf, taking a stroll around the streets of the Bronx to visit the sites of seminal clubs and the teenage block parties that birthed an entire global culture.
What year did you come to New York?
I came here in 1967, aged 13.
So, you remember your time in Jamaica?
Oh yeah, very well. I remember Jamaican independence. I remember when the Queen Mother came. I remember when Emperor Haile Selassie came there.
How was that?
Lovely, lovely. All the Rastas came out of the hills. They never seen so much Rastas in all their fuckin’ life in Jamaica. Camped out, ran on the tarmac. Met the plane. When Selassie came to the plane window, he turned back in and started crying. He didn’t know people was worshipping him like that.
Where did you live in Jamaica?
I was young. My first neighborhood I lived in was Trenchtown. Bob Marley used to live there. He used to live on First Avenue, or First Street. I lived on Second Street, around by the Ambassador Theatre… Right now, they say grass grows in the streets there.
Do you go back there?
I haven’t been back in years. My father died, and it took something out of me.
He was still in Jamaica?
No, he came here, but he was going back and forth. He caught a seizure in the water… People [saw him] and didn’t rescue him out of the water.
What did your folks used to do?
Mom was a nurse. My dad was a top-notch mechanic. In Jamaica, he used to work in Newport West, fixed the high lifts, the forklifts. When he came here, he started to work at Clark’s Equipment Company, out in Queens.
You all could tell a spot where a dance was at. Matter of fact, I lived in a dancehall one time.
Do you remember the soundsystems out in Jamaica?
Yeah. There was a dancehall near where I lived, up in Franklyn Town. We used to be playing at marbles and riding our skateboards, used to see the guys bringing the big boxes inside of the handcarts. And before that, a guy used to put up watercolor signs. They used to make watercolor signs and put them on light posts, to let people know there’s going to be a dance coming.
A dancehall… you all could tell a dancehall, a spot where a dance was at. Matter of fact, I lived in a dancehall one time. The whole yard would be concrete, and there’d be a high fence, so you can’t see in.
Which were the sounds that played where you were?
I didn’t know the name of the soundsystem. I wasn’t too much into it. But this guy named George – Big George, King George – used to bring his set there.
Do you remember any of the parties in particular?
I couldn’t get in. I was ten or 11 years old.
They don’t let kids in?
Nah, nah. It’s a liquor thing. And guys burning weed there and shit. If I was 17, 18… yeah, I would have been definitely up in it.
So, what are the kids doing?
Hanging out. We on our skateboards, skating round, you know, and you saw the little gangster kids, and they knew who was from the gangs, or the bad boys. [Whispers] “Yeah, that’s such and such, man.” We’re little kids, but their reputation precedes them. So, our dance would bring them out. And we’d sit on the side and watch, “Oh shit, that’s such and such.”
Did you ever think, when you heard the sounds, that you’d end up doing that?
No. But when I got here I saw a lot of abandoned cars and TVs. [I] took out the speakers and made my own little boxes for my room. It just started to progress from there.
So you were making your own equipment.
Yeah, my own little boxes. At the time people couldn’t understand what I was saying because I had a heavy Jamaican accent… There were places like the Murphy projects. The Murphy projects was like a recreation room, where they used to give parties once a month, right by the Cross Bronx Expressway, about a block off Third Avenue.
They were parties you used to go to?
Yeah, to see how the kids danced, see how they talked.
What were they like?
They were playing contemporary stuff. Kool & The Gang, Isley Brothers.
What sort of year is that?
We’re talking about 1969.
When did you start to get involved in it?
I started to get involved in it right after my house got burned down. I was going to parties back then, see. A place called the Tunnel and a place called the Puzzle, right on 161st Street – that was the first disco I used to party at. Me, guys like Phase 2, Stay High, Sweet Duke, Lionel 163 – all the early graffiti writers – used to come through there. It’s where we used to meet up and party at.
Then, years later, [there was this club] called Disco Fever. Disco Fever used to be right here on 167th. But before Disco Fever there was the Puzzle. That was the first Bronx disco.
So back then you still weren’t playing?
I was dancing, I was partying. Right around 1970, I’m in high school.
That was when b-boying was starting.
Yeah, people were dancing, but they weren’t calling it b-boying. That was just the break, and people would go off. My terms came in after I started to play – I called them b-boys. Guys just used to breakdance… Right then, slang was in, and we shortened words down. Instead of disrespect, you know, you dissed me. That’s where that came from.
Who was the DJ in the Puzzle?
You never used to see him, they was in a room. But the guys in the Tunnel, I knew them. This guy named John Brown, he used to go to my school – Alfred E. Smith. It’s a store now, ain’t no club no more. Now it’s a shoe store.
And what about at Disco Fever?
Right there, Junebug and a guy named Sweet G.
What happened to those guys?
Junebug got killed. He was murdered. After that, a guy named Starchild had the contract there. I played up there once, for Junebug’s birthday.
When did you start playing? What made you start playing records?
The guys used to play at the Tunnel. I’m dancing with this girl, trying to get my shit off, and they used to fuck up. The whole party, we knew when they used to fuck up and be like, “Y’ahhh, what the fuck is that? Why you took it off there? The shit was about to explode. I was about to bust a nut.” You know? And the girl be like, “Damn, what the fuck is wrong?” And I’m hearing this and I’m griping too, because he’s fucking my groove up.
Because he took it off when it was just getting hot.
Yeah, yeah. So, that stayed in my head. You know, I’m a dance person. I like to party. I used to come home and my whole clothes was soaking wet. I had to tell my mother… “Where you going with my towel?” And I be, “Ma, it gets like that up in there!” A sweatbox.
Everyone just getting down?
What sort of age?
18, no teenyboppers. You gotta wait your turn to start partying and shit. The little recreation parties, that’s where you might get a little taster for it when you’re 14 or 15.
The Puzzle and the Tunnel, what year was that?
The Puzzle and the Tunnel, that was back say, ’69, ’70. My stink started to kick up in ’71.
What were the clubs like inside?
Huge. Probably gonna hold a good 400 or 500.
Not too much. Not too much disco lights. All they had was a strobe light, and the little exit lights where you come in from the door.
When did you start playing?
When I started playing is, say, 1970, late ’70, early ’71. That’s when the gangs rolled in, started fucking people up, going to parties, start robbing them, fucking with their girls and shit.
That wasn’t happening before then?
How come that started happening?
Gangs, man, they need a place to belong. Punks get into gangs to be a part of something. Some people just ain’t shit without being in a crowd.
And other clubs?
This is the place called the Executive Playhouse. Years later, I played here.
This empty lot?
This empty lot. That’s how it is. This is Jerome Avenue. Right here, off the Cross Bronx Expressway at Mount Eden, this was the Executive Playhouse. This was the spot that gave me a lot of playing time when I was first started playing a room.
This is where you first played?
No. This ain’t where I first played.
Where was that?
Over on Sedgwick Avenue.
You remember how it happened?
Oh, yeah. My sister had a Youth Corps job. She was going back to school and she wanted her some clothes money, she wanted to invest some of her money and she gave a party. She asked me to play the music. I was into my graffiti work, and that’s where I graduated from the walls to the turntables. There was a lot of curious people came to see who was doing it: “Oh, this is what he does.” So right there, I’m the one who kinda resurrected the party movement back again.
And you’d been buying records anyway?
Yeah, I had records. I had records.
And how was the night, Do you remember?
Lovely. Lovely. Charged 25 cents for girls, 50 cents for fellas, 50 cents for sodas, 75 cents for franks and beer, beer was a dollar.
And what did she buy with it?
She bought clothes. She went back to school fly.
So, you got a taste of it.
You loved it.
Oh, yeah. This is me at the helm now. I had the attitude of the dancefloor behind the turntables. Come up from the people’s choice.
Because you’re a dancer.
And how did it progress?
We made some money. When I used to hang out in different places, now they know who I am. Now they see me. “Yo man, Herc, wassup? When is the next party?” “The other shit was the shit.” “Yo, I had me a good time, when is the next one?” So, I waited till I seen them build up demand, built up and then dropped it.
Where were you doing parties?
Recreation room. Back in the recreation room. Till I got too big. Then, up the block.
I don’t give a fuck how hard the party’s rockin’, I’ll slow it down. I have my shit in stages.
Where was the recreation room?
1520 Sedgwick Avenue. It was for people in the building, downstairs, for anybody having a birthday party, wedding reception, tenant meeting and all that. You could rent it out for $25.
How long did you do those parties?
Off and on. It wasn’t an everyday thing, It wasn’t an every weekend thing. They wasn’t having it. Once a month or once every two months.
And what are you doing the rest of the time?
Going to school.
So, you’re really young to be DJing.
How were you playing back then? You said you were pissed off with the way other DJs treated the records?
I would give people what I knew they wanted to hear. I’d give it to them. I was getting more music that sounded similar to what they liked and introducing them to new music. At the same time, giving up slow music. A lot of guys like to get their shit on. I’m a guy that plays slow music. I don’t give a fuck how hard the party’s rockin’, I’ll slow it down. I have my shit in stages. I play music in stages. No format shit.
What were your big records back then?
My big record back then was James Brown, “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose.” And a couple of records I used to play from the other clubs, and as it went on I got “The Mexican,” I got “Bongo Rock,” you name them. “Just Begun.” They used to rock that inside them at the Tunnel and the Puzzle. Everybody knew about it, because they killed it.
But after the recreation room, I gave a block party, and we couldn’t come back. So, I found a place over here called the Twilight Zone. This was my first place of mass production, giving parties away from the recreation room. It was right here on Jerome Avenue, between Tremont and Burnside. The Twilight Zone.
And what was it like?
Lovely. I used to show fights up in there. I had a Super-8 projector, and I’d show fights and little movies. This church right there? That was a big Latin club called the Hippo Campo. And just right here, upstairs. That was the Twilight Zone. I only could rent it once in a while.
Up the block was an established club, a place called Soulsville, but they changed the name to the Hevalo. When I first gave the party at Twilight Zone, everybody left from up there to come to my party. They used to chase me away from giving flyers out in front of their club. I’d tell them, “One day I’ma rock this club, motherfucker. Watch!” And sure enough, the Hevalo gave me my first break of playing week after week.
This whole street must have been rocking.
This block, Jerome Avenue… This is Herc Avenue, really. I dominated this. Once, when I gave a party it was raining like hell, and when I looked out from the window up top, all I saw was umbrellas. Nobody went to the club up there. They were like, “Where everybody at?” They’d say, “They’re down the block at Herc’s party.”
[We park and go up some rickety stairs, with metal plates holding the wood together. It’s a factory where Puerto Rican guys are putting new covers on old mattresses. Mattresses are stacked to the ceiling.]
This place was a club?
Right, yeah. The Zodiac.
Some ghosts in here, then?
Some ghosts gonna be up here right. [To a mattress worker] A long time ago I used to play music in here. Habla ingles? This was a club, man.
Where was the booth?
You can’t see it, it was in the back. This was the dancefloor.
And now every mattress in New York is here. What kind of things happened here then?
People came here to have fun. There was no fights, there was no shoot-outs.
[We walk across the street and up a block and a half to the site of the Hevalo.]
This, this was the Hevalo. Now it’s a car park.
People used to come just to hear the sound – they didn’t give a fuck what he was playing. You could be on the Cross Bronx and be hearing this shit.
What year did you start playing here?
The good old year here was ’75, ’76.
And how did you build up your system?
The club here was called the Executive Playhouse. I got off the train with my girlfriend to see a sign “Under New Management.” I went in, I said, “I’m a DJ and I want to play up in here.” So, I didn’t know that they got a guy called Bert. This guy had some monster stuff. That’s when I first seen my equipment, my future equipment. I said, “This is what I want.” He had good equipment, but he had no skills. I had skills, but I had no equipment. One day, something happened that meant he wasn’t there no more, and they called me.
He would bring his equipment to the club, they didn’t have a soundsystem?
Is that how all the clubs worked?
They used to have bands. So when I started and when he started, that’s when, you know, the elimination of bands. Why give a band $600 if I could give a guy $150 and everybody’s pleased? You would have to pay seven guys and seven guys might want $100 a head or $75 a head. And how much are they gonna drink? I had experience for playing for kids, now I’m playing for adults.
It was really different?
James Brown, Jimmy Castor. You’re not gonna have 35, 40-year-old people doing that. Whole different rotation. Some bands still used to come up in there now, and I’d play in the intermission. But, when they didn’t have a band, I still used to play. Then the place burnt down, and I started giving parties back over here, at the Twilight Zone. Every time I would play out somewhere and come back from one of my parties, I would come back with a piece of the guy’s equipment that I’d bought.
I’m rolling with the big Mac [amp]. That cost like, say $1,600. A 2300 Mac, the biggest there is, the top of the line. The guy had top-of-the-line stuff. He had GLI, and the new company came out, he had the disco fours, and he had not one McIntosh 2300, he had two of them. And he had two [Altec] “Voice of the Theatres” [speaker system].
Who’s this guy you’re buying it all off?
He used to call himself the Amazing Bert. This system sounded like a band. People used to come just to hear the sound – they didn’t give a fuck what he was playing. What was coming through, it was crisp, you was hearing it. You could be on the Cross Bronx and be hearing this shit. But see, he was at Fordham University, he was a student from the Bahamas, so he had grant money. I didn’t have no grant money. So, he was getting grant money to buy all this new shit. I bought two of the fours, two of the other Voice of the Theatres, and I had one Mac. The Thorens was still top of the line, but I didn’t like the Thorens turntable.
The Technics wasn’t out yet?
My model, the 1100A just came in, to show Thorens that we on the block too. So between Technics and Thorens, they was fighting for the money market. So, I went Technics. I went 1100A. But that turntable, people couldn’t afford it. Too expensive. So they pulled it off and put something more durable and inexpensive with the 1200 shit. I don’t fuck with the 1200s. I wouldn’t. I still got mine, and I wish they would bring them back.
What’s the difference?
They got a higher pitch. The pitch from the table is not slant, it’s high. So, for me, spinning back is easier, and weight.
What happened when you played in the Executive Playhouse?
I played for three weeks without any pay, so in exchange they’d let me run my own night, take the money, bring my own crowd there. So, I put my suit on. I’m at the door, my people paying. My man Coke La Rock, Timmy Tim, they were playing with me at the time.
You had a tux on?
No, just a suit. An AJ Lester suit. That was the place to go shopping. They were like, “Oh, we never seen this side of you.”
What was the date?
I think I have a flyer somewhere. I think it was the summer. I packed it.
So you’d been doing parties all over the place, and this was the first time you felt you had it.
Oh yes. We running this. We running the fucking Bronx. You couldn’t throw a party on my night. I had guys change their dates if they found out I’m throwing a party on the same night.
What year is this?
I’m at the height right now – ’75, ’76. You can’t fuck with us. You can’t. You just got to deal with us. Know what I’m saying?
How did you start playing the breaks?
The breaks was always a part of my format. Always gonna be there. Different people come there and dance to different types of music. I’m catering to each and every little group of people there. How the break thing happened, I was seeing everybody on the sidelines waiting for particular breaks in the records.
People used to do that?
Yeah. People used to wait. I’m observing them. I wasn’t just a turntablist. I’m watching the crowd. If there’s an argument escalating into a fight, and who’s up in my place. I gotta see if things are running smooth. I said, “Let me put a couple of these records together that got breaks in them.” I did it. Boom, bom, bom, bom. I try to make it sound like a record. The place went berserk. Loved it.
What was the record?
“Funky Music Is The Thing,” by, I forgot the band, part of James Brown’s “Clap Your Hands Stomp Your Feet,” part of the Isley Brothers’ “Get Into Something” and “Bra” by Cymande. It took off! Then they got the guys that just wanna sit back, they might be doing their little drugs and shit, they don’t want too much screaming music in their ears. Play some mellow shit for them. Do what you gotta do. Play it cool.
So you’d play regular records and then a section of breaks?
Yeah, yeah. There’s some records everybody’s gonna get with. And there’s some records people ain’t gonna get with. So I’d get the crowd going with that. Then I’d just go into cool-out music. Break music, slow dance, then go right back to what everybody wanted to hear. So everybody okay, cool. The contemporary stuff, shit that’s on the radio, shit they go to work with and listen to, or round the block you’re listening to.
When did people start calling it breakbeats?
They started to do that in the ’80s.
Was anybody else doing anything similar?
No. There were guys trying to battle me, but I wasn’t fucking with them. There was a guy called Smoky. He was coming up, he was on Webster Avenue, had a group called the Masterplan Bunch. Flash was in the cuts. He was making noise and shit. I had no competition.
But what about inspiration?
From watching the crowd. Remember, that’s where I come from. I come from the dancehall, I can’t let them down. I can’t fool around and play no wack shit. I’m watching them – the more they’re having fun, the more I get busy.
Who tried to copy you?
Tried to copy me?
Well, tried to use your idea?
I never know. I never went to their parties. I’m doing my shit, I ain’t got time. Saturday, I’m not in your party, I’m in my shit. I ain’t got time to check other people out. I didn’t hear no name to go check out. What would I do, if they’re trying to impress by playing my shit? That’s not too impressive, you know?
When you started playing breaks, which year is this?
And that was in the Hevalo?
It was earlier than that. I used to play it, but I never really put a lot of emphasis into it.
Can you remember the very first time you did it?
I told em, “I’ma put some things together and I want y’all to check it out.” And I’ma call it the merry-go-round. See, I got to hop on once I hear it. I’m not coming back. I’m gonna go forward. And so I did it, and they loved it.
I’m not a beat-chaser. I’m a good-music-chaser, and if a break so happens to come along in it, it’s all well and good.
Where did you take it from there?
I made it more part of the format. It was a part of the format now. People come in to hear that.
And you start looking for records just for the break?
It wasn’t just for the breaks. I have a lot of music from either Bam’s collection that I like, that I bought, but I never chased the beat like that. I’m not a beat-chaser. I’m a good-music-chaser, and if a break so happens to come along in it, it’s all well and good. But I’m not trying to go out there, because if I do a party man, I can’t play beats for people. And that’s what fucks up a lot of DJs. They can’t step out of that age frame, to play for people. They can’t, because their shit’s full of fucking beats.
When you’re playing the break, you’re playing the whole break and then you’d play it again, or?
Two of them, two of them.
But how long would you play each one?
Not too long. About four times.
And how much time would you give each one?
I’m not giving it too much time for the floor to be bored with it. I got to move on. You can’t do nothin’ that they gonna be bored with, man.
Tell me about your system.
I called my system the Herculords. People thought I was calling my crew the Herculords. The Herculords is not my crew, it’s the name of my soundsystem. The second soundsystem I was building, I called it Not Responsible. Every time you play that set somewhere, some shit always jumped off, some dispute, some shit, so I call it Not Responsible. We just used to crank it, let people know, “Yo! If you wanna come fuck with us, this is what you have to deal with.”
I remember one time Flash came to our party at the Executive Playhouse, I just got the Mac then, and he came and I said, “Yeah, I want you to feel the high, I want you to listen to the high, I want you to check out the midrange, I want the bass to walk the place.” And I think I said, “Flash, can you deal with it?” He ran out the spot. He said that was the only time I embarrassed him.
He used to have a soundsystem called the Gladiators. And Kid Creole, I’ll never forget, he said, “Yeah, it’s a known fact: The Herculords might cause a disaster, but there only could be one Grandmaster.” Aight, motherfucker. It was cool, stood alongside them. Where the fuck we all at with that? So we just left it like that, man. We never battled.
Did you rhyme over the records?
No, I just was saying a few little words. If the party was rocking, I’d say, “Yeah, right about now I’m rocking with the rockers, I’m jammin’ with the jammers. Young ladies, don’t hurt nobody. So remember, it ain’t no fun unless we all get some. Rock on y’all. Rock, rock and don’t stop.” And when “Bongo Rock” used to come, we’d say, “And you rock, and don’t stop. And rock. And don’t stop.” And that’s the only part, and I used to say, “Yeah, I like that.” But along the way, as the years go by, little short sayings became a full verse.
So yours was very like the Jamaican way of toasting.
Is that in your mind when you were doing that?
Exactly. I say, “Yo, you never heard it like this before. And you’re back for more. And more, and more, and this year, rock this y’all. Her-Herc.” Or this: “Yes yes, y’all. I see you comin’ down to check I, Her-Herc.” Or, if I’m playing something, I’d say: “Yes, this is through the inspiration of I, Her-Herc y’all. Check this out.”
And just go into the music, you know. Took it nice through those raps to cover my mix, so it come on nice and smooth, because I didn’t have the luxury of a headphone. I mixed over the music.
Did you ever play reggae?
A few, a few. I never played too much reggae. I never had the audience for it and people wasn’t feeling reggae at the time.
I’m in Rome, I got to do what the Romans do. I got to get with the groove that’s here
Is that how you started?
I played a few at the beginning, but it wasn’t catching. Then I find out, “Oh, this is what y’all like in your music. So, this is your funky music to me.” And it’s similar for what I was trying to do for reggae music. So, a lot of my music is about bass.
So you’re thinking, “I want to make it like a soundsystem in Kingston.”
Yeah. But I’m in Rome, I got to do what the Romans do. I’m here. I got to get with the groove that’s here. Who knows man, later on it took off.
How much of an inspiration was Jamaica to the way you played and the way you made the music?
An inspiration to me – my father knew good music. He loved music and he taught me what was good music. [In his dad’s Jamaican accent] “That’s a good bounce.”
He didn’t play an instrument?
He was a Nat King Cole man, Johnny Ace, all the classical old R&B blues singers. Louis Armstrong, all those people. Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald. That’s his type of music, and I knew what good music was. He trained my ears to it.
What about the outside parties that you used to do? How often was that?
That was not too often, because I didn’t get paid for it, and if I blew an amp or something people wouldn’t end up giving me the money for it. So I never took a chance at doing that, because you always got to turn up the volume a little more.
You played a few, though.
How was it?
It was lovely. I played in Taft yard, Taft High School at 178th and Sheridan Avenue. There’s an aerial shot of that. It made the paper.
What was your favorite-ever party?
My favorite party was my first boat ride. I played for my high school, Taft, in ’74, and the boat ride left from Battery Park, up to Rye Playland. And then at the time, “Rock The Boat” had just come out, this record, and it was, I had a favorite record I wanted to take with me and I left it at home. That was “Skin Tight.” The boat got ready to dock and the water got kind of rough. And then the boat is rocking like this and I said “Oh shit.” I said “Coke, watch this.” I put on “Rock The Boat.” [sings] “If you’d like to know it, you got the notion, rock the boat, don’t stop,” and everybody starts running from side to side to rock this fuckin’ boat. The captain, the teachers said, “Yo! Take it off. Take that goddamn record off!”
You never got into making records. How come?
I just… I ain’t too far from it. At the time, people got older, having responsibility, and then narcotics came in, I started medicating myself. My father died, that put me in a slump. I got stabbed up, 1977. Drew me back into a little shell.
Why did you get stabbed?
That’s a misunderstanding shit. Kids come up in there, drunk.
You were playing at the time?
I was getting ready to play. I just changed my clothes, walked in the door and walked into a discrepancy, and I got stabbed.
You ever played downtown?
No, never did. Downtown was bourgeois to me. My shit was like elementary. You had to go through me and go on. It stayed up here. Not only that, downtown you couldn’t wear no sneakers. You can’t wear what you want to wear down there. Up here, you could do your thing. Wear your sneakers, wear your jeans. Downtown, you had to be dressed different. Different style.
And when you started DJing, did you carry on b-boying, going dancing?
No, I danced behind the turntable. I got my little moves behind the turntable. I got to be into it, I got to be feeling I’m into it. If I’m playing, I’m into it, and if the ground is sturdy, I could really get busy, because as I’m throwin’ it on and I’m dancing, I know I’m making other people dance. But if I’m just there as a job, “Uhh-ohhh.” Come on then, feel it man.
What’s the best thing you got out of it all?
Out of playing music?
Until this day, hearing the oohs and the aahs… People having fun, the mere fact that people enjoying themselves, man, knowing that.
Me and my friend used to play chess, on the turntables. Sometimes egotism was to take both of us at the same time. You want to play and I want to play, so how we gonna straighten this out? OK cool, no problem, we had a game. This turntable’s mine, that turntable’s yours. Match me. And the first person who plays a record that makes the crowd walk off…
What do you think is the power of the DJ?
The power? Of the DJ? It’s to motivate the crowd, man. It’s to have the insight to motivate the crowd. To have the crowd at your fingertips. To control the crowd. That’s the best fuckin’ power, man.
This interview was conducted in the Bronx in September 1998. © DJ History