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1520 Sedgwick Avenue. The Bronx apartment building where Clive Campbell, aka DJ Kool Herc, and his sister, Cindy Campbell, lived that would become the official birthplace of hip hop.

As the story goes, Cindy was going back to school so she needed to raise funds to go shopping on Delancey Street to buy supplies and look fresh. She had the idea to throw a party with her brother, who already had a reputation for being nice on the turntables.

Kool Herc had actually introduced his Merry-Go-Round technique in 1972, where he combined the breaks of popular records like James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” with The Incredible Bongo Band’s “Bongo Rock” to extend the breakbeats.

At the same 1520 Sedgwick Avenue party was an unknown rapper, who later become known as Coke La Rock, who was an original member of Kool Herc’s crew the Herculoids. “My man Coke La Rock, he was the first A-1 Coke,” Herc said in an interview with Davey D. “Then he was Nasty Coke and finally he just liked the name Coke La Rock. There was Timmy Tim and there was Clark Kent. We called him the rock machine.”

While you had figures like DJ Hollywood who later on rhymed non-stop over breakbeats, Coke La Rock was the first rapper on the mic throwing out small rhymes and shout-outs like “you rock and you don’t stop” and “hotel, motel, you don’t tell, we won’t tell” to hype up the crowd.

“Every rhyme I did had something to do with the party,” Coke La Rock said in an interview years later. “But just like a child taking its first steps I said a small maybe one or two sentence rhymes and then they got longer. And most of the time I would rhyme to “‘T’ Plays It Cool”, which was my interdiction record.”

Examples of Coke La Rock’s rhymes include:

There is not a man that can’t be thrown
Not a horse that can’t be rode
A bull that can’t be stopped
And theirs not a disco that I Coke La Rock
Can’t rock

Another example:

If a freak is unique
Then that’s the freak you seek
Then I guess before you go
The freak will be on the bo
As long as the music is not stopping
The rocks are dropping
The champagne is flowing
The freaks will be going
Hotel motel
You don’t tell
I won’t tell.

As hip hop began to gain popularity in the late ’70s – “Rapper’s Delight” became the first rap Billboard top 40 hit in 1979 – Coke La Rock began to step back from the scene, as new rappers and DJs flooded in. “People respected Herc and Coke,” says Gary Harris, a Sugar Hill Records employee at the time. “But by the early eighties those guys were like specters—they just weren’t visible on the scene anymore.”

With the rise of artists like Run-D.M.C., whose 1984 debut album became the first hip hop record to go gold, and an incident which left Kool Herc stabbed at a party, Coke La Rock feel disillusioned with the game and left the game completely. His name was later immortalised in Boogie Down Production’s “South Bronx.”

Now way back in the days when hip-hop began
With Coke LaRock, Kool Herc, and then Bam
Beat boys ran to the latest jam

Boogie Down Productions - "South Bronx" // 1986

Coke La Rock: To tell you the truth, we were before our time. I didn’t see it then, but I do now. Me and Herc were to hip-hop what Nicky Barnes and Frank Lucas were to drugs.

The Holy House of Hip-hop | New York Magazine
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