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

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Book Information
Rating: Outstanding
Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate
Author: Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrator: Theodore Taylor III
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9781596435407
Pages:  32

Clive was born in Jamaica where he fell in love with music. At age thirteen, Clive moved to the Bronx in New York City. There he started playing basketball at the neighborhood playground, where he was nicknamed “Hercules” for his great height. This was shortened to “Herc,” and Clive added “Kool” for the new nickname of “Kool Herc.” One day Clive’s father bought a giant sound system. Clive tinkered around to make the sound system even better and then hosted a huge dance party as the new “DJ Kool Herc.” DJ Kool Herc used his own new techniques to make the dance party unique, and everyone loved it. He took his parties all over the Bronx and introduced break dancing. He invited other musicians to join him in toasting and called them “The Herculoids.” Soon everyone wanted to meet DJ Kool Herc and experience his “hip-hop” style. And that’s how the beat was born.

This book makes an excellent use of onomatopoeias by describing how Clive heard the music around him: “hip hip hop, hippity hop.” These sound descriptions make it easy for the reader to hear Clive’s beat in their own mind, and this makes it understandable that Clive’s new style of music was nicknamed “hip hop.” The book also mentions how much Clive’s Jamaican background influenced his musical creations. Clive brought the sounds of his childhood home to America and mixed it all up into something people loved. It’s touching that Clive was able to embrace his culture so well in a land so far away from his own. This idea is an encouraging theme to youth of all cultures. It demonstrates that their individual cultures are valuable and that they can and should be appreciated within new cultures. It demonstrates that the blending of cultures is a wonderful thing and has the potential to bring all kinds of people together.