LL Cool J praises ‘larger than life’ DJ Kool Herc at Rock Hall Induction
Jamaican born DJ Kool Herc was honoured as “one of the greatest founders of hip-hop” when he received the Musical Influence Award at the 2023 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on Friday.
The pioneering musical visionary was introduced by rapper LL Cool J who recounted the legend of the party that DJ Kool Herc played at in 1973 to help his sister Cindy Campbell raise money for back-to-school clothes, charging 25 cents for women to enter and 50 cents for men.
“We don’t know how much money Cindy managed to raise that day or what clothes she managed to buy but we know she changed the course of history, of music history,” LL Cool J said. “That party has come to be known as the birthplace of hip-hop.”
The rapper described Kool Herc, whose real name is Clive Campbell, as “larger than life” and praised how he took his record collection and “molded it into a new form of music” that has impacted the world ever since.
“It’s a culture that changed my life obviously. It changed the lives of millions and millions of people,” LL Cool J said.
When Kool Herc ascended the dais with his sister to collect the award, he was overcome with emotion.
“I got tears in my eyes,” he told the audience. He called out the people who were no longer alive, like James Brown and Harry Belafonte. He also credited his parents, Keith and Nettie Campbell, and he gave the mic to his sister, Cindy, to speak. “Do your thing,” he told her.
“LL, you gave a heartfelt introduction, thank you, we love you. We always did, and I want to congratulate my brother DJ Kool Herc for staying on that path and getting where he is today. Congratulations to my brother,” Cindy said.
Herc’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year is particularly fitting as hip-hop celebrates its 50th anniversary. As the legend famously goes, Kool Herc was at the centre of its creation with the party he hosted in the rec room of his apartment complex on August 11, 1973, a date, as LL Cool J noted, that is now celebrated as hip-hop’s birthday.
While the party has gone down in music history, Herc himself admitted to Rolling Stone this summer that his memories of it are fuzzy.
“I remember the equipment, the turntables. We weren’t a band. But we’re DJs. We’re rock stars now,” he said.