Hip-hop crowd responds to Kool Herc’s tough break

The expression “hip-hop community” gets thrown around a lot, but the outpouring of support for ailing DJ Kool Herc proves that one really exists.
On Thursday night, a solid roster of Toronto’s top DJs, including Starting From Scratch, L’Oqenz and Paul E. Lopes, will assemble at Wrongbar to play “Herculoids Unite! A Benefit for DJ Kool Herc,” who is often called “the father of hip hop.”
The event was put together swiftly after last week’s news that the legendary DJ is unable to pay some $10,000 he has incurred in medical bills. According to his publicist, Kool Herc is suffering from kidney stone-related health problems and in need of surgery. Similar fundraisers have already been organized in San Francisco, New York City and London.
The 55-year-old DJ expressed his frustration over the U.S. health care system to MTV News: “There shouldn’t be anyone fighting for health care! This has been going on too damn long! We fought for 1520 Sedgwick to get landmark status and in 2007 New York State officially recognized it as the ‘Birthplace of Hip Hop.’ Now we are fighting for health care, not just for me, but for everyone,” his statement read.
The Bronx address to which he refers is where he first debuted a new DJ technique at his sister Cindy’s birthday party in 1973. By using two turntables to alternate between the drum break sections of records, Kool Herc invented the musical basis for rapping and breakdancing. As a tribute to that tradition, everyone playing the benefit will only use vinyl records, as opposed to the laptops and MP3s that are now a club-DJ standard.
The irony that a main originator of hip hop’s multibillion-dollar culture (Forbes estimates Jay-Z’s net worth alone at $450 million) can’t afford to pay his hospital bills is not lost on Skratch Bastid, a.k.a. Paul Murphy, who is also spinning at the event.
“It’s funny because we’re an industry that boasts about having money,” he says. “But hip hop in general has this issue where a lot of our forefathers or whatever you want to call them don’t have a lot of cash, and a guy like Kool Herc wasn’t actually a recording artist, so he doesn’t get any royalties or revenue like that.
“He’s a cultural figure, strictly on an iconic basis, which in hip hop doesn’t really get you that far.”
Murphy says that the money raised at Herculoids Unite! will go directly to Kool Herc’s management. “There’s no one in between,” he says. But he does express some concern over the funds raised at various benefits for the DJ.
“I hope there’s going to be some final accounting for this stuff, that it’s all going to go to the right place,” he says. “With everyone coming together, I hope that Herc doesn’t make away with half a million dollars.”
Murphy recalls DJing alongside Kool Herc, at Montreal’s Under Pressure hip-hop festival, in 2006.
“He’s definitely like a pretty old guy, but a really cool dude,” he says. “He’s been around for everything that’s happened in hip-hop, but seeing him, he was still soaking it all in like a sponge. It must be an interesting thing to see the culture evolve from like 1973 ’til now. I’m sure that’s quite an experience.”
Just the Facts
WHO: DJs Skratch Bastid, Paul E. Lopes, Starting from Scratch and more
WHEN: Feb. 10. Doors 9 p.m.
WHERE: Wrongbar, 1279 Queen St. W.
TICKETS: $10 at door only

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