Originally published last November
Through the efforts of the Universal Zulu Nation and like-minded groups, November is recognized as Hip Hop History Month. I wasn’t alive during Hip Hop’s formative years, so I don’t think there’s a story I could write about its origins that isn’t already out there. But I did experience history being made nearly 10 years ago, in June of 2007.
I was invited to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to speak on a panel and rock a show with Queen GodIs, Baba Israel, Clyde Stubblefield and DJ Kool Herc. Baba Israel has been one of my mentors since I was a teen, and Queen GodIs is my very good friend. Both are artists I love and respect, and have spent considerable time with. I’d never met Kool Herc, so I was mad hype on my way to Madison! I was also excited to meet Clyde Stubblefield, the Funky Drummer himself. Still, my reverence for the Father of Hip Hop took precedence in my mind.
The day before the panel and concert, Queen, Baba and I were brought to a rehearsal studio. When we arrived, Kool Herc was already there playing records for some UW-Madison students and having a laugh with his sister, Cindy Campbell, an original Hip Hop architect in her own right. When I was introduced to Herc, I gave him a strong pound and thanked him profusely for jumpstarting the culture through which I know myself. He was graciously humble, and continued playing records for us while reminiscing with Cindy about the early days –– particularly the very first jam they threw in the Bronx at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in August of 1973. While I was still awestruck watching Herc play records, Clyde Stubblefield entered the room.
Suddenly the tables turned in a way I never expected. Kool Herc’s eyes widened and a smile bigger than the African continent spread across his face. “Oh man, I got ALL your records!” he shouted after he gave Mr. Stubblefield a warm hug. I didn’t know that Herc had never met Clyde before! I was witnessing an historical moment too breathtaking to believe. Herc continued to play records, only now he was specifically playing cuts that featured Clyde’s work. He shared how he’d always loved hearing James Brown shout, “Clyde” on songs, because it sounded like his own name, Clive. At one point, Stubblefield heard some fantastic drumming on a record Herc played and asked Herc who it was. “That’s you!” said Herc. “I told you, I got all your records.” This connection through the roots of Hip Hop was a beautiful moment that everyone in that room will remember, and is definitely one for the books.
M.C. K~Swift (New Rap Order/ Universal Zulu Nation) is a Hip-Hop artist and educator who has been recording and performing since 1994. A founding member of the progressive Hip-Hop collective New Rap Order, and a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, M.C. K~Swift is among both the vanguard and the old guard of True School Hip-Hop Culture.