The birth of hip hop is the focus of today’s Google Doodle. August 11th, 2017 marks 44 years since the genre was created by DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock in New York City. Initially an underground sound, hip hop has spread throughout the world and today, it is the premiere musical genre in the United States.
Lyor Cohen, former head of Def Jam Records and executive consultant behind today’s Google Doodle, shared his thoughts on the Google blog:
“Yes, yes y’all! And it don’t stop!” Today we acknowledge and celebrate a cultural revolution that’s spanned 44 years and counting… The youth needed an outlet – a unifying sound, a beat, a voice to call their own. The Bronx DJ’s and MC’s rose to the task and the city loved them for it.
Hip Hop was accessible. A kid with little means and hard work could transform their turntable into a powerful instrument of expression (also illustrating hip hop’s technical innovation). Starting with folks like DJ Kool Herc, DJ Hollywood, and Grandmaster Flash, the grassroots movement created a new culture of music, art, and dance available to the 5 boroughs of the city and beyond.
Learn more about hip hop, as well as today’s interactive Google Doodle, below.
1. DJ Kool Herc is Credited With Creating Hip-Hop in 1973
According to History.com, hip hop came to live on this day in 1973, at a party in an apartment building in the west Bronx, New York City. The address of the apartment was 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, and the man credited with its creation was Clive Campbell– more commonly known as DJ Kool Herc.
Herc was 18 at the time, and during his DJ set, he decided to try something different. Google Doodle says that instead of playing full songs, he played only their instrumental sections, and the crowd promptly went crazy. These instrumental sections would come to be known as “beat breaks” , and would become a pivotal term for hip hop producers. As Kool Herc spun these “breaks”, his friend Coke La Rock began to hype up the crowd with a microphone. “And with that,” Google Doodle adds, “Hip Hop was born.”
Herc’s “breaks” would go on to influence artists like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, and he made a cameo in the 1984 hip hop film Beat Street, but he didn’t make the move to recorded music until much later in his career. His most notable recording include the Terminator X song “Herc’s Message” (1994) and The Chemical Brothers song “Electrobank” (1997).
In 2007, The New York Times said Herc unsuccessfully campaigned to have 1520 Sedgwick Avenue declared a historical monument for being “the birth place of hip-hop.”
2. Visual Artist Cey Adams Created the Google Doodle Graphic
Cey Adams, 54, is the designer behind today’s interactive Google Doodle graphic.
Adams began his career as a graffiti artist in the 1970s before attending New York’s School of Visual Arts, where his work was exhibited alongside that of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. After graduating, he began working for Russell Simmons‘ company Rush Artist Management, where he created logos, tour merchandising, billboards and advertising campaigns.
“We handled most of the creative needs for many top record labels,” Adams told Beastiemania in 2005, “Some of the artists I have worked with include Mary J. Blige, Run-DMC, Public Enemy, De La Soul, Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, LL Cool J, Chris Rock, and Dave Chappelle. The company began as a way for Def Jam to have more control over the visual image of its artists.”
Adams’ most revered work, however, has been with the Beastie Boys. He designed several of the group’s most famous album covers, including Licensed to Ill (1986) and Paul’s Boutique (1989). “I really believe mixing business with friendship can be the ultimate test,” he said regarding the Beastie Boys.
You can check out Adam’s early designs for the Google Doodle here or go to his website at ceyadams.com.
3. The Doodle’s Interactive Turntables Allow You to Mix Classic Samples
In addition to Adams’ design, today’s Google Doodle also comes with interactive turntables. To get started, all you have to do is click the play button and it will take you to a digital “record crate” where you can choose between an array of classic songs. The artists listed are some of the most popular and frequently sampled in hip hop history, including The Isley Brothers, George Clinton, Betty Wright and Billy Squier.
After you’ve picked your song, you can customize the mix using the slider controls. Then, you can emulate Herc’s famed “breaks” and make your own hip hop beat. The experience is narrated by filmmaker and hip hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy (born Fred Brathwaite).
“It was a full-circle experience for me,” Freddy told Google. “I first went online in 1994 — I even remember doing a segment on Yo! MTV Raps about email. And going back to when I first got on the internet, I was looking for people who were of a like mind who were part of the culture. And now, to see hip-hop on one of the biggest digital platforms out there, in a way that acknowledges and recognizes what this culture is, and what it continues to be. It’s pretty amazing.”
The turntable Doodle is among the most complex that Google has ever attempted.
“We’ve never done a Doodle like this before,” artist Perla Campos told the Google blog, “Both because of the technical challenges and the many voices and collaborators we wanted to include.” Ryan Germick added “There’s a lot that went into figuring out what bitrate of audio you needed to scratch records, how to sync up beats correctly, and the complexities around animations were firsts for us.”
4. Hip-Hop Became the Biggest-Selling Genre in the U.S in 2017
Last month, Forbes reported that hop hop surpassed rock as the top genre in terms of overall consumption in the United States. This is the first time hip hop has topped the Nielsen ratings since its creation in 1947. According to the report, R&B and hip hop are now responsible for 25.1% of all music consumption in the the U.S. while rock claims 23%.
Additionally, Forbes says “It seems like it will continue to distance itself from the competition in the coming months and years.” Hip hop is also responsible for the most streamed album of the year so far, which is DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar. This puts Lamar ahead of artists like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars.
“Ultimately, to me, it shows that people in any situation have the ability to create something powerful and meaningful,” Cohen told Google Doodle, “The progression of this culture and sound – from Kool Herc spinning James Brown breaks at a block party to Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Drake being some of the biggest forces in music 44 years later – is something that few people at that first party could have anticipated.”
5. Fans Are Praising the Google Doodle on Social Media
Due to its interactive nature, as well as the contributions of artists like Cey Adams and Fab 5 Freddy, hip hop fans are loving today’s Google Doodle. “Everybody has to try the Google doodle celebrating the 44TH Anniversary Of the Birth Of Hip Hop,” wrote user @KingGage_, while @sdurham1979 tweeted “I love the #GoogleDoodle for today! An interactive tutorial mixing on turntables and brief history lesson.”
@UserOnboard also got in on the praise, tweeting “Today’s GOOGLE DOODLE has better user onboarding than most entire products do,” and @a_thompsonclass added “I love that this Google Doodle celebrates the 44th Anniversary of the Birth of Hip Hop.”
Check out additional reactions below.