The musical history of New York is vast and varied, but perhaps one of the most fascinating facets is hip-hop, which emerged from the Bronx in the 1970s. The mix of beats and spoken word evolved from West African and Jamaican rhythms to become the international juggernaut that it is today, but its humble beginnings are cited as starting in a rec room in the Bronx. The story goes that DJ Kool Herc was working his sister's party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue when he began to mix records and beats, calling out to his friends and extending portions of songs to encourage the partygoers freestyle dancing. His new style quickly caught on, and the rest is hip-hop history.
Today, Herc is working to protect the building where hip-hop was born. The Washington Post recently reported that building's current owner is looking to sell to a high-profile investor, and community members are fundraising in an effort to buy the building themselves.
If you want to see 1520 Sedgwick and more of hip-hop's major landmarks, check out Hush Tours. The tour company's mission is to "preserve the roots of hip-hop culture" while offering guests a "family friendly opportunity to revisit present day history." They have several offerings to choose from, like their Pioneers: Harlem/Boogie Down Bronx tour, which features emcee guides from the Furious Five and Crash Crew. The impresarios lead groups through midtown Manhattan, Harlem, and the Bronx, pointing out "historic clubs, battle sites, video locations, and parks where hip-hop took its first baby steps." Or go with the Walk This Way tour to explore Harlem's record stores, the Apollo Theater, and the terrific (and oft-overlooked) Museum of the City of New York. Their new Rapper's Row tour of Queens takes you through the neighborhoods where superstars like Nas, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and 50 Cent grew up. Back then, we believe Mr. Cent was known by the nickname Nickel*.
Hush Tours: 292 Fifth Avenue Suite 608, New York, NY 10001, (212) 714-3527; Ticketing (212) 209-3370
*OK we're kidding, but take the tour for the real trivia tidbits.
Photo: RunDMC in motion, by Darren Nanos