• Kamari Jordan

The History Behind the 'Holy Trinity' of Hip-Hop

Grandmaster Flash, photo courtesy of Hip Hop Golden Age

A major staple in Black culture is hip-hop. Hip-Hop became an identity to the Black community and has since become a global phenomenon. You may be familiar with the Holy Trinity as the Father, the son and the holy spirit, but to some, hip-hop is a religion and it has its own ‘Holy Trinity.’

In the west borough of the Bronx, DJ Kool Herc created the blueprint to hip-hop music. Herc used funk records most African Americans during that time grew up listening to, such as James Brown instead of disco records. Herc would isolate the instrument portion of the record to emphasize the drum beat or break. Using two of the same records to elongate the break, he created the merry-go-round technique. DJ Kool Herc’s music created terms such as b-boying, b-girling and break dancing.

Afrika Bambaataa, Photo courtesy of The Source

In the east borough of the Bronx, Afrika Bambaataa was taking DJ Kool Herc’s merry-go-round technique and creating a movement from it. Bambaataa created the Universal Zulu Nation, which ironically offered an alternative to street gangs with the help of the street gang Black Spades. The music became a culture and brought about knowledge and consciousness to hip-hop. Hip-hop now had a community built around it and was no longer a passing fad.

In the south borough of the Bronx, a mad scientist named Grandmaster Flash was perfecting what DJ Kool Herc had created. Grandmaster Flash was frustrated with the radio blends in and out of mixes and with Herc’s “disarray unison.” Grandmaster Flash called Herc’s technique “disarray unison” because it was impossible to catch the break perfectly every time. He developed a technique where he marked the record with crayon, indicating where the break was. He never had to guess where the break was on the record and consistently caught it. Another technique Grandmaster Flash used was to start and stop the record with his hands. It was frowned upon to put your hands in the middle of a record, but this technique gave him complete control. Finally, turntables where being used as an instrument and DJs where now editing music.

The Holy Trinity is the foundation of what we call hip-hop. These three legends inspired artists that would develop the art form into an international movement and lifestyle. Later groups such as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Cold Crush Brothers and the Sugar Hill Gang would take hip-hop in the direction we see today. With rap in the forefront, The Golden Age of hip-hop would explode onto the scene.

@usf_encounter tweets: