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DJ Kool Herc is a Jamaican-born DJ who is credited as originating hip-hop music in the Bronx, New York City. His playing of hard-funk records of the sort typified by James Brown was an alternative both to the violent gang culture of the Bronx and to the nascent popularity of disco in the 1970s. In response to the reactions of his dancers, Kool Herc in 1972 began to isolate the instrumental portion of the record which emphasized the drum beat—the break—and switch from one break to another to yet another.

Using the two-turntable setup of the disco DJs, Kool Herc's style led to the use of two copies of the same record to elongate the break. This breakbeat DJing—using hard funk, rock, and records with Latin percussion—formed the basis of hip-hop music. Kool Herc's announcements and exhortations to dancers would lead to the syncopated, rhymed spoken accompaniment now known as rapping. He dubbed his dancers "break-boys" and "break-girls," or simply "b-boys" and "b-girls." Kool Herc's DJ style was quickly taken up by figures such as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, but unlike them, Kool Herc never made the move into commercially recorded hip hop in its earliest years.

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