Reviews for When the Beat Was Born:

by DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Here's a twofer: an expert biography of a hip hop and rap pioneer, and a not-to-be-missed picture-book debut by Taylor, a Washington, D.C.-based artist. Herc, an aspiring DJ and reluctant immigrant from Jamaica to the Bronx, was working a house party at his Sedgwick Avenue housing project when inspiration struck: he put the same record on two turntables to extend the break in a song ("when the lyrics ended and the music bumped and thumped") and added verbal riffs drawn from Jamaican chanting and toasting. "Kool Herc's music made everybody happy," writes Hill (Dave the Potter). "Even street gangs wanted to dance, not fight." Hill walks the fine line between knowledgeable reporter and passionate fan (as is clear in his vivid author's note), and Taylor does the same, using a meticulous inkline and washes of textured earth tones to convey both a sense of observational precision and a mural-like expressionism. Whether Taylor is zooming in on Herc's dexterous hands manipulating the turntables or pulling back for a birds-eye view of the first break dance performances, he makes readers feel like they're present at hip-hop's inception. Ages 6-10. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 3-5-As a child in Jamaica, Clive Campbell aspired to be a DJ. At 13, he moved to the Bronx, where he gained the nickname Hercules because he grew to be more than six feet tall. He shortened the name to Herc, added Kool, and is credited as a pioneer of hip hop. He created a new art form for his parties when he plugged in two turntables to create longer breaks for dancing and began chanting the names of his friends during the breaks. Hill's descriptive writing is paired with Taylor's vibrant artwork, which features large crowds dancing, close-up shots of breakdancing, or Herc's hands masterfully spinning the dual turntables. This is a fine introduction to the topic, and the extensive time line, which spans from 1973 to 1986, will help students with reports and show them how this American art form was created.-Glynis Jean Wray, Ocean County Library, Toms River, NJ (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

This picture-book biography introduces one of the unsung creators of hip-hop, Clive Campbell, who was born in Jamaica in 1955. He was entranced by the massive dance parties thrown by a neighbor, and when his family moved to the Bronx, he took up the name Kool Herc and created the innovative techniques behind hip-hop DJing. Stacking musical breaks on top of each other to fuel long stretches of dancing frenzy, calling the kids with the best moves break-dancers, and sending shout-outs to friends and little offhand rhymes over the music Kool Herc unique and hip-hop wouldn't exist without any one of these flashes of inspiration. By the time rap music really took off, in the early 1980s, he was already out of the limelight but not without leaving a massive legacy. Aside from the bouncy bio of the book's star, Hill also highlights the positive social force of hip-hop and the boundless energy of musical joy. It's all matched by Taylor's freewheeling artwork. A treat from an underrepresented corner of music history.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist

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