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When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

Last updated Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Author: Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrator: Theodore Taylor
Date of Publication: 2013
ISBN: 1596435402
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2015

Synopsis: Before there was hip hop, there was DJ Kool Herc.

On a hot day at the end of summer in 1973 Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive Campbell, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaksthe musical interludes between verseslonger for dancing. He called himself DJ Kool Herc and this is When the Beat Was Born. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill's book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.

Note to readers:
•  This book is about DJ Kool Herc and the creation of hip hop. There is a history and timeline at the end of the book (see "Author's Note").

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What different types of music do you know about? Have you heard of hip hop?
•  Do you have a favorite type of music? A favorite musician or band?
•  Have you heard or seen a DJ perform? For example, "scratching," or accidentally nudging a record under the needle. Can you demonstrate?
•  What do you think the story will be about?

•  the Bronx - a borough of New York City
•  toast - an occurrence in which words are said that honor someone, express good wishes, etc.
•  rec (recreation) room - a room that is used for playing games, watching television, etc.
•  housing project - a group of houses or apartments that are built for low-income families
•  lyrics - the words of a song
•  instrumental - music that is written for or performed on musical instruments and does not include singing
•  master of ceremonies (also MC, or emcee) - a person who introduces guests, speakers, or performers at a formal event
•  chant - to say (a word or phrase) many times in a rhythmic way usually loudly and with other people

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Cool Here's passion is music. What's your passion?
•  Cool Here encouraged dance-offs instead of fighting. What are some ways you can solve problems without fighting?
•  Ask the kids if they've listened to any of the rappers/hip-hop artists listed on the timeline at the end of the book (e.g., Michael Jackson, The Beastie Boys).

Craft ideas:
•  Write your own rap lyrics.
•  Make a microphone. For instructions, see: http://thegirlinspired.com/2013/07/microphone-craft-party-activity/ OR http://family.disney.com/crafts/high-school-musical-microphone-bookmark.
•  Make your own record and decorate it.
•  St. Patrick's Day crafts: http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/49728/st-patricks-day-crafts-activities-add/.


Special activities:
•  Give each child a cool DJ name.
•  Have a dance-off! Ask the kids to demonstrate their best moves.
•  Listen to some hip hop (with kid-friendly lyrics, of course).

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!