Fans Band Together Online to Help Kool Herc, Founder of Hip-Hop, with Medical Bills

This post is by Alison McCarthy. She's an intern at Hypebot.

image from literarylightsaber.files.wordpress.com When the man who is credited with originating hip-hop can't afford to pay his medical bills for a kidney stone removal, something isn't right.

Famous for his parties in the desolate South Bronx of the 1970s, as the story's told, in 1973, Kool Herc, aka Clive Campbell, introduced breakbeat DJing at a party in the rec room of the now legendary apartment building 1520 Sedgwick. Now known as the blueprint for hip-hop music, this style of DJing was quickly adopted by later legends such as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash.

It wasn't long before the Bronx scene based around hip-hop, graffiti, and breakdancing grew from a local trend to a global phenomenon.

The news of Herc's medical and financial troubles originated from DJ Premier on his SIRIUS satellite radio show this weekend. The announcement spread quickly online, and Premier quickly set up a PayPal account to accept donations to help Herc. Over the past few days, fans, promoters, DJs and fellow artists have banded together to help spread the word about Herc's dilemma, situating it at the top of Twitter's trending topics.

Besides Herc's story being an unfortunate one, it raises some interesting points. Today's New York Times article touches upon the issue of the common reality of musicians, economic hardship, and healthcare.

"This is just a disgrace that Kool Herc has to negotiate over the details of his health care," said Bill Adler, a former executive with Def Jam Records and a historian of the genre. "People who are not performers think that the musicians they love have a big house, lots of cars and more money than they'll ever know. The reality is that the majority of people who choose a life in the arts make a tough economic choice. They're almost choosing voluntary poverty."

Herc's sister, Cindy Campbell (who also had a major role in throwing the South Bronx parties) expands on this issue, concerned with how "Herc's generation of graying rappers and DJs will cope with the medical issues bound to come their way…There isn't any type of medical program for these artists," she said. "Maybe it takes a visible person like Herc for people to pay attention."

On another note, many are outraged that hip-hop's millionaires aren't doing their part to help Herc, who many believe laid the groundwork for today's most successful artists. Through both Twitter and the blogosphere, tens of thousands of fans have criticized Rick Ross, Diddy, and Pharrell for spending $1 Million at a Miami Strip club to celebrate Ross' birthday over the weekend. Fans are encouraging each other to tweet the donation information directly to hip-hop's moguls to demand they help pitch in.

All of the online activity that has taken place over the last few days (especially through Twitter), concerning Kool Herc has been amazing to watch. Fans and artists are pulling together to not only inform others about Herc's crisis, but to also voice their criticisms about the unfairness of the music industry.

Kool Herc currently has a medical bill of $10,000, not including his surgery which will highly increase the sum. Though it hasn't been announced how much money has yet been raised through donations, this serves as a great example of how fans are using the powers of social networking to band together and support the artists they love.

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  1. I really appreciate Bill Adler’s quote. It is so true. We have relegated musicians to poverty in our culture and it’s sad. It’s too bad to hear about Kool Herc, and I know he’s not the only one. There are countless programs and funds available to help musicians with medical expenses, there was even a medical clinic specifically for musicians. It’s also, interestingly, one of the only professions to have them. I don’t know of any office assistant relief funds or architect medical centers. The tide is changing though. The NEA has realized that there are millions of artists in this country and they contribute to our society in more ways than just culturally. Here in Portland, OR we have taken on the issue of impoverished musicians with our Fair Trade Music campaign, http://www.fairtrademusicpdx.org . We are asking for minimum wage guarantees, which, at times, is strangely controversial, and paltry compared to the incomes of some. It’s better than the current situation, however, and is a step towards financial sustainability and prosperity as a musician.

  2. How do you spend a million dollars at a strip club?
    Seriously. What kind of inventory and services could account for that? A VIP dance with a room full of albino gymnasts? Did the strip club have an adjacent warehouse full of Patron bottles? I cannot even begin to compute how a strip club bill could run into the 6 digit range, let alone surpass that.

  3. I am a long time friend & fan of Kool Herc. I have had the honor of hanging with him & Afrika Bambaataa several times. Herc is a true pioneer of the genre & in fact he really is the originator. This is a brother who is about the true spirit of Hip Hop, he like Bambaataa and my other Zulu Nation brothers & sisters live a life of peace & unity among all people. Herc is a hero & I am asking all of my friends including those of the “House Nation” to step up to the plate and do the right thing. Give all you can to Kool Herc, because he has given so much love and joy to the planet. I hope all of those who are now players & moguls in Hip Hop & all others will honor this true living legend by giving!!

  4. I hate to say this, but it’s not passing a smell test.
    Herc worked a solid job blue collar job that provided him with benefits and a pension plan. NY also has really good care for the poor.
    He is routinely offered appearances that pay him fees. He is one of the few historical figures who insists and gets appearance fees for just giving interviews. He’s past his prime as a DJ (actually, he never was one for smooth transitions) and still gets hired because of who he is. His attitude is that he is entitled to a financial tribute for his contributions, and while I don’t blame him, we’re talking about an able bodied man, in great shape, of sound mind, and unless they’re not reporting his actual medical situation, still in relatively good health.
    Here’s to a quick recovery.

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