DJ Cool Herc And The German Geek

by:NUTAKE     2020-08-26
What does a German computer geek in the 1980's named Karsten Obarski and a black DJ in the 1970's named Clive Cambell have to do with modern day hip hop music? Well, anyone that is really into hip hop music might know that Clive Cambell better known a DJ Cool Herc is the father of hip hop. In the 1970's Clive Cambel was DJing parties in the Bronx under the name DJ Cool Herc playing hard funk and he noticed that the dancers really responded to the breaks in the song where the beat took over. In the 70's music was played either by a tape player or a record turntable. Cool Herc came up with a way of using two turntables and two of the same records to make the breaks, the dancers loved, play seamlessly twice in a row. He then began using this technique to combine different breaks from different tunes. This was the beginning of re-mixing different samples from different songs to make a beat and it is also where the term break beat came from and where the term break dancing originated. Adding The Rap To 'Rap Music' DJ Cool Herc also began calling out to the dancers during the music. He refereed to the dancers as his break boys and break girls or b-boys and b-girls. He used a syncopated rhythm to his shout outs which is still so much a part of rap. Rap was a slang term for having a discussion or talking and soon these call outs were refereed to by this name. DJ Cool Herc is really a ground breaking artists and his legacy is the hip hop people enjoy today. But What About Karsten Obarski? Okay, a white German computer geek with a forign name...hmmm? What does he have to do with hip hop. While it is true that Karsten was never into hip hop and didn't know a break beat from a back beat; however, he did create something that has had a profound impact on hip hop. Karsten was a software developer for a game company in the 1980's when he began thinking about the way music boxes worked. Either a cylinder or disc with small spikes on them rotated past a metal comb with varying lengths of tines. As the spikes passed they plucked the tines and thus created a tune. Karsten realized that you could so this on a computer using digital sound samples. In short, you could place digital sound samples on a grid and like the music box run the grid through the computer and it would play the samples in the sequence you laid out. He called his invention The Ultimate Sound Tracker and it was quickly adopted by hip hop enthusiasts automating their re-mixes. Gone were the multiple turntables--except for making rhythmic sound effects. Gone were the big tape-recorders for splicing tape. This was revolutionary. Using Karsten's software as a model, modern beat makers have advanced the technology to the point where you can own a portable hip hop studio right on your own pc or laptop for a ridiculously low price that will produce finished beats at CD quality. As you can see, these two men from vastly different backgrounds and different interests ended up creating a hip hop community today where anyone with a computer can create sick beats and cool chops.
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