Hip-hop godfather DJ Kool Herc was honored in the Musical Influence category at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony tonight. He broke down in tears after he was inducted by LL Cool J. The award, presented separately to the official class of 2023’s inductions, honors “artists whose music and performance style have directly influenced, inspired, and evolved rock & roll and music impacting youth culture,” according to the Rock Hall.
In his introduction, LL Cool J recalled the August 1973 party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx DJed by Herc that many cite as the birthplace of hip-hop. “It’s a culture that changed my life and changed the lives of millions and millions of people,” he shared. “When Herc first started, there were no accountants or record companies that believed in it. But Herc believed in it… So this year, this is hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, so it’s all the more appropriate that were are here to honor and recognize one of the founding fathers of hip-hop, DJ Kool Herc.”
During his tearful acceptance speech, Herc was joined onstage by his sister Cindy Campbell, who hosted the famous Sedgwick Avenue party. Citing names like Harry Belafonte and James Brown as inspiration, Herc ultimately returned to thanking family: “All the people, man, built me up. But my sister, she needs some props, too.”
Herc’s fellow hip-hop innovator Missy Elliott was part of the main induction class this year, along with Kate Bush, Willie Nelson, Rage Against the Machine, Sheryl Crow, the Spinners, and George Michael. Link Wray received the other Musical Influence Award, and Musical Excellence Award winners were Chaka Khan, Al Kooper, and Elton John’s songwriter Bernie Taupin.