Cradle of Hip-Hop Saved from NYC’s Gentrification Wave

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Chris Hondros / Getty

I said a hip hop the hippie the hippie
to the hip hip hop, a you dont stop…
the rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie
to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.

Sugar Hill Gang, Rapper’s Delight, 1979

At risk of seeming dated, NewsFeed dropped that lyric to note the new lease on life given to 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, the Bronx high-rise that serves as the birthplace of all things hip hop.

New York’s Department of Housing Preservation rejected the sale of the building to a developer because of Mitchell-Lama affordable housing rules stopped the sale because it would result in higher-cost housing. The decision could actually set a precedent in New York in favor of affordable housing and lower cost units.

But for those who take interest in hip-hop, its history and the culture, the move rescues what is considered a shrine. Circa 1973, D.J. Kool Herc (aka Clive Campbell) spun a party for his sister in the building’s rec room and is said to be the first to take two turntables and simultaneously mix music. Eventually his method became popular, particularly when he added the Jamaican toasttelling tradition over the beats, which came to be called “rapping.” The rest is hip-hop history.

“It’s not just about 1520, it’s about all affordable housing,” Herc told The New York Times. “Every family needs a piece of the American dream.”

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