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Grandmaster Caz Explains How The 1977 New York City Blackout Helped Birth Hip Hop

By HHL Editors

Grandmaster Caz is credited with being the first performer to act as both DJ and emcee, was a member of the seminal Hip Hop group The Cold Crush Brothers, and some claim was the real author of the classic track 'Rapper's Delight.'

Caz also has an interesting theory on why rap started to become popular in late-seventies New York City. According to Caz, he was among the many aspiring artists who stole essential musical equipment in the looting that took place during the notorious 1977 New York City blackout. Caz believes those pilfered turntables, speakers and mixers are what really got Hip Hip going.

"I went right to the place where I bought my first set of DJ equipment, and I went and got me a mixer out of there." he explains on Roman Mars's podcast. "After the blackout, all this new wealth … was found by people and they just—opportunity sprang from that. And you could see the differences before the blackout and after."

Joe Schloss, who researches hip-hop culture at City University of New York, buys Caz's theory.

"I think it’s true," The professor concludes. "But I think it’s also important to keep in mind that basically, hip-hop history is an oral history at this point, and that it’s all mythology in some sense—the true stories as well as the false stories."

True or false, we can't advocate looting. Although if you want to borrow your buddy's software to make some beats, go for it.

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