Podcast of the Weekend 6: How the NYC Blackout of 1977 Helped the Hip Hop Movement

Source: hiphopearly.com

Source: hiphopearly.com

On the night of July 13, 1977, Grandmaster Caz and his parter Disco Wiz were challenged to a DJ battle in the park. In the middle of the battle, however, lightning struck an electricity transmission line not once, but twice, causing a power outage throughout the entire city. Before the blackout, according to Grandmaster Caz, hip hop “didn’t have a name.” Instead, people just referred to it and its qualities.

The power outage of 1977 happened to occur at a time when the city, the Bronx in particular, was suffering from poverty, unemployment, and high death rates. The blackout therefore presented an opportunity for people to loot. Grandmaster Caz himself got himself a new mixer, and other aspiring DJs stole turntables and other DJ equipment. It is for this reason that Grandmaster Caz, among others, believes that the blackout “catalyzed the growing hip hop movement,” for “opportunity sprung” from it. The movement was an opportunity for musicians to express “that same energy that every generation exercises; it just comes out in different forms.” For Grandmaster Caz, the movement allowed for his “exercising this inner need for [his] soul to experience music.” This theory, nevertheless, is merely conjecture, for hip hop history is, after all, “an oral history,” often being described as a “mythology.”

To learn more about the 1977 blackout, the history of hip hop, and the impact of electricity and society, be sure to listen to the full podcast from 99% Invisible!

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