50 years ago, DJ Kool Herc and his sister, Cindy, threw a “back-to-school” party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx that is widely considered the unofficial beginning of Hip-Hop. Herc used a DJing technique called the “merry go-round”, using two turntables with the same record on each to juggle back and forth, and loop a certain section of the song. That allowed Herc and other DJs to extend a particular part of a song that people liked to dance to, and later, for MCs to rap over.
Just a few blocks from NiLu, at the northwest corner of 116th and Lenox Ave, where a vacant building now sits, was one of the most important music venues in early Hip-Hop history. From 1978-85, Harlem World was a premiere spot for rap acts like Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, and DJ Hollywood to showcase their skills.
Better known as “The World” by those who frequented it, the club’s official title was Harlem World Cultural and Entertainment Complex, because zoning laws wouldn’t allow for it to be legally called a nightclub. In addition to parties and performances, “The World” became famous for hosting historic MC battles. There were crew versus crew face-offs like the Cold Crush Brothers against the Fantastic Romantic 5, and 1981’s contest between Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee, which is known as one of the first major rap battles in hip-hop’s history.
Legend has it that music executive Sylvia Robinson was inspired to record a rap record after seeing a performance at Harlem World. She went on to release Sugar Hill Gang’s historic “Rapper’s Delight”, which was the first commercially successful rap record.