HIP HOP HISTORY: PART 4
Clive Campbell was born in Jamaica, the first of six children.
The year was 1955 and Kingston wasn’t the nicest place to live in with all of the political turmoil. Clive’s parents, Nettie and Keith, did their best to provide for their children and to distance themselves from the troubles. Clive spent his early years growing up in Trenchtown.
Keith Campbell and Clive’s younger sister Cindy were both record collectors. And their collection spanned from reggae to soul to country. Clive would sing along to the American songs in an effort to learn the accent. He would also sneak around to check out the Sound Systems blasting music all night. King George was the famous Selector in his area and he dreamed of one day being like him.
His mother Nettie began studying and working in New York and thought that it would be a better place for her children to be raised, for there were more opportunities. And at the time, many Jamaicans were already migrating to New York. So Clive was the first of the children to join his mother in 1967.
The Campbells lived on East 178th Avenue, not far from Crotona Park where the Ghetto Brothers and other gangs roamed. Living in New York was a big change for Clive and being from Kingston didn’t help. This was pre-Bob Marley, so it wasn't cool to be Jamaican yet. At school he was fiercely teased for the way that he talked and dressed and on the way home he had to avoid certain streets where Jamaicans were being thrown into garbage bins!
Clive started hanging out with the Five Percenters, who introduced him to New Yorks Street Language, as well as sharing with him the Science of Self-Knowledge. The Five Percenters, having a different awareness than the average New Yorker, had a natural respect for Clive, for in their eyes, he was just another Blackman like themselves. Clive also started hanging out with the Cofon Cats, the same gang that Benjamin Melendez joined when he lived in that area. But just like Benjamin, Clive quickly got bored with them and came to realize that gang members were really cowards who could not stand on their own. Besides, he had other things on his mind like music!
Clive would spend a lot of time listening to the radio, especially the Black stations, WBLS and WWRL. But it was at the house-parties that his mother brought him to that he would hear the kind of music that could rock a jam Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and most importantly, James Brown. Clive was hypnotized by the atmosphere at those house-parties and would pay close attention to the little things taking place that the average person simply would pay no mind to. In Kingston, he could only hear the Sound System from the outside because he was too young to get in. But now he was in the party and absorbing it all like a sponge.
Around this time, Taggin was getting popular in the area and so he joined the quest for name recognition by taggin CLYDE AS KOOL on the walls. Since people couldnt remember Clive he just told them his name was Clyde, which was easier to remember because at the time the New York Knicks had Clyde Frazier playing for them. The KOOL part came from the cigarette ads that depicted these James Bond-type, super-cool men who obviously smoked KOOL cigarettes. Soon he would hang out with one of Graffiti Arts legendary supercrews, the EX-VANDALS.
Clive was also very athletic. He ran track, lifted weights and played rough Street Ball in the playgrounds. His mates would take the piss by calling him Hercules because of his bullish power-drives to the hoop. But Clive didn’t like this name because it just didn’t sound hip enough. So he shortened it and told everyone to just call him Herc. That’s when he dropped the CLYDE from his tag and added HERC, becoming known as KOOL HERC.