The widespread looting that accompanied the New York City blackout in July of 1977 served as one more kick in the teeth to a metropolis already hobbled by a financial crisis, a sweltering heatwave and a homicidal madman known as “Son of Sam”.
But for at least one small group of New Yorkers — none of whom, I presume, owned storefronts — the result of the looting that swept the city and affected more than 1,600 stores across 31 neighborhoods, racking up damage to the tune of $300 million (in 1977 greenbacks), the looting produced a windfall that fell upon them like a torrent of rain upon a thirsty blade of grass.
Those New Yorkers, most of them in the Bronx, were the early scratchers, DJs and rappers of Hip-Hoo, and their windfall consisted of the performing and recording equipment — microphones, PA systems, soundboards, what have you — “liberated” from various stores vulnerable to those who would loot.
With better equipment than they could otherwise not afford, so the story goes, the original practitioners of the musical form that would one day become known as Hip-Hop, sprang forth from the far reaches of uptown New York City and the form took off from there.
Eugene S. Robinson swears by this tale—I know because he’s brought it up during each of the two most recent episodes of “Let It Roll,” the first two episodes of an eight-part miniseries examining the Netflix documentary series “Hip-Hop Evolution.”
Robinson, “Let It Roll” host Nate Wilcox and author and digital commentator Alexei Auld have joined forces for this special miniseries, and through two episodes the three some has laid down some robust opinion as well as stories like Robinson’s above.
Ed Legge (@freebirdyeller) is a life-long musician, long-time journalist and sometime corporate dweeb who’s writing a book about originating rock ‘n’ roll’s most absurd tradition.