From Four or Five Pro DJ’s to Inumerable – How the July 1977 Summer of Sam Blackout in NYC contributed mightily to the sudden rise of Hip-Hop

How the July 1977 Summer of Sam Blackout in NYC contributed mightily to the sudden rise of Hip-Hop


Thousands of looters on Broadway.

KRS One: “I’m bugging out because church-going, upstanding citizens, the ones you know are teachers and doctors and ‘in the community’ – they are now reduced to looters, thieves and rioters.”

When there is no light, man is reduced to animal.


3:10 into video

“You couldn’t just say, I’m gonna be a DJ. You needed equipment… Before that blackout, you know, [NYC] had literally just maybe four or five legitimate DJ crews. The next day – the very next day – there sprung this whole revolution of DJs. That was a huge spark, and a huge contribution to the Hip-Hop culture.”

The July 1977 blackout in New York City, often referred to as the “Summer of Sam” blackout due to its occurrence during the Son of Sam serial killings, played a significant role in the rise of hip-hop music in several ways:

1. Disco Demolition Night Fallout: Prior to the blackout, disco music dominated the nightclub scene in New York City and across the United States. However, the backlash against disco reached its peak with the infamous Disco Demolition Night in Chicago on July 12, 1979, just a few weeks before the blackout. This event, where disco records were publicly destroyed at a baseball game, signaled a shift away from disco and created an opening for new musical genres to emerge.

2. Power Outage Creates Urban Decay: The blackout itself had a profound impact on New York City, leading to widespread looting, vandalism, and arson in many neighborhoods, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. The power outage highlighted the city’s social and economic disparities and underscored the challenges faced by urban communities.

3. Birth of Hip-Hop Culture: In the aftermath of the blackout, many young people in New York City turned to creative outlets as a form of expression and empowerment. Hip-hop culture, which had been bubbling beneath the surface in the Bronx and other boroughs, began to gain momentum as DJs, MCs, graffiti artists, and breakdancers found new ways to connect and collaborate in the wake of the blackout.

4. Street Parties and Block Parties: One of the immediate responses to the blackout was the emergence of impromptu street parties and block parties in neighborhoods across the city. These gatherings provided a space for DJs to showcase their skills and for MCs to perform over beats, laying the foundation for the hip-hop music scene to flourish.

5. DJ Innovations: The blackout also spurred innovations in DJing techniques and equipment. With limited access to electricity and traditional turntables, DJs began experimenting with new methods of mixing and scratching records, incorporating drum machines and synthesizers, and developing the distinctive sound of early hip-hop music.

Overall, while the July 1977 blackout was a challenging and tumultuous time for New York City, it also provided fertile ground for the emergence of hip-hop culture. The creativity, resilience, and resourcefulness of young people in urban communities contributed to the rapid rise of hip-hop as a global cultural phenomenon in the decades that followed.

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