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Pillars of Hip Hop The DJ

Source: General / Radio One

One time for the DJs. In the beginning of this genre we all know and love, no one could have predicted the impact DJs would have on not only music – but the world. What was once a fledgling art form designated to block parties can now be seen at major award shows, weddings, in films and on television.

Whether you’re a DJ that flies solo, collaborates on albums as a group, or are part of a DJ collective, there is no one way to approach the craft. In fact, many modern DJs have transitioned into executives or branched off into other forms of entertainment.

Here are just a few DJs we’d like to highlight for Hip Hop History Month this year.

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1. DJ Kool Herc

DJ Kool Herc Source:Getty

DJ Kool Herc is widely recognized as one of Hip-Hop’s forefathers. Long before the genre made a global impact, Herc’s influence permeated the city streets, later inspiring others to take on the turntables. In November 2023, Herc was presented an award onstage during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center.

2. Jam Master Jay

Jam Master Jay Source:Getty

While Jason Mizell, better known as Jam Master Jay, is no longer with us, his legacy lives on. As part of RUN D.M.C., not only did he and his group members introduce a unique sense of cool to the artform, they proved that rap’s impact on the youth could lead to big bucks in marketing and merchandise.

3. DJ Drama

DJ Drama Source:Getty

The new millennium brought tons of technology to various industries, and the music game was no exception. Drama’s Gangsta Grillz mixtapes be came a must have for fans – and a mark of achievement for artists who made the cut. Through popular music sites listeners were faithfully fed various projects and releases by Drama were always highly anticipated. 

4. DJ Clue

DJ Clue Source:Getty

Clue’s highly coveted mixtapes featured some of the top names in the game, as well as newcomers looking to showcase their skills to the world. In addition to freestyles and exclusive cuts, Clue became known for his ability to premiere the hottest new songs before they were released.

5. DJ Khaled

DJ Khaled Source:Getty

Khaled gets busy on the turntables, but the empire he has built as a music mogul makes him an inspiration for anyone looking to use their skills as a launching pad to greater heights. 

6. DJ Screw

DJ Screw Source:Radio One Houston

DJ Screw’s slowed down style of music rose out of The Lone Star State and can still be heard in music today. He is reported to have released more that 300 mixtapes, helping make his brand of rappers, known as The Screwed Up Click, regional stars. Sadly, DJ Screw passed in 2000, but following his death, the sound he created only grew in listenership.

7. Grand Master Flash

Grand Master Flash Source:Getty

A pioneer and inventor, Flash’s Quick Mix Theory helped push the sound of rap further through ingenuity: By using duplicate copies of vinyl, he was able to elongate the drum breaks. This style went on to birth one of rap’s trademark styles: Cutting and scratching.

8. Kid Capri

Kid Capri Source:Getty

Capri started his music journey in The Bronx, and is one of The Big Apple’s best known DJs. He’d go on to work with many of rap’s biggest acts as a Grammy-winning DJ and producer.

9. DJ Jazzy Jeff

DJ Jazzy Jeff Source:Getty

The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff were not only the first faces in Hip-Hop to take home a Grammy, they also helped introduce the sound to many mainstream audiences with a style that was more easygoing. But make no mistake, Jazzy remains a highly skilled DJ to this day.

10. Spinderella

Spinderella Source:Getty

One of the first nationally-recognized females in the game, Spin rose to fame during her run with Salt-N-Pepa.