Hip Hop history lessons, creative pilgrimages & out of offices
Quest Digest #29 👁🗨 plus sign up dates for our next Quest
THE QUEST DIGEST by Creative Quests is a treasure chest of ideas, stories & opportunities exploring what it means to live an illuminating, creative life. Delivered when inspiration strikes.
This week we cover: hip hop’s modest origins, going on creative pilgrimages and out of offices.
Sam here! This week I am writing to you from sunny Portugal.
🚨 🗓 Mark your diaries:
Sign up for our next Quest in October will open on 5th September!
100 people around the world all channelling their creative curiosity in the same direction.
There is nothing quite like.
It’s the final Quest of 2023.
I am a big hip hop fan.
This summer celebrates 50 years since the birth of Hip Hop.
It’s incredible to me that a cultural force of this size can have its origin tracked so definitively back to a specific moment.
But it is widely agreed that on 11th August 1973 at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, The Bronx, New York a DJ called Clive Campbell, better known as DJ Kool Herc was the first ever person to bring all the ingredients together that we now know as Hip Hop.
In its most basic form: repeated drum patterns with an MC rapping over the top.
With modern digital technology, creating these drum loops in a live performance is very simple.
In 1973 it was a different story.
This great article in NPR breaks down how a mixture of experimentation and improvisation between DJ, MC and Audience sparked a creative innovation that would change the world…
Herc noted that dancers were especially energized during the brief drum-beat or rhythm section interludes of funk and soul records — often called "breaks." He developed a technique where he'd play the break from one record, then immediately play just the break from another record on his other turntable, then cue up another break on his first turntable ... and on and on.
Over time, partygoers developed dance styles to these extended breaks - aka breakdancing.
And as the night wore on, Herc and his friend Coke La Rock would talk over the beat breaks.
"[The MC’s] would see folks in the party, their friends, and they'll shout people out, they'll do it in these funny little rhymes," author Jeff Chang says. "And these rhymes develop into more rhymes, right? So they keep on kind of evolving that and that actually turns into rap."
One party in a community centre hall and a few people all responding to each others creative energy, changed the course of history. Wild, right?
A fun fact for you: the ‘Quest’ in Creative Quests is a tribute to one of my favourite music groups of all time A Tribe Called Quest.
These four young black men from Queens, Brooklyn by the names of Q Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Jarobi - radically reshaped the course of hip hop music in the early 90s.
Their music a little looser, more poetic and experimental than the style at the time. The groups leader, Q-Tip, famously finding inspiration in his parents record collection and sampling melodic hooks from Lou Reed, Minnie Ripperton, James Brown, Roy Ayrs and many many more.
This video brings to life quite how much genius was involved in his sampling process.
Aside from my fascination in the collage-like sampling process, one of the things I love most about hip-hop culture in general is the dedication to real life storytelling, context and documentation. Listen to any iconic Hip Hop record and you can bet you will hear references to specific neighbourhoods, local businesses, people, dates and cultural moments.
I see Hip Hop as a form of archival poetry. Melodic museums, built by rhythms & rhymes.
Back in May we hosted our first ever community event in New York called ‘Excursions’ - whose name is also a nod to the ATCQ song of the same name.
Excursions was our chance to gather our people in person and unite the individual streams of creative energy we’ve seen come to life in our virtual spaces over the last 2.5 years. Boy, it was magic.
From years of listening to A Tribe Called Quest’s music I felt like I had a pretty good education on the places they grew up and where they would hang out as kids, then young men making music.
So on the last day of my New York adventure I decided to go on pilgrimage, a Quest if you will, to the infamous 192 / Linden Boulevard, deep in Jamaica, Queens, New York: where A Tribe Called Quest was born.
It was a really special moment.
I stood on that corner, music filling my ears, knowing I was standing where the inspiration for some of my favourite songs came from. I was seeing it. Touching it.
Of course I could never know their actual experience. But wow did it feel incredible to be there.
I took away a few thoughts:
If you ever get the chance to visit a place you know has creative significance to you, no matter how niche - just take it. Hire a car. Take the bus. Jump in a cab. Just do it. Pay your respects. Being creative and making creative work is essentially one big inspiration baton pass and energy exchange.
Somebody makes something —> We get inspired by it —>
We make something —> Somebody gets inspired by it.
The more you give to this energy exchange - the more you get back.
Document your process and the culture you are a part of. Take photos. Write about it. Use your instagram as an archive. It doesn’t matter how / where you do it. Just do it with intention. You never know what story time will tell in the long run. But if you don’t document what is happening in the present - you are stealing potential gifts to future generations who are seeking wisdom from their creative ancestors
Your immediate surroundings are your creative inspiration. 192 / Linden Boulevard is an ordinary neighbourhood that birthed an extraordinary group. Their genius was in framing familiar settings in a poetic and abstract way. Remember - you are the best person to tell your story and share how you see the world.
Thanks for reading this extended piece! And extra thanks to Charlie Dark MBE 👑 , who was the one that planted the seed to go to NYC and run our first event there.
A round up of illuminating discoveries this week…
🚀 KickStart your creative career with this FREE 12-week employability course from Good Nugget. Sign ups close 27th August
📜 Document Your Culture is a book and audio book by Emma Warren which breaks down why we must tell the story of spaces or a communities.
🌳 The City of Melbourne maintains more than 70,000 trees. This website enables you to explore this dataset and some of the challenges facing Melbourne’s Urban Forest.
📸 ”I modded an instant camera that my grandpa gave me.” Prepare to be mind blown…
💙 Newyonder is a global streaming service, award-winning film studios that helps restore our planet.
I am out of office till 4th September. Byeeeee!
with love, hip hop and postcards,
🥾 Quest Guide / Founder
THE QUEST DIGEST by Creative Quests is a treasure chest of ideas & stories exploring what it means to live an illuminating, creative life. Delivered when inspiration and creativity strike. Subscribe to receive each issue!
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