noun  \ˈdē-ˌjā\

: Disc Jockey. A disc jockey, also known as DJ, is a person who selects and plays recorded music for an audience.

Our friends at the The Periodic Table of Hip Hop Elements have cleverly broken down the Hip Hop culture into a table of elements, reminiscent of the periodic table of the chemical elements. Take a look at Discus Jockeyous Yerbodious, the Hip Hop DJ.

The DJ
Hip Hop Element Number 1:
The DJ

Element Name: DJ

Element Symbol:
Atomic Number: 1
Column: IA
Row: 1
Symbol Abbreviation: Disc Jockey
Scientific Name: Discus Jockeyous Yerbodious
Element Type: Primary Four Element


The Hip Hop DJ is the first element. It is the one that marked the beginning of the Hip Hop culture. Back in the 1970’s, one DJ from the Bronx, the Godfather of Hip Hop, DJ Kool Herc can be universally credited with starting Hip Hop.

Kool Herc initially started playing records for small parties, but his reputation as disc jockey spread quickly throughout the Bronx, and soon he was responsible for entertaining thousands of people at his now historical (almost mythical) block parties.

“I didn’t have the luxury of head phones, I had to cue the music over the records,” stated Kool Herc.

In doing so he learned how to manipulate the record on the fly. He also noticed certain short parts of the songs he was playing, typically a drum break and/or a bass line, (See Element: Breaks) energized the crowds into more excited dancing. (See Element: B-Boying) By looking at the record, he could visually see this darker groove that represented this ‘break’, and he began to focus on repeating the break over and over. Sometimes he had two copies of the record which allowed him to extend or loop the break.  Other times he had only one copy, and had to resort to picking up the needle and dropping it quickly at the beginning of the break without losing the song’s natural momentum. Eventually, that unique style of DJing was what he became famous for. During this phase, his partner, Coke La Rock, began “toasting” and “rapping” over these breaks. (See Element: MC, See Element: Rap)  

These milestones all mark the beginning of Hip Hop. One might argue that Graffiti predates these events, it’s been around for centuries, that may be true, but it was not considered a Hip Hop element until after Hip Hop was born at the hands of Kool Herc.

Since then, the role of the Hip Hop DJ has evolved into a very diverse job description. From rocking block parties, to early mega mixes in the 80s, then from basic scratching, to battling… (See Element: Battle)  Also, came scratch composition and juggling.  (See Element: Juggling)

While technology may have changed the way certain DJs play the game, the primary role of the Hip Hop DJ will never change; to energize, entertain, and make the crowd dance their worries away.

-Written by rchecka