Perfect Sound Forever


The flier in question: from Born in the Bronx
described there as "The Dead Sea Scroll of hip hip"
Scan courtesy of MusicARKives

Is the most famous flier in hip hop history fake?
by J. Vognsen
(April 2023)

"Hip-hop doesn't just have a family tree, it has a birth certificate," writes Angus Batey with regard to a hand-written flier for a party held by Cindy Campbell and her brother Clive at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx on August 11th, 1973.i What makes this particular date special is that it was the first public appearance of Clive as DJ, appearing under the name Kool Herc. The day marks the beginning of a period where Herc would dominate the party scene in the Bronx; a period that was the central breeding ground for hip hop culture. The flier would appear to be a most intriguing historical artefact.

"[R]e-created (...) for the context of that day"

But is the birth certificate real? That's the way it is usually presented. In the summer of 2022, however, Herc auctioned off parts of his private archives, including a few early fliers. ii In the official catalogue from Christie's, we find the following:

"While several histories and documentary treatments of the earliest days of hip-hop depict an index card made for the historic 11 August 1973 party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave., no contemporary examples are known to remain extant. The example that is shown in the aforementioned contexts was an artistic recreation." iii
An article by Yolanda Baruch for Forbes about the auction included a confirmation directly from Cindy:
"[A] member of her team wanted to clarify, and Cindy attested that the flyer strewn over the internet purported as an actual August 11, 1970 (sic) invitation does not exist. Someone re-created it for the context of that day, and no one has located the original, but if someone does hold ownership of the original, they would indeed have struck gold."iv
This is the first example I can find of either Herc or Cindy stating that the commonly pictured flier is not the original, but a later recreation. To the best of my knowledge, they have not publicly discussed the authenticity of the flier, to either confirm or deny, earlier.

Below I'll share my thoughts about what this means and take the opportunity to update my earlier article on Herc, which was written with the assumption that the flier was authentic. v

The flier is almost certainly not authentic

First, does Cindy's claim make sense? vi The very layout of the 1973 flier supports the idea. The auction at Christie's included one flier from a Herc party in 1974 and two for a Herc party in 1975.vii The designs of all three are utterly different from the one claiming to be from 1973. The 1973 design uses broad, graffiti-like lettering and is decorated with a heart and stars; the 1974 and 1975 ones simply plain text. The one from 1973, then, does in fact look like an "artistic recreation," illustrating, perhaps, the importance the party was later known to have had. This would also explain why the flier announcing the 1973 party did not appear in public discussions of hip hop history until so many years later.

Furthermore, at one point the catalogue explains: "As a pair these two index cards illustrate the practice of using handwritten index cards for party invitations. (...) Before the proliferation of photocopied posters from the mid-1970's onwards, invitations for house parties were often made in a similar manner."viii The fliers from 1974 and 1975 are that simple for a reason: each individual invitation was written by hand. Something as elaborate at the one purporting to be from 1973 would have been an enormous amount of work to duplicate. This makes it further unlikely that the original flier would have looked like the well-known picture does.

Not hard evidence, but it does make sense.ix I'm convinced enough that from now on, I'll be calling the commonly shared picture the 1973 recreation, not the 1973 flier. The 1973 flier seems long gone.

A provisional historiography of the 1973 party invitationx


The earliest reference to the 1973 flier I've come across is in Jeff Chang's Can't Stop Won't Stop from 2005. It includes the following lines about Cindy's preparations for the August 11th party:

"She, Clive and her friends hand-wrote the announcements on index cards, scribbling the info below a song title like 'Get on the Good Foot', or 'Fencewalk'. If she filled the room, she could charge a quarter for he girls, two for the guys, and make back the overhead on the room."xi
Chang does not make the source of this specific claim clear in the text, but the chapter makes extensive use of interviews Chang conducted with both Herc and Cindy. When asked, Chang informed me that the source for the quoted passage was indeed both Herc and Cindy. Additionally, Chang also explained that he had then been able to view the same fliers that were put on sale at Christie's, but not others.xii


What appears to be the first picture of the recreation is in Born in the Bronx - A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop from 2007, edited by Johan Kugelberg. We find it on p. 70 where it is described as "The Dead Sea Scroll of hip hop."

[It seems nothing on the origin of the flier is noted in the book.xiii]


In an episode titled "The Birthplace of Hip Hop," the PBS program History Detectives interviewed Marcyliena Morgan, founding curator of a then newly constructed archive on hip hop hosted by Harvard University. Here's an excerpt with Morgan and host Tukufu Zuberi:

"Tukufu: You know, I, like you, grew up listening, loving and partying to hip hop and but you know, when I started this investigation we were thinking about this could or could not be the place. So I was almost at a loss. But among the faded posters and handwritten party invitations in the Harvard archive, Dr. Morgan had recovered a crucial piece of evidence. "A DJ Kool Herc party, back to school jam, 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, in the rec room August 11, 1973" and look at this, from 9pm to 4am, they planned to party all night long.

Dr. Morgan: That's right. New York style.

Tukufu: 25 cents for the ladies, 50 cents for the guys. Although the flyer is a copy, Dr. Morgan says the party almost certainly happened."xiv

How did it end up in the archives at Harvard? No further information is given. Is it clear to them that this "copy" is not a duplication of one of the original fliers, but of a later artistic recreation?


Mark Katz' Groove Music contains the following about the August 11th party:

"Buzz was generated with invitations hand-written on index cards that listed some of the songs Herc intended to play, like James Brown's 'Get on the Good Foot" (1972), or Mandrill's 'Fencewalk' (1973). A few of these invitations still exit."xv
No sources are given for this claim, but most likely Katz is referring to the near-identically sounding lines from Jeff Chang quoted above, as Chang's book appears in Katz' bibliography. How does Katz know that "A few of these invitations still exist"? Chang does not claim this and Katz gives no other sources for it, so his reasoning is unclear. Katz does include a picture of the recreation, noting that it was reprinted from Born in the Bronx.xvi This, however, does not feature any song titles on it.


In Break Beats in the Bronx, Joseph C. Ewoodzie Jr.'s discussion of the flier takes off from the History Detectives episode hosted by Tukufu Zuberi:

"In the episode, Zuberi travels to the Bronx and interviews several people who attest to the [August 11th party] having taken place. He also meets Marcyliena Morgan, director of Harvard University's Hiphop Archive, who produces a copy of Cindy's flier." xvii
Ewoodzie Jr. also includes a picture of the recreation, with the description: "DJ Kool Herc party flier."xviii It does not appear that Ewoodzie Jr. is aware that it is a later artistic recreation.

The deluge

Images of the recreation presented as if it were an authentic flier are now ubiquitous online. For a couple of prominent examples, see Jake Paine: "Today Proclaimed Hip Hop's 37th Birthday, Sedgwick & Sedar Celebrate" (2010), Chris Read: "Hip Hop's 40th Birthday" (2013), Dart Adams: "Hip-Hop Turns 40" (2013), Rebecca Laurence: "40 years on from the party where hip hop was born" (2014), Kiah Fields: "A Kool Herc Party Pops Off In The Bronx 43 Years Ago" (2016), Alec Banks: "The Anatomy of the 1973 Party" (2020), Harold Heath: "Unlikely Moments in Dance Music History" (2020).xix

Who, when, why and especially which?

We are left with two lines of further inquiry:

1) Who made the artistic recreation of the 1973 flier, when did they do it and why?
2) Which - if any - of the factual claims on the recreation are actually accurate?

On 1), I've got nothing.xx On 2), by far the most consequential, there are several things to note. I'll go through them by looking at how the recreation has been used in writing on Herc. I take it as my starting point that until we can determine that we have to assume that we cannot trust the information on the recreation.

The admission

Writers - including myself - like to mention the price listed on the recreation:

"As school was about to begin in the summer of 1973, Cindy Campbell thought about how she might get her hands on money to buy new clothes. She decided to throw a party and charge an entrance fee: 25 cents for 'ladies' and 50 cents for 'fellas' to be precise."xxi
It's a nice little detail, a telling contrast to the business behemoth hip hop would soon become. I don't think we have to abandon this point, as the figure has been given elsewhere as well, including in an interview with Herc done by Frank Broughton in 1998: "Charged 25¢ for girls, 50¢ for fellas, 50¢ for sodas, 75¢ for franks. And beer, beer was a dollar. xxii And here's Cindy in 2020:
"We charged people coming to the parties. It was 25 cents for ladies and 50 cents for the fellas. But after the first party, it was a lot of change we had to count. We saw that this was something that we could make money from, so the next party, we doubled up on things: sodas, hot dogs, beer, records. We also increased the price. I think it went up to a dollar because it's easier to count."xxiii
For a contemporaneous source, the flier on sale at Christie's for the show on February 23rd, 1974 lists a flat 50 cents, apparently for ladies and fellas alike.xxiv

The occasion

I had written:

"On the flyer - the front of it, anyway - the party is announced as a 'Back To School Jam'."xxv
On this, we also have ample other sources. Cindy has been clear and consistent on this point, clearing up a common misunderstanding:
"It wasn't a birthday party, it was back to school."xxvi

The DJ

In an article on "DJs and turntablism," Kjetil Falkenberg Hansen writes:

"A handwritten party invitation flyer had the text 'a DJ Kool Herc party," so unquestionably the meaning of 'DJ' was generally known and already connected to what was to be hip-hop."xxvii
I do not know enough about this particular issue to comment on how to solve the question of when the term "DJ" first appeared in connection to hip hop, but obviously, the recreation is not a good source. I would just add that from looking at other fliers on sale at Christies, it's clear that at least as early as February 22nd, 1975, Herc used the description of DJ with his name: "Kool D.J Herc."xxviii

The kids

In Groove Music, Mark Katz writes:

"[T]he childlike bubble lettering adorned with stars and hearts offers a vivid reminder that hip hop - now a multi-billion-dollar international ad corporate enterprise - was started by school kids."xxix
This also will not work. However, the same point - which I agree is very notable - is easily made in other ways, not the least of them that the party was held so Cindy could get money for new clothes when heading back to school after the summer, as mentioned above. xxx

The special guests

Who joined the party? I write:

"Coke La Rock (...) joined the party and is listed on the flyer as a 'special guest' under the name 'Coco.'"xxxi
Of course, the names on any flier are not direct evidence of who was actually there: Perhaps someone failed to show up, perhaps some cool cats were announced without their approval to lure a crowd, who knows. However, that La Rock was there August 11th, 1973 seems uncontroversial. See for example Michael A. Gonzales' article on La Rock in Wax Poetics, based on interviews with both La Rock himself in addition to Cindy and Grandmaster Caz. xxxii

But what of "Klark K." and "Timmy T," who are also listed as special guests? Presumably these are Clark Kent and DJ Timmy Tim, important members of Herc's later crew, Herculords. Kent, in particular, is an interesting case. It has been claimed - notably by Mr. Biggs of Soulsonic Force - that Kent's name on the flier is suspicious, as he was not yet with Herc at the time. xxxiii

In December of 2022, important confirmation of this suspicion arrived in the form of a blog post by MC Debbie D. She reports haven spoken directly to Clark Kent as well as Coke La Rock when doing research on the August 13th, 1973 party for an upcoming book. xxxiv Clark Kent denied himself having been at the party, explaining that he didn't meet Herc until a few parties later. La Rock, for his part, informed Debbie D that Timmy Tim hadn't been there either.xxxv


It seems very likely that the picture often shared as the authentic flier for the legendary party hosted by Kool Herc and his sister Cindy on August 11th, 1973 is in fact not authentic: Cindy herself has stated this clearly, names that appear on it are at least suspect and the design is sufficiently different from other Kool Herc fliers for events held at the same location months later in 1974 and elsewhere in 1975 that is seems they were simply not made at the same time; the implication being that the 1973 flier was a recreation made later, probably after the party had gained historical relevance.

Does it matter? It would be exceedingly cool if the flier for the event still existed, in any form. If it doesn't, that's our loss. Apart from that, I believe little should change in our understanding of this particular corner of hip hop history. Most of the information on the recreation can be verified, or at least duplicated, by other sources.

That said, there is still something important to consider: the sense of awe one gets when first viewing the recreation believing it to be authentic is palpable.xxxvi As we are getting mightily close to the 50th anniversary of the August 11th, 1973 party, the tsunami of commentary mistakenly calling the recreation authentic is near certain to continue, setting off waves of unwarranted awe. Keeping it fake, as opposed to real, would be a poor way to honour Herc and Cindy and their crew, their historic party and the movement it helped spawn. Better to get the story straight. If anyone can shed more light on the origin of the recreation, I hope they will.

(An earlier version of this text appeared on Substack on November 23rd, 2022.)

for helping out, thanks to
Jason Gross

for responding to inquiries, thanks to
Jeff Chang
MC Debbie D

for comments and corrections, thanks to
Martin Hoshi Vognsen


ADAMS, Dart: "Hip-Hop Turns 40," NPR Music, August 11th, 2013;

BANKS, Alec: "The Anatomy of the 1973 Party," Rock The Bells, June 5h, 2020;

BARUCH, Yolanda: "DJ Kool Herc's Sister Cindy Campbell Talks The Birth Of Hip Hop Christie's Auction," Forbes, August 11th, 2022;

BATEY, Angus: "Hip-hop's superstars owe DJ Kool Herc more than just respect," The Guardian, February 1st, 2011;

BREWSTER, Bill & BROUGHTON, Frank: The Record Players - The Story of Dance Music Told By History's Greatest DJs (Virgin Books, 2012; orig. 2010)

CHANG, Jeff: Can't Stop Won't Stop - A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (Ebury Press, 2007; orig. 2005)

EWOODZIE JR., Joseph C.: Break Beats in the Bronx - Rediscovering Hip-Hop's Early Years (The University of North Carolina Press, 2017)

FIELDS, Kiah: "A Kool Herc Party Pops Off In The Bronx 43 Years Ago," The Source, August 11th, 2016;

FRICKE, Jim & AHEARN, Charlie: Yes Yes Y'All - Oral History of Hip-Hop's First Decade (Da Capo Press, 2002)

GONZALES, Michael A.: "Coke La Rock," Wax Poetics, December 9th, 2020; (originally printed in Issue 51)

HANSEN, Kjetil Falkenberg: "DJs and turntablism" in WILLIAMS, Justin A. (ed.): The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop, (Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 42 - 55

HEATH, Harold: "Unlikely Moments in Dance Music History," Attack Magazine, August 24th, 2020,

KATZ, Mark: Groove Music - The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ (Oxford University Press, 2012)

KUGELBERG, Johan (ed.): Born in the Bronx - A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop (Universe Publishing, 2007)

LAURENCE, Rebecca: "40 years on from the party where hip hop was born," BBC, October 21st, 2014;

MC Debbie D: "Hip Hop's 1st Flyer, A Replica Not Original!," MC Debbie D BLOG, December 1st, 2022;

OGG, Alex & UPSHAL, David: The Hip Hop Years - A History of Rap (Channel 4 Books, 1999)

PAINE, Jake: "Today Proclaimed Hip Hop's 37th Birthday, Sedgwick & Sedar Celebrate," HipHopDX, August 11th, 2010;

READ, Chris: "Hip Hop's 40th Birthday," WhoSampled, August 11th, 2013;

SMITH, Troy L: "Coke La Rock September 2008," Tha Foundation;

VOGNSEN, J.: "Kool Herc - When did he make hip hop history and first perform his Merry-Go-Round?," Perfect Sound Forever, August, 2021;

WALKER, Noel Cymone: "DJ Kool Herc Is Ready to Bring Hip-Hop Back to Its Roots With a Museum in Jamaica," Billboard, February 24th, 2020;


i Angus Batey: "Hip-hop's superstars owe DJ Kool Herc more than just respect." Batey's article erroneously gives the date August 13th.



iv Yolanda Baruch: "DJ Kool Herc's Sister Cindy Campbell Talks The Birth Of Hip Hop Christie's Auction"

v J. Vognsen: "Kool Herc - When did he make hip hop history and first perform his Merry-Go-Round?" The article mainly focuses on Herc's DJing technique, but references the flier a few times. vi Apart from the fact that Cindy would know and that it's hard to see why she wouldn't be telling the truth here, I mean.

vii To be precise: one handwritten invitation for a Herc party on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue on February 23rd, 1974, and two for a Herc party at 130 Featherbed Lane on February 22nd, 1975. In addition there's a handwritten invitation for a party titled "Love Jones" on December 8th, 1972 at 1646 University Ave Basement, which apparently did not include Herc. It states that it was "giving by = MARC, POP, RONALD, COCO." 1974:; 1972 and 1975:


ix In addition, see the discussion of the announced guests "Klark K." and "Timmy T" later in this article for further doubts.

x If anyone knows of other, particularly earlier, mentions of the flier, please get in touch and let me know.

xi Jeff Chang: Can't Stop Won't Stop, p. 67-68.

xii Private email of December 15th, 2022.


xiv Season 6, Episode 11 (February 23rd, 2009). I've not been able to view the original program, but am working from the transcript provided by PBS; (ED NOTE: this appears to be no longer available online)

xv Mark Katz: Groove Music, p. 17.

xvi Mark Katz: Groove Music, p. 19, Figure 1.2.

xvii Joseph C. Ewoodzie Jr.: Break Beats in the Bronx, p. 18.

xviii Joseph C. Ewoodzie Jr.: Break Beats in the Bronx, p. 18, Figure 1.1. It is not specified where the picture came from.

xix See also n. xxxv below for a telling comment from MC Debbie D.

xx While the handwriting on the 1973 recreation, on one hand, and the fliers from 1974 and 1975, on the other, does not look similar to me (I'm no expert), the style used for Kool Herc's name on the recreation (with the two o's as eyes), cannot be by chance. This was made by someone familiar with the style of Herc's early fliers, as we can see it in both 1974 and 1975. This does narrow the "who" down, but by how much? I guess the prime suspect would be Cindy herself, but in December of 2022, MC Debbie D reported that Cindy had told her in 2016 that she didn't make it, and that she doesn't know who did. MC Debbie D: "Hip Hop's 1st Flyer, A Replica Not Original!"

xxi J. Vognsen: "Kool Herc - When did he make hip hop history and first perform his Merry-Go-Round?"

xxii Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton: The Records Players, p. 168. See also Alex Ogg & David Upshal: The Hip Hop Years, p. 14 and Jim Fricke & Charlie Ahearn: , p. 25 for other examples.

xxiii Noel Cymone Walker: "DJ Kool Herc Is Ready to Bring Hip-Hop Back to Its Roots With a Museum in Jamaica"


xxv J. Vognsen: "Kool Herc - When did he make hip hop history and first perform his Merry-Go-Round?". In the article I discuss the birthday issue, as it relates to comments made by Grandmaster Flash about when he first heard of Herc.

xxvi DJ Kool Herc & Cindy Campbell: "The Real Story Behind The Party That Birthed Hip-Hop"

xxvii Kjetil Falkenberg Hansen: "DJs and turntablism", p. 43. It's unclear where Hansen saw the flier he discusses, but the quoted line comes immediately after a discussion of Mark Katz' Groove Music and how Katz' views the importance of the August 11th party, so I'm assuming Hansen has in mind the picture in Katz' book.


xxix Mark Katz: Groove Music, p. 17-18.

xxx In fact, the point that hip hop was in its earliest days a youth culture is overdetermined. There are signs of this everywhere.

xxxi J. Vognsen: "Kool Herc - When did he make hip hop history and first perform his Merry-Go-Round?"

xxxii Michael A. Gonzales: "Coke La Rock"

xxxiii On the Soul Sonic Mr Biggs "Let's Talk Hip Hop" podcast, episode "What is Hip Hop?" (June 7th, 2019) available at Mr. Biggs states, "We watched Clark Kent come in through the door and it wasn't in 1973." (at 00:06:00) Is Biggs correct? As we shall see shortly, Clark Kent has reportedly confirmed this. And there's more: an interview with Coke La Rock by Troy L. Smith in September 2008, includes the following

"Troy- What was the original crew once you and Herc started putting people down?

Coke La Rock- First Herc then me. I have to put my man on Mike Mike who was our record carrier. We started coming up in the world so Mike helped us out. There was another cat name Eldorado Mike who would hang out with us but he wasn't official down with the crew. Then Timmy Tim, God bless him. He passed away. They were trying to call Timmy Tim little Kool Herc! That shows you how much they would follow you that they would call you that guy. Then Herc picked up Clark Kent. We were playing over at the 9 that was how we picked up Clark. Herc said he could play the music and he felt him. By this time we were playing clubs as well as after hour spots. We would play the Hevalo and at 4 o'clock in the morning we would head over to this after hour spot called Top of the Lane, which big Willie money cats."

I read La Rock as saying that Kent joined Herc's crew after the August 11th party, at a time when Herc was already playing a bigger clubs like the Hevalo. If so, the memories of La Rock and Mr. Biggs do seem to match nicely. La Rock's comment is found in Troy L Smith: "Coke La Rock September 2008."

xxiv MC Debbie D informed me that her upcoming book will contain more details about both the flier and the party. Private email of December 3rd, 2022.

xxv MC Debbie D: "Hip Hop's 1st Flyer, A Replica Not Original!" MC Debbie D also takes on the question, naturally arising, of why someone would put Clark Kent and Timmy Tim's names on the reproduction if they hadn't actually been there: "[The creator] might have also added Clark Kent and Timmy Tim's names as 'Special Guests', along with Cindy and Coke's because, although not present at the party, they were Herc's first assistant DJs almost since day one and out of respect, whenever the story is told of the first party, these two DJs, would get some shine too!" The following part of MC Debbie D's blog post is also noteworthy, as it speaks to how widespread the assumption was that the recreation was authentic: "In 2016, I interviewed Cindy in length seeking details about the party. With all she shared, however, I never thought to ask about the picture of the handwritten index card on the internet, that advertised the party. I simply assumed, since it was Cindy's party, she wrote the card."


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