D.J. Kool Herc, the turntable magician known as the Father of Hip-Hop, needs help conjuring up some money to cover bills.
Although the blogosphere lighted up over the weekend with alarming but vague reports that he was facing “a very serious illness” and “broke,” he is actually at home and grappling with the aftermath of surgery for kidney stones.
His lack of medical insurance, however, is quite real, despite his status as a living legend who helped create a cultural form that became a global – and lucrative – force.
Herc, born Clive Campbell, is the latest hip-hop pioneer for whom an otherwise routine medical issue morphed into a financial crisis for lack of insurance.
“This is just a disgrace that Kool Herc has to negotiate over the details of his health care,” said Bill Adler, a former executive with Def Jam Records and a historian of the genre. “People who are not performers think that the musicians they love have a big house, lots of cars and more money than they’ll ever know. The reality is that the majority of people who choose a life in the arts make a tough economic choice. They’re almost choosing voluntary poverty.”
Herc’s sister, Cindy Campbell, said that her brother sought treatment at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx in October for kidney stones. As part of the procedure, a stent was temporarily inserted to alleviate the pressure. She said that Herc had to reschedule several appointments to remove the stent due to bad weather and not feeling well. She said the last time he spoke with the hospital, a little over a week ago, he was told that he needed to place a deposit.
“He told me he asked them to give him a figure,” she said. “But nobody has given him any solid information.”
Steven Clark, a spokesman for the hospital, said that privacy rules prevented him from commenting on the specific case. He said that, in general, the hospital would not refuse an uninsured patient in the emergency room, and that follow-up procedures would also be performed.
“But if a patient doesn’t show up, or repeatedly misses appointments, that changes the game,” he said. “They can’t dictate their care.”
A medical professional who often works with uninsured patients at St. Barnabas and other Bronx hospitals said that in those cases, the hospital might ask for a deposit and set up a reduced-fee schedule to ensure that the patient showed up for treatment.
Fans, promoters and D.J.’s have rallied to Herc’s side, vowing to raise funds to help him pay his bills. In the meantime, Ms. Campbell said, her brother was at home and taking painkillers to alleviate the discomfort.
The larger issue, she said, was how Herc’s generation of graying rappers and D.J.’s would cope with the medical issues bound to come their way. Just as she and her brother rallied to save the Bronx building where her brother’s famed parties gave birth to hip-hop, she saw this latest trial as a way of being of service to the larger community.
“There isn’t any type of medical program for these artists,” she said. “Maybe it takes a visible person like Herc for people to pay attention. Maybe we can help set something up. My brother and I were trailblazers. We tried to save the building. Now we’re going to advocate for plenty of other artists and have a program to assist them.”