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Coke La Rock (aka Coka La Rock) is an old school New York City rapper who is often credited as being the first MC in the history of hip-hop.

Kool Herc and La Rock

La Rock was a friend and musical partner of DJ Kool Herc, who himself is generally considered to have originated hip-hop music circa 1973. Like Kool Herc, La Rock lived in the Bronxmarker by that time but had previously emigrated from Jamaica. La Rock was an early presence at the legendary parties thrown by Herc in the South Bronx, the first to "rap" along to Herc's DJ set, and ultimately an original member of Herc's MC crew the Herculoids. According to Kool Herc, La Rock's MC name had various iterations, beginning as "A-1 Coke" and then moving on to "Nasty Coke" before it was finalized as "Coke La Rock" (sometimes pronounced Coka La Rock).

Hip-hop journalist Jeff Chang explains that, at their parties, Herc and La Rock "set off their dances by giving shout-outs and dropping little rhymes. They developed their own slang. At an after-hours spot Herc spun at, a drunken regular greeted his friends with the call: 'To my mellow! My mellow is in the house!' With lines like these, the two created larger-than-life personas."

La Rock's raps at these early parties were "purely improvisational," unlike those of later 70s-era rap groups—such as the Furious Five or Cold Crush Brothers—who wrote down and also rehearsed their rhymes. According to La Rock, while rapping "at first I would just call out [my friends'] names. Then I pretended dudes had double-parked cars; that was to impress the girls. Truthfully, I wasn’t there to rap, I was just playing around."

Nonetheless, La Rock's raps (which were very much in the Jamaican tradition of "toasting") would, as with much else at Kool Herc's parties in the mid-1970s, serve as a basic model for other hip-hop artists that would come onto the Bronx music scene by the end of the decade. La Rock himself has argued, in a reference to two pioneering New York City narcotics dealers, that "me and Herc were to hip-hop what Nicky Barnes and Frank Lucas were to drugs."

Decline in popularity and later years

As other nascent hip-hop groups patterned themselves after Herc and La Rock and improved on their formula, the popularity of Herc and the Herculoids began to wane as early as 1977. Gary Harris, an employee of the first hip-hop record label, Sugar Hill, noted that "people respected Herc and Coke, but by the early eighties those guys were like specters—they just weren’t visible on the scene anymore." In contrast to other early Bronx hip-hop artists like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, Coke La Rock—like his partner Kool Herc—never achieved any recording success (indeed he did not record at all). However late 2008 saw the release of what was deemed the first ever recording featuring La Rock—a song titled "Hello - Merry Christmas Baby!" which was released by Sedgwick & Cedar as part of a special holiday compilation to pay homage to the birthplace of hip-hop.

La Rock's place in hip-hop history was arguably immortalized in the legendary 1986 Boogie Down Productions song "South Bronx" (the opening salvo of the so-called "Bridge Wars") wherein KRS-One raps:

Now way back in the days when hip-hop began

With Coka La Rock, Kool Herc, and then Bam

Coke La Rock had no association with, nor relation to, KRS-One's DJ at the time, Scott La Rock. Nor did Coke La Rock and another influential old-school MC, T La Rock, know one another in the early days of hip-hop, and thus the name similarity is coincidental.


  1. Chang, 83-84.

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