At this point, air horns are inextricable from hip-hop music. They are woven into the fabric of hip-hop radio shows and even exist within the songs themselves. That familiar blaring such an integral part of the sound of rap that most people would never think to question where it came from. But the folks over at Great Big Story did and they traced it back to one man: DJ Cipha Sounds.
The Hot 97 DJ liberally sprinkled the blast of sound all over his afternoon radio shows both as a way to distinguish himself from other DJs and connect the music back to its roots in Jamaican dancehall.
After explaining how DJ Kool Herc helped birth hip-hop by bringing the Jamaican dancehall culture — and its air horn sounds — to New York City, Cipha explained why he added the sound to his sets.
“I got my own show on Hot 97 and I wanted to sound different from all the other DJs,” he said.
Cipha had no idea how popular the sound would become.
“I didn’t know it was gonna be a big deal, I was just trying to make something that sounded cool,” he said. “It’s like when artists talk about ‘Oh, we made like a song in 20 minutes’ and they didn’t know it was going to be the biggest hit of their career.”
He’s also quick to distance himself from taking full credit for air horns in hip-hop.
“I didn’t invent the air horn sound,” he said. “I didn’t invent the usage of it in a party. Me being on the radio, I just became the guy known for it.”
Check out the whole interview up top.