From Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop:
In gay and Black clubs at the time [of the early Seventies], DJs were pushing the emerging four-on-the-floor disco beat. But the Plaza Tunnel DJs had a rawer sound. [DJ] John Brown “was the first to play records like ‘Give It Up or Turn it Loose’ by James Brown and ‘Get Ready’ by Rare Earth,” pioneering hip-hop journalist Steve Hager wrote…
The dance styles began as elaborations of moves people had seen James Brown doing on TV. Zulu Nation DJ Jazzy Jay, who began as a b-boy says, “You could be dancing with your girl and spin away from her, hit the ground, come back up. It was all about ‘smooth.’ Like how James used to slide across the floor and the fancy footwork and all of that…”
James Brown’s career had peaked in the late 1960s with the Black Power Movement. He performed “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” without apology on national television, and his mere presence in town, it was said, prevented riots in racially tense Boston in the immediate aftermath of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.
But during the early 1970s, attitudes changed. Across the country, Black mayors took over in cities that had once burned, class gaps widened and Black radio shifted to the tastes of upwardly mobile listeners. Coleman Young became mayor of Motown, while Berry Gordy departed for Hollywood. James Brown’s career went into steep decline.
Bronx-born hip-hop historian Davey D recalls, “If you listened to the Black radio station at the time, WBLS — Black-owned, Black-run, the station that everyone listened to — you did not hear James Brown. Not even at nighttime. So while James Brown was being tossed out, we were embracing him.” His music, dance and style now possessed outlaw appeal.