Two empty cereal boxes were the turntables. For the records, he cut circles out of cardboard. The needle, a plastic spoon. He would sing to himself, "mixing" the tracks.
Leader grew up in an 18-story apartment building in the Bronx, New York City, during the 1970s and 1980s, with his parents and eight siblings. The address was 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. It's a tall, unremarkable high-rise overlooking an expressway.
But he says the building, and his unit, were always filled with music.
"I wouldn't pick another place in the world to have a childhood life. It was beautiful," says Leader, who is now 56. "My whole life revolved around music."
It was also home to an innovative young DJ who Jerry Leader often saw in performance. That DJ rocked a modest party for fellow teenagers on Aug. 11, 1973 in a small community room on the first floor; he was 18 at the time.
That event is now commonly celebrated as the birth of hip-hop.
Photographed for NPR, with words by Kat Lonsdorf, Juana Summers, Patrick Jarenwattananon50 years ago, teenagers partied in the Bronx — and gave rise to hip-hop
In August 1973, an 18-year-old DJ Kool Herc played his sister's back-to-school fundraiser in the rec room of their apartment building. But he and his friends sparked something much bigger.