Afrika Bambaataa- A True Pioneer of Hip-Hop



Afrika Bambaataa, the name said out loud immediately jogs your memory, or it should at least, and you say PLANET ROCK, right? Planet Rock was such a great hit, his only hit, which is unfortunate, hey that rhymed, but yes, his only hit. Planet Rock came out in 1982, seems like eons ago to those born after the 2000’s, but that song will still rock out any dance party, skating rink, or boom box, if you still have those.

Bambaataa was a popular DJ in the South Bronx  who many called, “Master of Records.” He formed two rap crews: The Jazzy 5 with MCs Ice, Mr. Freeze, Master D.E.E., and AJ Les, and Soulsonic Force Mr. Biggs, Pow Wow, and Emcee G.L.O.B.E. His song, Planet Rock, is known to be one of the most influential early Hip-Hop songs and also started the inspiration for electronic sounds and rhythms in music.

While most folks have a perception of rap music as being related to drugs, sex, gangs, and violence, Afrika Bambaataa was totally against that and didn’t want that to be known as the culture of real Hip-Hop. In fact, he tried his best to get the young kids away from that kind of life and was viewed as a peace leader or spiritual advisor to so many. Gary Jardim wrote in the Village Voice in 1984.“Stopping bullets with two turntables isn’t about sociology, it’s about finding the spirit in the music and learning how to flash it.”

Yeah ok, so he started off as a gang leader, but he left that life in 1975 when he saw his best friend get killed, (we won’t get into details how). So instead of digging for weapons and amo, he was digging in the crates for music and inspiration. He can thank his mom for the early music loving bug and also for believing in him enough to get him the equipment he needed so that he could really flourish as a DJ. Go mom!

Bambaataa was among the most prominent of the new DJs, sharing the spotlight with Kool Herc, Kool Dee, and Grandmaster Flash. When the Source interviewed Flash, Herc, and Bambaataa for a hip-hop retrospective in 1993, the writer designated these three as “the founding fathers of hip-hop music,” and continued, “as DJs in the ’70s, these three brothers were the nucleus of hip-hop—finding the records, defining the trends, and rocking massive crowds at outdoor and indoor jams in parts of the Bronx and Harlem.”- That’s a quote from here.

So, for all you youngens out there listening to “Hip-Hop” on the radio these days, I suggest you “dig in the crates” to see and hear for yourself how the music just evolved, how rhythmic it was, how the lyrics were actual words you could understand, and how it just took you to another place. (YAWWWNN), I think it’s time for me to get up and get some Planet Rock on so I can inspire myself to go walk my dog. – Jilli