Sunday, February 17, 2008
THE SOUND OF BAMBAATAA
Myself [ Degree ], All Out DJ's and Agent Orange will be throwing down alongside one xof the OG's of Hip Hop and Electro this Monday. Read up on him below however if your reading this blog you should know most of this already.
Afrika Bambaataa (born Kevin Donovan) is a DJ and community leader from the South Bronx, who was instrumental in the early development of hip hop throughout the 1970s. Like many of the early pioneers in Hip-Hop, he is of West Indian (Caribbean) descent. On September 27, 2007, he was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bambaataa was a founding member of the Bronx River Projects-area street gang, The Savage Seven. Due to the explosive growth of the gang, it later became known as the Black Spades, and he rose to the position of Division Leader. After a life-changing visit to Africa, he changed his name to Afrika Bambaataa Aasim. Bambaataa was influenced by the courage and strategic brilliance of Shaka Zulu seen in the movie and TV series "Shaka Zulu".
Birth of the Zulu Nation
Bambaataa decided to use his leadership to turn those involved in the gang life into something more positive to the community. This began the development of which later became known as the Universal Zulu Nation, a group of socially & politically aware rappers, B-boys, graffiti artists and other people involved in hip hop culture. By 1977, inspired by DJ Kool Herc and after Disco King Mario loaned him his first equipment, Bambaataa began organizing block parties all around the South Bronx. He even faced his mentor, Disco King Mario in a DJ battle. He then began performing at Stevenson High School and formed the Bronx River organization, then later simply "The Organization". Bambaataa had deejayed with his own sound system at the Bronx River Community Center, with Mr. Biggs, Queen Kenya, and Cowboy, who accompanied him in performances in the community. Because of his prior status in the Black Spades, he already had an established party crowd drawn from former members of the gang. He became known as one of the best DJs in the Bronx.
About a year later he reformed the group, calling it the Zulu Nation (inspired by his wide studies on African history at the time). Five b-boys (break dancers) joined him who he called the Shaka ZULU Kings, a.k.a. ZULU Kings; there were also the Shaka Zulu Queens. As he continued deejaying, more DJs, rappers, break dancers, graffiti writers, and artists followed his parties, and he took them under his wing and made them members of his Zulu Nation. He was also the founder of the SoulSonic Force, which originally consisted of approximately twenty Zulu Nation members: Mr. Biggs, Queen Kenya, DJ Cowboy SoulSonic Force (#2), Mr. Biggs, Pow Wow, G.L.0.B.E. (creator of the "MC popping" rap style), DJ Jazzy Jay, Cosmic Force, Queen Lisa Lee, Prince Ikey C, Ice Ice (#1), Chubby Chub; Jazzy Five-DJ Jazzy Jay, Mr. Freeze, Master D.E.E., Kool DJ Red Alert, Sundance, Ice Ice (#2), CharlieChew, Master Bee, Busy Bee Starski, Akbar (Lil Starski), and Raheim. The personnel for the Soul Sonic Force were groups within groups with whom he would perform and make records.
In 1980, his groups made their first recording with Paul Winley Records titled, "Death Mix". Winley also recorded Soul Sonic Force's landmark single, "Zulu Nation Throwdown", produced by Disco King Mario. Disappointed with the results of the single, he left the company.
In 1982, hip-hop artist Fab 5 Freddy was putting together music packages in the largely white downtown Manhattan New-Wave clubs, and invited Bam to perform at one of them, called the Mudd Club. It was the first time Bam had performed before a predominantly white crowd, making it one of the first times that hip-hop had fused with White culture. Attendance for Bam's parties downtown became so large that he had to move to larger venues, first to the Ritz, with Malcolm McLaren's group Bow Wow Wow (and where the Rock Steady Crew b-boys became part of the Zulu Nation), then to the Peppermint Lounge, The Jefferson, Negril, Danceteria, and the Roxy. "Planet Rock", a popular single, came out that June under the name Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force. The song melded the main melody from Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" with electronic beats based on their track "Numbers" as well as portions from records by Ennio Morricone and Captain Sky - thus creating a new style of music altogether, electro funk. It influenced many styles of electronic and dance music, e.g. freestyle music, house music and techno music.
Bambaataa organized the very first European hip hop tour. Along with himself were rapper and graffiti artist Rammellzee, Zulu Nation DJ Grand Mixer DXT (formerly Grand Mixer D.St), B-boy and B-girl crews the Rock Steady Crew, and the Double Dutch Girls, as well as legendary graffiti artists Fab 5 Freddy, Phase 2, Futura 2000, and Dondi. Afrika Bambaataa is one of the three main originators of break-beat deejaying, and is respectfully known as the "Grandfather" and "Godfather" of Hip Hop Culture as well as The Father of The Electro Funk Sound.
Bam's second release around 1983 was "Looking for the Perfect Beat," then later, "Renegades of Funk," both with the same SoulSonic Force. He began working with producer Bill Laswell at Jean Karakos's Celluloid Records, where he developed and placed two groups on the label: "Time Zone" and "Shango". He recorded "Wildstyle" with Time Zone, and he performed a duet with punk-rocker John Lydon and Time Zone in 1984, titled "World Destruction", the first time in history that hip-hop was mixed with rock predating Run-D.M.C.'s collaboration with Aerosmith on "Walk This Way". Shango's album Shango Funk Theology was also released by the label in 1984. That same year, Bam and other hip-hop celebrities appeared in the movie Beat Street.He also made a landmark recording with James Brown, titled "Unity." It was admirably billed in music industry circles as "the Godfather of Soul meets the Godfather of Hip Hop."
Around October 1985, Bambaataa and other music stars worked on the anti-apartheid album Sun City with Little Steven Van Zandt, Run-D.M.C., Lou Reed, and numerous others. During 1988, he recorded another landmark piece as "Afrika Bambaataa and Family" on Capitol Records, titled The Light, featuring Nona Hendryx, UB40, Boy George, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Yellowman. Bam had recorded a few other works with Family three years earlier, one titled "Funk you" in 85, and the other titled Beware (The Funk Is Everywhere) in 1986.
In 1990, Bam made Life magazine's "Most Important Americans of the 20th Century" issue. He was also involved in the anti-apartheid work "Hip Hop Artists Against Apartheid" for Warlock Records. He teamed with the Jungle Brothers to record the album Return to Planet Rock (The Second Coming).
Greenstreet Records, John Baker, and Bambaataa organized a concert at Wembley Stadium in London for the A.N.C. (African National Congress), in honor of Nelson Mandela's release from prison. The concert brought together performances by British and American rappers, and also introduced both Nelson and Winnie Mandela and the A.N.C. to hip-hop audiences. In relation to the event, the recording Ndodemnyama (Free South Africa) helped raise approximately $30,000 for the A.N.C. Bam also helped to raise funds for the organization in Italy.
From the mid-1990s, Bam returned to his electro roots, collaborating with WestBam (who was named after him) which culminated in the 2004 album Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light which featured Gary Numan and many others. In 2000, Rage Against the Machine covered Afrika's song "Renegades of Funk" for their album Renegades. In that same year, Afrika Bambaataa collaborated with Leftfield on the song "Afrika Shox", the first single from Leftfield's Rhythm and Stealth. "Afrika Shox" is also popularly known from the soundtrack to Vanilla Sky. In 2006, he was featured on the British singer Jamelia's album Walk With Me on a song called Do Me Right, and on Mekon's album Some Thing Came Up, on the track D-Funktional. Bambaataa has also performed the lyrics on the track "Is There Anybody Out There" by The Bassheads. As an actor, he has played a variety of both hilarious and serious voice-over character roles in the international television series known around the world as Kung Faux  from Dubtitled Entertainment and Tommy Boy Films .
On September 27, 2007, it was announced that Afrika Bambaataa was one of the nine nominees for the 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions.
On December 22nd, 2007, he made a surprise appearance performing at the First Annual Tribute Fit For the King of King Records, Mr. Dynamite James Brown in Covington, KY.
Around the early 1990s, many violent films were produced that glorified California gang life, fueling hype about "Bloods" and "Crips". The Bloods and Crips, two major black street gangs that feud in West Coast ghettos, had now been adopted by New York and other East Coast youth who admired the image seen on screen. A rash of initiation assaults, raids, and gang violence ensued after being denounced in the early stages of hip hop. Suddenly a trend of Bloods and Crips association and attire was seen in rap music, and gangs began to target innocent people and fight with each other. Bambaataa, having seen it lead to increased negativity in the past, began holding peace conferences. He called on all gang leaders from the Latin Kings street gang, Crips, and Bloods and formed a peace treaty in the streets. Bambaataa is credited for preventing huge gang wars and an outbreak of crime while outsiders and politicians credited Rudy Giuliani, the Mayor of New York City at the time.
Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force - Planet Rock