Originally posted March 9, 2006

This man needs no introduction but for those who don't know who he is you need read and learn everything written below. This man has changed the world and is truly a living legend. The godfather himself...





Afrika Bambaataa (Afrika Bambaataa's birthname has been mistakenly listed as Kevin Donovan; however, Kevin Donovan was actually another man and leader of the Harlem Underground Band.)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.

Through his co-opting of the street gang the Black Spades into the music and culture-oriented Zulu Nation, he is responsible for spreading rap and hip-hop culture throughout the world. He has consistently made records nationally and internationally, every one to two years, spanning the 1980's into the next Millennium 2000.

Due to his early use of drum machines and computer sounds, Bam (as he is affectionately known) was instrumental in changing the way R&B and other forms of Black music were recorded. His creation of Electro Funk, beginning with his piece "Planet Rock," helped fuel the development of other musical genres such as Freestyle or Latin Freestyle, Miami Bass,Electronica, House, Hip House, and early Techno.

Bam is responsible for initiating many careers in the music industry, and his early association with Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy Records helped propel the label to its success. Bam was instrumental in launching the R&B group New Edition, Maurice Starr and the Jonzun Crew, Tashan, and Bernard Fowler of the Peech Boys, to name a few. Bam is also recognized as a Humanitarian and a man of peace, who has applied elements of Afrocentric, spiritual, and health-conscious teachings to his philosophy. He is also a historian on Hip-Hop roots, who traces the culture back to the times of the African Griots.

At a time when DJs-Hip Hop or otherwise-were recognized for the distinctive records they played, Bam was called the "Master of Records," and was acclaimed for the wide variety of music and break records he presented to the Hip-Hop crowd, which included Go-Go, Soca, Salsa Reggae, Rock, Jazz,Funk and African music. He is responsible for premiering the following records and songs to Hip Hoppers, which are now staples in rap and Hip-Hop culture: "Jam on the Groove" and "Calypso Breakdown" by Ralph McDonald; "Dance to the Drummer's Beat" by Herman Kelly; "Champ" by the Mohawks; themes from The Andy Griffith Show and The Pink Panther, and "Trans-Europe Express," by Kraftwerk and hundreds of others .

Bam joined the Bronx River Projects division of the Black Spades street gang in the southeast Bronx in Act, where he soon became warlord. Always a music enthusiast (taking up trumpet and piano for a short time at Adlai E. Stevenson High School), Bam was also a serious record collector, who collected everything from R&B to Rock. By 1970 he was already deejaying at house parties. Bam became even more interested in deejaying around 1973, when he heard Bronx DJs Kool DJ Dee and Kool DJ Herc. Kool DJ Dee had one of the first coffins (a rectangular case that contains two turntables and a mixer) in the Bronx area circa 1972. West Bronx DJ Kool DJ Herc was playing funk records by James Brown, and later just playing the instrumental breaks of those records. noticing that he had many of the same records Herc was playing, Bam began to play them, but expanded his repertoire to include other types of music as well.

As the Black Spades gang began to die out toward 1973, Bam began forming a Performing group at Stevenson High School, first calling it the Bronx River organization, then Later the Organization. Bam 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, Bam already had an established party crowd drawn from former members of the gang.

About a year later he reformed a 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 Bam 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.

By 1976, because of the proliferation of DJs, many sound system battles would occur to determine which DJ had the best music and sound. Although the amount of people gathered around a DJ was supposed to be the deciding factor, the best DJ was mostly determined by whose system was the loudest.Held in parks and community centers, DJs would set up their gear on opposite sides, playing their records at the same time at maximum volume. However, Bam decided that all challenges to him would follow an hour-by-hour rule, where he would play for an hour, and the opposing DJ would play for an hour.

Bam's first official battle was against Disco King Mario at Junior High School 123 (a.k.a. the Funky 3). A few other important battles Bam had later on were against Grandmaster Caz (known as Casanova Fly at that time and who later was one of the Cold Crush Brothers) at the P.A.L. (Police Athletic League) circa 1978, and a team battle against Grandmaster Flash and an army of sound systems, with Bam teaming systems with Disco King Mario and Tex DJ Hollywood. Bam formed additional systems for battling as well, It like the Earthquake Systems with DJ Superman and DJ Jazzy Jay. There were also many MC battles, where rappers from Bam's Zulu Nation would go against other outside rappers. Later, Bam also jointly promoted Shows with Kool Herc under the name Nubian Productions.

Many cassette tapes were made of Bam's parties and MC battles, which were sometimes sold for $20 to $40 apiece. During long music segments when Bam was deejaying, he would sometimes mix in recorded speeches from Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and, later, Louis Farrakhan.

Influenced by Jame Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, George Clinton, and the many separate-but-same Groups that he created, Bam formed the Soul Sonic Force, which in its original makeup consisted of approximately twenty Zulu Nation members. The personnel for the Soul Sonic Force were groups within groups that Bam would perform and make records with, including: Soul Sonic Force (1)-Mr. Biggs, Queen Kenya, DJ Cowboy Soul Sonic Force (..2)-Mr. Biggs, Pow Wow, G.L.O.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), Charlie Chew, Master Bee; Busy Bee Starski, Akbar (Lil, Starski), Raheim.

Around ~1980, Bam and his groups made their first recordings with Paul Winley Records, who recorded Bam's "Death Mix" piece. Winley also released Cosmic Forcers "ZULU Nation Throwdown," after which Bam (disappointed with the results) left the company.

Bam's parties had now spread to places like the Audubon Ballroom and the T-Connection. In the early 1980s, news about Bam and other DJs', parties-and the type of music Bam played-started traveling to the downtown sections of Manhattan. Tom Silverman visited Bam at one of his parties and did an article on him and the Zulu Nation for his own Dance Music Report magazine. The two became friends, and Silverman later recorded Bam and his Soul Sonic Force with a group of female singers called Cotton Candy. The first song Silverman recorded around 1981 with both groups (without Bam's name listed) was a work titled "Let's Vote," after which a second song was recorded and released, titled "Having Fun."

Thereafter, Silverman met producer Arthur Baker, and together with then-KISS-FM radio mastermix DJ Shep Pettibone, Silverman recorded Bam and the Jazzy Fives "Jazzy Sensation" on Silverman's own Tommy Boy Records label. The record had three mixes, one with Bam and the Jazzy Five, and the other with a group called the Kryptic Krew. The third mix was an instrumental. The record was a hit with Hip Hoppers.

Around 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.was the first time Bam had performed before a predominantly white crowd, making it the first time Hip Hop 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.

In 1982 Bam had an idea for a record revolving around Kraftwerk's piece "Trans-Europe Express." Bam brought the idea to Silverman and both tried working on it in Silverman's apartment. Bam soon met John Robie, who brought Bam a techno-pop oriented record titled "Vena Carva" that he was trying to release. Bam then introduced Robie to Arthur Baker, and the three of them, along with Silverman and the Soul Sonic Force (..2), worked on the "Trans-Europe Express" idea, resulting in the piece "Planet Rock"-one of the most influential records in music. Bam called the sound of the record "Electro Funk,, or the "Electro-Sound," and he cited James Brown, Parliament, and Sly and the Family Stone as the building blocks of its composition. By September of that year "Planet Rock" went gold, and it continued to sell internationally throughout the 1980s into the next millennium 2000 and still sells today with the many remixes. Planet Rock is the most sample record ever in Hip Hop.

In the autumn of 1982 Bam and other members of the Zulu Nation (which included Grand mixer D.ST, Fab 5 Freddy, Phase 2, Mr. Freeze, Dondi, Futura 2000, and Crazy Legs, to name a few) made one of their first of many trips to Europe. Visiting Le Batclan theater in Paris, Bam and the other Hip Hoppers made a considerable impression on the young people there, something that would continue throughout his travels as he began to spread Hip-Hop culture told around the world.

Bam's second release around 1983 was "Looking for the Perfect Beat," then later, "Renegades of Funk," both with the same Soul Sonic Force. Bam 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 did "Wildstyle" with Time Zone, and in 1984 he did a duet with punk-rocker John Lydon and Time Zone, titled "World Destruction" which was the first time ever that Hip Hop was mix with Rock predating RunDmc's duet with Areosmith "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. Bam 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 Bam and other music stars worked on the anti-apartheid album Sun City with Little Steven Van Zandt, Run-D.M.C., and Lou Reed and numerous others. During 1988 Bam recorded another landmark piece as Afrika Bambaatea and Family. The work featured Nona Hendryx, UB40, Boy George, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Yellowman, and it was titled The Light. 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).

Around this same period, Greenstreet Records, John Baker, and Bam 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.

In 1991 Bam received some notice for his remix work on the group EMF's goldsingle "Unbelievable." He also did an album for the Italian label DFC (Dance Floor Corporation), titled 1990-2000:The Decade of Darkness.

By 1992 Bam had his own Planet Rock Records label, releasing Time Zone's Thy Will "By" Funk LP. In 1993 Bam's Time Zone recorded the single "What's The Name of this Nation? . . . Zulu!" for Profile Records. Toward 1994 Bam regrouped his Soul Sonic Force for the album "Lost Generations". In that same year he began deejaying on radio station Hot 97 FM in new York City on Fridays, hosting the show Old School at noon which Bam changed the shows name to True School at noon. Bam has release other records throughout the world from many different countries as well as always stayed on top of his deejaying throughout the world from the 90's, straight through the next millennium 2000. He is truly one of the hardest working man in Hip Hop.


It's been three decades since Afrika Bambaataa started the hip hop nation - and he's still rockin' the planet

Afrika Bambaataa has seen hip hop evolve from a trial-by-fire experiment in New York City to a billion-dollar industry supported by fans around the globe. This year marks the genre's 30th anniversary, and the DJ who helped start it all is as busy as ever. His new album, Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light, is being called the best of his career. His Zulu Nation education group recently held a three-day music summit at Unesco headquarters in Paris. Back home, state legislators are considering granting historical monument status to the Bronx River Houses where Bambaataa grew up and threw his first block parties. Wired caught up with the legend for a chat about hip hop's old and new schools.

Take us back to hip hop's early days.
Bambaataa: It was founded in the Bronx by DJs - Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and me. Up until 1974, you had MCs, DJs, graffiti artists, and dancers all doing their thing, but the various components hadn't been brought together under a single banner. Hip hop began when we combined those elements into one cultural expression and gave it a name.

You didn't have a lot of fancy gear back then. How did the low tech aesthetic shape the music?
Bambaataa: It was about taking what we had and adding a twist. We may have had only two turntables and a mixer, but we used them to invent scratches and make crazy sounds. We had to be spontaneous.

Could you speak about the Zulu Nation, what it is, and how did it come about?
Bambaataa: Well, It came about in the year of 1973 in the area of the Bronx in a high school called Adlai E. Stevenson High School…Universal Zulu Nation is a large body of young adults and youth who stand on the principles of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, freedom, justice and equality, peace, unity, love and having fun, overcoming the negative to the positive, science, fact, mathematics, and the oneness of God. And we also stand on the teachings of what Dr. Malachi Z. York has given us with the right knowledge, right wisdom, right overstanding, and sound, right reasoning.

And, can you explain how it works? Are there chapters, where is it located, how big are you guys?

Bambaataa: Well, the main base was in New York City, but now we have chapters throughout the world in many different countries and it is made up of people of many different racial backgrounds and nationalities and religions from all over Europe and Africa and across the USA and some off of key islands.

Has the easy access to music-making software like ProTools killed hip hop's spontaneity?
Bambaataa: No. Ultimately, hip hop's about expressing how you feel through music. It's not about what methods you use to make it. On my new album, I recorded some tracks in a studio with an engineer and all the standard equipment, while some other songs were done on a laptop.

On Dark Matter, you've got everything from drum-and-bass to a collaboration with new wave legend Gary Numan. Why so eclectic?
Bambaataa: I'm trying to get people to understand that hip hop is much bigger than just rap music. It also includes Miami bass, turntablism, electronica, and lots more. Hip hop comes in many forms, but when you think of it, you probably just think of the rap stuff they play on the radio.

What music have you been listening to lately?
Bambaataa: The best stuff I've heard recently has been from other countries. There's great hip hop coming out of Japan from artists like Mimi and DJ Yutaka.

I bet 30 years ago, you never imagined you'd be listening to Japanese people rap.
Bambaataa: [Laughs.] It just goes to show you how great ideas can take hold on a global scale.

All of the performers within the different elements of Hip Hop have a particular style. Like deejays will have their own individual style, and the same with graf writers and breakers. Is there something that you would use to define your style of deejaying?
Bambaataa: My style of deejaying is just deejaying. I usually play just to make people dance. Years ago you had to do tricks, but I leave that for all the new blood out there, going crazy, cutting crazy stuff. My thing is bringing you all the funky music that most other deejays wouldn't even play and to see the crowd go off on different fields of music that other people said they wouldn't dance to. So, that's my thing… just bringing that funk of all the different music together on the dance floor and see everybody shake they ass.

You spoke earlier about what people's perception of what Hip Hop is and the different fields of music. Can you explain how you feel when people hear something like house and they think it's not Hip Hop? Can you speak about that?
Bambaataa: Well, there's certain house records if you put the rap on it, it becomes hip house, and that's part of another branch of the Hip Hop culture. You have the roots, which is the deejay and the break beats, and then the rappers. But now, corporations has made it where when you say "Hip Hop," you automatically go straight to the rap records. And that's not Hip Hop, you know?
Rap is part of Hip Hop, Hip Hop is not part of rap. People have to understand that. We put the term on it, the music "Hip Hop," but now when you say "Hip Hop," people just think "Oh, you're talking about a rap record." And they're forgetting about the b-boys, the b-girls, graffiti artists, the emcees, and also the knowledge part of Hip Hop. And they don't understand that it has progressed on to other fields of music.
Hip house, trip hop, jungle, drum 'n' bass, R&B Hip Hop, raga Hip Hop, you know? It's all other fields of music with the rap and the Hip Hop now, so if you want to deal with Hip Hop, you have to recognize it all. The go-go, the Miami bass, the electro-funk, the Latin freestyle; all this is part of the Hip Hop culture.

As far as Hip Hop and where it is today, what do you like that you see and what do you think are the changes that should be made?
Bambaataa: Well, I love that many people are making some money and I hope that many are trying to find ways to keep a hold of their money and use it wisely. I love that many people have came from out the ghetto and now they got mansions and nice cars and can move around the world and can perform before all different types and races. That's the beautiful part of it that the Creator has blessed them with.
But if they act a fool and be so negative and be disagreeable, then I see that they are going to do harm to theyselves and to the community of Hip Hop to the point that it will go back underground or it will be pushed on itsside somewhere down the line in the future if they don't organize and try to keep a structure happening within the Hip Hop community worldwide.

Source: Universal Zulu Nation ,Wired and UZN Holland

Next Week:

ON THE ONE'S AND TWO'S..DJ Roundtable With Kool Herc,BAM,Grandwizard Theodore,Charlie Chase,Tony Tone,DJ LA Spank, Jazzy Jay, Grandmixer DST & Kev E Kev

The Dynamic Hamza 21®

Hip Hop since 1982.

No comments: