Afrika Bambaataa: Renegade of Funk


Afrika Bambaataa. Photo by Mo Daoud

Afrika Bambaataa. Photo by Mo Daoud


Audio Tabs

:: When Afrika Bambaataa started deejaying in the 1970s in the South Bronx, hip-hop technically didn’t exist. In fact, he was the one who coined the term. Bam, as he’s known, was one of three pioneering musicians, alongside DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash.
But hip-hop was too big to be kept within the Bronx. In 1982, when MTV was barely a year old, Afrika Bambaataa and The Soul Sonic Force exploded onto the scene, rocking their hit song “Planet Rock” in living rooms across the nation. A born innovator, he’s always been seeking new kinds of sound which has led to dynamic crossover collaborations with James Brown and Johnny Rotten. Without Bam’s musical innovation and output, there would be no A Tribe Called Quest, no Beastie Boys, no MC Lyte, and no Jay-Z.  What’s more, Bam is now a visiting scholar at Cornell University, teaching the art form that wasn’t even considered art some 30 years ago.   
In our conversation, Bam cited a wide range of influences from across the cultural spectrum—from Kraftwerk to the Nostradamus documentary The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, narrated by Orson Welles, to the electronic sounds in John Carpenter’s horror classic, Halloween. Tune in to hear Bam explain what drew him to the turntable, and eventually how this interest helped spark an international phenomenon.   
Music Credit: Excerpts of “Planet Rock” from the album, Planet Rock (1982), written by Afrika Bambaataa, Arthur Henry Baker, and John Robie, and performed by Afrika Bambaataa and The Soul Sonic Force, used courtesy of Tommy Boy Records / Warner Music Group.  Used by permission of Downtown Music [41.66%]; o/b/o Arthur Baker and John Robie; Behind the Ropes [37.5%] o/b/o Williams, Miller and Allen, and Bambaataa Music [20.84], (BMI).