Afrika Bambaataa - History - Recognition

Recognition

In 1982, hip hop artist Fab Five Freddy was putting together music packages in the largely white downtown Manhattan New Wave clubs, and invited Bambaataa to perform at one of them, the Mudd Club. It was the first time Bam had performed before a predominantly white crowd. Attendance for Bambaataa'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", then to the Peppermint Lounge, The Jefferson, Negril, Danceteria and the Roxy. "Planet Rock", a popular single produced by Arthur Baker and the keyboardist John Robie, came out that June under the name Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force. The song borrowed musical motifs from German electronic music, funk, and rock. Different elements and musical styles were used together. The song became an immediate hit and stormed the music charts worldwide. 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 Babe Ruth and Captain Sky, thus creating a new style of music altogether, electro funk.

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.

Bambaataa'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 recorded a collaboration with punk-rocker John Lydon and Time Zone in 1984, titled "World Destruction". Shango's album, "Shango Funk Theology", was released by the label in 1984. That same year, Bambaataa and other hip hop celebrities appeared in the movie Beat Street. He also made a landmark recording with James Brown, titled "Unity". It was 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, Joey Ramone, Run-D.M.C., Lou Reed, U2, and others. During 1988, he recorded another landmark piece, "Afrika Bambaataa and Family", for Capitol Records, titled The Light, featuring Nona Hendryx, UB40, Boy George, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Yellowman. Bambaataa had recorded a few other works with Family three years earlier, one titled "Funk You" in 1985, and the other titled "Beware (The Funk Is Everywhere)" in 1986. In 1986 Bambaataa also discovered an artist in Atlanta Ga. (Through MC SHY D) by the name of Kenya Miler a.k.a. MC Harmony (Known producer now as Kenya Fame Flames Miller), that was later signed to Criminal Records and Arthur Baker. The group was Harmony and LG. The first single "Dance To The Drums/No Joke was produced by Bambaataa and Baker with musicians Keith LeBlanc, and Doug Wimbush 1987. Bambaataa was involved in the Stop the Violence Movement, and with other hip hop artists recorded a 12" single titled "Self Destruction", which hit number one on the Hot Rap Singles Chart in March 1989. The single went gold and raised $400,000 for the National Urban League to be used for community anti-violence education programs.

In 1990, Bambaataa 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)".

Gee Street Records, John Baker and Bambaataa organized a concert at Wembley Stadium in London in 1990 for the African National Congress (ANC), 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 ANC to hip hop audiences. In relation to the event, the recording Ndodemnyama (Free South Africa) helped raise approximately $30,000 for the ANC. Bambaataa also helped to raise funds for the organization in Italy.

From the mid-1990s, Bambaataa 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 1998, he produced a remix of "Planet Rock" combining electro and house music elements, called "Planet Rock '98," which is regarded as an early example of the electro house genre. In 2000, Rage Against the Machine covered Afrika's song "Renegades of Funk" for their album, Renegades. The same year, 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 performed the lyrics on the track "Is There Anybody Out There" by The Bassheads (Desa Basshead). As an actor, he has played a variety of voice-over character roles on Kung Faux.

Bambaataa was a judge for the 6th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers. 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 22, 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, Kentucky.

On August 14th, 2012 Afrika Bambaataa was given a three year appointment as a visiting scholar at Cornell University. The appointment was made in collaboration between Cornell University Library’s Hip Hop Collection, the largest collection of historical hip hop music in North America, and the University's department of Music.

Read more about this topic:  Afrika Bambaataa, History

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