A Bronx DJ during the 1970s, Afrika Bambaataa (born Lance Taylor) and Member Bronx River Projects branch of New York City street gang Black Spades, 1969-75, became a lieutenant; acted as leader of the Zulu Nation. Bambaataa used his reputation as a DJ to form a largely nonviolent “gang,” eventually known as Zulu Nation. Bambaataa started the Zulus as a social group at Stevenson High School before he graduated in 1975.
As the Zulu Nation flourished, so did Bambaataa’s reputation on the streets and at parties. Bambaataa’s fame as a DJ was shaped by his ability to mix records, all the while keeping a beat that compelled the crowd to dance.
“Bambaataa opened his show with the theme song from the Andy Griffith show, taped off his television set. He mixed the ditty with a rocking drum beat, followed it with the Munster’s theme song and quickly changed gears with ‘I Got the Feeling,’ by James Brown.”
In 1973 he gave his first official performance as DJ, Bronx River Community Center, in 1976, he recorded two cuts, “Jazzy Sensation” and “Planet Rock” with Tommy Boy Records, in 1982 he released his first album, Shango Funk Theology, Tommy Boy. The 1982 hip-hop classic that blended the beats of hip-hop with techno-pop futurism inspired by German group, Kraftwerk. Afrika Bambaataa began branching out in 1984, recording “Unity” with help James Brown and “World Destruction” with John Lydon. In the mid-1980’s Bambaata told an interviewer from Melody Maker. “I feel that there’s a plot to destroy hip hop coming from the record companies and government,” he explained, “telling the youth to make
crazy records about drugs and disrespecting women and be a clown, be a fool.” Almost ten years later, when rap had become the most powerful force in the black music industry, Bambaataa saw his previous words coming to life in the lyrics of some up and coming rappers. “Today it gets sickening with the disrespecting of self, to me a lot of brothers and sisters lost knowledge of self. They’re losing respect of the ‘us syndrome’ and getting into the ‘I syndrome.’ You can’t build a nation with an ‘I.’”
Bambaataa believes the problem with hip-hop music is stemming primarily from a racist industry within which black artists have to work, explaining that the “white industry owns [hip-hop] now because they control all the record companies. And all our people that make money worry about Benz’s and big houses and fly girls instead of being Black entrepreneurs. You need to take the business back.”
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