All About Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa is a visionary and humanitarian, and his likeminded, Afrocentric, spiritual-health conscious promoters The Zulu Nation promote peace, unity, love, equality, and happiness. Afrika Bambaataa is also a Hip Hop historian, tracing Hip Hop to the ancient African Griots!

Last Updated: 2012-02-13
Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa, born Kevin Donovan on April 10, 1960 in the South Bronx of New York City, New York, revolutionized music forever. His tremendous impact, influence, popularity, and recognition have earned him the respect and fame to be amongst the giants of the music industry. Most notably, in a career of over 30 years, Bambaata revolutionized Hip Hop more than any other person and greatly influenced the electronic/dance worlds and helped substantiate a culture that still affects us today.

During his early years, Bam took a musical interest in its many forms, playing the trumpet and the piano at his high school before he became warlord of one of the most feared gangs of New York-the Black Spades. However, by 1976, he began to be influenced by the

DJ styles of Kool DJ Dee and Kool DJ Herc and expanded his music interests through records of various genres, from rock to R&B, from mainstream to underground.

Switching his life around after seeing what violence was doing to his community, Bam transformed most of The Black Spades into The Bronx River Organization, a performing group. Sometime during the existence of this group, he saw the film Zulu which depicted the battle between British troops and the Zulu tribe, one of the most powerful and sophisticated states in Africa. Deeply inspired, he changed The Bronx River Organization into the Zulu Nation and named himself Afrika Bambaataa (meaning "affectionate leader") Aasim in honor of the 19th century Zulu chief. He then adopted the Zulu Nations' principles of unity and peace and mixed it with the Hip Hop lifestyle. Gangmembers became b-boys, rappers, and graffiti/aerosol writers, and violence was averted through knowledge, unity, and peace. Soon, Bam and his Zulu Nation reached out to their community in a positive light and began to help the youth through various progams. From there, Bam was influential in showing gangsters a life outside of the hood and gave them hope, all the while fostering Hip Hop's growth and teaching his community the Hip Hopway of life.

Afrika Bambaataa had become a famous DJ in the Bronx by 1977, organizing and promoting large block parties and b-boy competitions. With his unique talents and innovative DJ skills, he became HIP HOP'S FOREMOST DJ and eventually gained the title THE BEST DJ IN THE BUSINESS. His record collection consisted an amalgam of music besides Hip Hop-from disco to classical, soca, rock, reggae, funk, go-go, salsa, and jazz, just to name a few which earned him the title MASTER OF RECORDS.

In 1980, the singles "Zulu Nation Throwdown" and "Death Mix" were released under Paul Winley records, the start of Bam's recording career. The following year, he released his first solo single "Jazzy Sensation", which became a moderate but influential hit, and soon the 1982 seminal smash "Planet Rock". After the success of "Planet Rock", Afrika Bambaataa recorded another seminal electro-funk tune (a part of Hip Hop music), "Looking For the Perfect Beat", as well as the hits "Renegades of Funk" and "Frantic Situation". Soon, he began to concentrate more on fusion, collaborating with artists inside and outside his musical circle, the biggest of them being James Brown in "Unity", and recording under/with the names Time Zone and Shango. However, by the late 80s, Afrika Bambaataa seemed to move to the background with moderate hits and seemed to be focused on giving his Zulu Nation collective the chance to shine. In this Zulu Nation collective included important and influential Hip Hop artists such as Queen Latifah, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and The Jungle Brothers, artists many consider "progressive" or "alternative" Hip Hop.

As the 90s and millennium came, Afrika Bambaata still continued making hits and collaborations, deeply impacting music, especially the Hip Hop and electronic worlds. New waves of Hip Hop subgenres such as freestyle, Miami Bass, and electro have sprung up because of him, and it's the decades where Bambaataa is finally beginning to be truly appreciated as he deserves.

Official Names:


Afrika Bambaata in costume

Afrika Bambaata young

Afrika Bambaata old

Afrika Bambaata with ankh

In 1990, Bam made Life Magazine's "Most Important Americans of the 20th Century", a job well done considering one of America's most respected, famous, classic, and seminal magazines

In 1998, Bam is given the Technics DMC DJ Hall of Fame Award in its first year of inductions

In 1999, Bam is awarded the Pioneer Award in the Hip Hop Source Awards and is indicted into the Hip Hop (Rock N Roll) Hall of Fame

In 2000, Bam is given respect and recognition in the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle, Washington

In 2002, Billboard magazine gives the Hip Hop Pioneer Award to Bam

For eternity, Bam will be one of music history's most important, creative, and diverse artists

Firsts and Feats:

Bam took Hip Hop out of the Bronx and Harlem and reached out to blacks and Latinos worldwide, thus helping make the Hip Hop culture multicultural. He willingly and continues to diversify Hip Hop through its form and people and continues to bridge the age gap between old and young together.

With a string of hits every one to two years, spanning from the 1980s to the 2000s, Afrika Bambaataa is one of the most important and consistent artists of music history

Respected by many artists and fans both inside and outside the music worlds for his impacting and long-lasting contributions to the world

He is one of the three main originators of DJing

He is instrumental in the development of the Hip Hop culture and for spreading it throughout the world; he basically laid the blueprint for Hip Hop and became its backbone. Even to this day, he travels around the world to spread Hip Hop and tries to school young people the history and the proper way to view and interpret Hip Hop culture.

Bambaataa was instrumental in changing the way R&B, Hip Hop, and other forms of African American music were recorded, thanks to his artistry and DJing. He influenced countless DJs both in Hip Hop and electronic worlds

His music birthed ELECTRO-FUNK (C-Bank, Planet Patrol, The Jonzun Crew, Egyptian Lover), FREESTYLE (also known as Latin Hip Hop) (Lisa Lisa and The Cult Jam, Shannon, The Cover Girls, Expose, Sweet Sensation, T.K.A., Company B., Nu Shooz, Stevie B.), MIAMI BASS (Afro-Rican, J.J. Fad, L'Trimm, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Tag Team, 69 Boyz), AND EARLY TECHNO (Cybotron-"Clear", "Techno city") (His seminal 1982 track "Planet Rock" is one of the most sampled records in history because of this). His music also influenced House music to a certain extent (Hip House, such as "I'll House You" by The Jungle Brothers, "It Takes Two" by Rob Base and DJ E-Z- Rock, "It's Like That '98" by Jason Nevins vs Run DMC, "Yo Yo Get Funky" by DJ Fast Eddie, "Mo Money Mo Problems" Razor N Guido vs Notorious B.I.G. as well with Trip Hop, Jungle/Drum N Bass, and other forms of electronic music.

He is responsible for popularizing the following records to the Hip Hop world, including "Jam on the Groove" and "Calypso Breakdown" by Ralph McDonald, "Dance to the Drummer's Beat" by Herman Kelly, "Champ" by the Mohawks, and themes from The Andy Griffith Show and The Pink Panther (which created a hot trend in the 80s) as well as Kraftwerk. Hundreds more, all sampled in the hip hop industry.

"Unity", the early 1985 hit from Bam and THE GOFATHER OF SOUL, SOUL BROTHER #1, THE HARDEST WORKING MAN IN SHOW BUSINESS, MR. DYNAMITE James Brown create a seminal record that bridges "the Godfather of Soul with the Godfather of Hip Hop", a landmark recording that makes Bam the first hip hop artist to record with James. Soon, waves of rappers begin sampling heavily from James Brown classics which becomes one of rap's most important features.

Early 1985's "World Destruction" by Afrika Bambaata and ex-Sex Pistol John Lydon (released under the name Time Zone) was the first punk-rock/hip hop hit (predating Run-D.M.C.'s and Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" which was a hit in early 1986).

In October 1982, The Cold Crush Brothers with Grandmaster Caz came out with "Punk Rock Rap" that was basically Hip Hop with rock but didn't really reach the heights as "World Destruction" did.

He helped solidify the Hip Hop style before Run-D.M.C. revolutionized it again with a more street and novel style.

In the autumn of 1982, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster D.St. & The Infinity Rappers, Fab 5 Freddy, The Rock Steady Crew, Dondi, Phase II, Rammellezee, and Futura 2000 were the first rappers to embark on the world's first European Hip Hop tour (Kurtis Blow holds the distinction of being the first rapper to go on a national tour or even have a Hip Hop tour).

Bam, known for his unique tastes, also owned a huge vinyl collection and was a master of Hip Hop beats. He was the first person to run a Malcolm X and Martin Luther King speech over a Hip Hop beat (thus linking African American music to its history and culture as a whole) and was known for his ability to mix different music together-from rock to rap to disco to soca to jazz.

He and The Zulu Nation made November Hip Hop History month.

Bam headed the significant 1985 single "Sun City" which was the more "African" version of the seminal smash "We Are the World":

Sun City-Artists United Against Apartheid:
(Afrika Bambaataa, Ray Barretto, Stiv Bator, Pat Benatar, Big Youth, Ruben Blades, Kurtis Blow, Bono, Duke Bootee, Jackson Browne, Ron Carter, Clarence Clemons, Jimmy Cliff, George Clinton, Miles Davis, Will Downing, Bob Dylan, The Fat Boys, Peter Gabriel, Peter Garrett, Bob Geldof, Daryl Hall, Herbie Hancock, Nona Hendryx, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Stanley Jordan, Kashif, Eddie Kendrick, Little Steven, Darlene Love, Malopoets, Grandmaster Melle Mel, MichaelMonroe, John Oates, Sonny Okosuns, Bonnie Raitt, Joey Ramone, Lou Reed, David Ruffin, Run-D.M.C., Scorpio, Gil Scott-Heron, Shankar, Bruce Springsteen, Zak Starkey, Ringo Starr, Tine B., Pete Townshend, Via Afrika, Tony Williams, Peter Wolf, Bobby Womack)

His early 1982 seminal track with The Soul Sonic Force "Planet Rock" created as early as February of 1982, released under Tommy Boy records, changed the music world forever. Many people had never even heard of such sounds, and it instantly became a classic novelty, selling a glowing 600,000 single copies around the world now way past the millionth mark. This gave Afrika Bambaata the status as the "GODFATHER OF HIP HOP" along with his previous accomplishments.

1. The record is the most sampled record in Hip Hop history (funk/R&B/soul/Motown/rock legend James Brown holds the distinction of having his 1970 seminal "Funky Drummer" as the most sampled record in Hip Hop).

2. Coming out of the U.K.'s "northern soul" of electro (a stripped down version of Disco-dance/electronic music with soul elements full of drum machines, synthesizers, and sequencers), "Planet Rock" birthed electro-funk, a hip hop dance-oriented form of electro (with its funk qualities, robotic-space-futuristic-electronic sounds, syncopation, and Hip Hop elements such as DJ techniques, dubbing, and innovative sampling). Done to "Computer Age" music, it gave rise to the massive popularity and representation of break-boys, or more commonly known as b-boys, and to electro-funk artists such as Planet Patrol (with their "Planet Rock"-like seminal "Play At Your Own Risk"), The Jonzun Crew, Egyptian Lover, C-Bank, Hashim, Newcleus, Man Parrish (with the seminal "Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don't Stop)"), and others of the like.

3. "Planet Rock" blended Hip Hop beats with techno-pop futurism and funk-electro dance. It was inspired by the kraut rock/experimental/electronic band Kraftwerk's seminal 1977 moderate hit "Trans-Europe Express" (which remains one of the most sampled records in history). Basically, the song took the melody from "Trans-Europe Express" and the beat from Kraftwerk's seminal 1981 "Numbers" and put it over a Roland TR-808 drum machine beat to give it a spectral feel. The masterminds behind the song were Bam and The Soul Sonic Crew (Bam, Jazzy Jay, Mr. Biggs, G.L.O.B.E., Whiz Kid, Pow Wow), John Robie (who would later create the electro-funk/freestyle C-Bank), Arthur Baker (who himself became an artist), and Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy records (however, it was Bam's idea to fuse the song with Kraftwerk) It blends the basic foundations of Hip Hop together.
v 4. The song debuted July 12, 1982 on Billboard's pop charts (Hot 100) and stayed there for 11 weeks, its peak position being #48. However, it hit #4 in the R&B charts. Nevertheless, the song has been covered by many artists and re-released with new mixes over the span of the 80s and 90s. It has withstood the test of time.

The Electro-Funk Legacy
Electro-funk's legacy is huge and brilliant, ushering in the computer/electronic age full of sequencers, drum machines, and synthesizers. It was the first rap to fully be realized differing greatly from the Disco and funk beats, especially in the U.K. and Europe. The raps, DJ techniques, dubs, bonus beats, and samples electro-funk displayed influenced everything in the music world from that point on, especially in R&B/rap and dance/electronic music. Legendary and respected DJs, producers, and mixers such as John "Jellybean" Benitez, Shep Pettibone, Larry Levan, and Francois Kevorkian took note of the "new dance craze" and incorporated it into their works.

Electro-funk brought the Hip-Hop movement into the U.K. mainstream which thus spread like wildfire throughout Europe and soon the entire world such as Malcolm McLaren¹s track "Buffalo Gals."

The seminal records "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, "Rockit" by Grandmaster D.St. and legend Herbie Hancock, and "It's Like That"/"It's Tricky" by Run DMC are electro-funk inspired jams, thanks to "Planet Rock".

Kraftwerk in the Black Community
Kraftwerk had already been popular with black crowds in the mid- to late 70s as "Trans-Europe Express" became a b-boy anthem classic. The futuristic music from Dusseldorf, Germany itself birthed interest in black people, especially DJs. Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash were firm supporters of this kraut rock/experimental/electronic band, and regularly spun their records. In the early 1980s, Kraftwerk began to garner more success with seminal hits such as "Numbers", "Computer Love", "The Model", and "Pocket Calculator" just to name a few.

More Musical Influences
Afrika Bambaataa broke ground for many artists including New Edition to the Jungle Brothers

He collaborated with giants such as James Brown, John Lydon of The Sex Pistols, Leftfield, Sly and Robbie, Boy George of The Culture Club, George Clinton, Yellowman (seminal Reggae artist), William "Bootsy" Collins, and UB40, just to name a few.

In 1984, Kraftwerk took Afrika Bambaataa's seminal 1982/1983 hit "Looking for the Perfect Beat" and transformed it into their smash "Tour De France" which in turn was used in the West Coast B-Boy film "Breakin'/Breakdance"!

More on the Legend and Mastermind
Afrika Bambaataa is a visionary and humanitarian, and his likeminded, Afrocentric, spiritual-health conscious promoters The Zulu Nation promote peace, unity, love, equality, and happiness. Afrika Bambaataa is also a Hip Hop historian, tracing Hip Hop to the ancient African Griots!

Bam was influenced by a host of people and beliefs, including James Brown and The Nation of Islam. He's an activist, involved in the anti-apartheid struggle, and has contributed immensely to various charities. He has touched millions with his music and messages.

planet rock album cover

Major Artists
Influenced by Bam
(from the artists themselves)
Salt N Pepa
Eric B. and Rakin
Naughty By Nature
Queen Latifah
A Tribe Called Quest
De La Soul
The Jungle Brothers
Luke Campbell
(of The 2 Live Crew)
Guy "Teddy Jam"
MC Lyte
Monie Love (had a
Top 20 hit dedicated
to Bam titled
"Grandpa's Party" 1989)
Biz Markie
DJ Kool
Fatman Scoop
Chubb Rock
The Lost Boyz
Master Don and
The Death Committee
Ultramagnetic MCs
The Alleems Brothers

  1. Planet Rock
  2. Looking for the
       Perfect Beat
  3. Unity
  4. Jazzy Sensation
  5. Zulu Nation Throwdown
  6. The Wild Style
  7. Frantic Situation
  8. Renegades of Funk
  9. Funk You
10. Reckless
11. Pupunnany
12. Got To Get Up
13. Agharta-The City
       of Shamballa
14. Afrika Shox
15. Feel the Vibe
Zulu Nation Throwdown (with The Cosmic Force)
Death Mix

Jazzy Sensation (with The Jazzy Five)
Mickey's Monkey - Cotton Candy feat. Afrika Bambaataa and The Soul Sonic Force
Let's Vote - Cotton Candy feat. Afrika Bambaataa and The Soul Sonic Force
Havin' Fun - Cotton Candy feat. Afrika Bambaataa and The Soul Sonic Force

Planet Rock (with The Soul Sonic Force)
Looking For the Perfect Beat (with The Soul Sonic Force)

The Wild Style (as Time Zone)

Frantic Situation (with The Soul Sonic Force)
Renegades of Funk (with The Soul Sonic Force)
Unity (with James Brown)
World Destruction (as Time Zone with John Lydon)
Zulu Groove (as Shango)
Shango Message (as Shango)

Funk You (with The Family)

Reckless (with The Family and UB40)

The Return of Planet Rock (with The Soul Sonic Force and The Jungle Brothers)

Return to Planet Rock - Afrika Bambaataa and The Soul Sonic Force

Get Up and Dance (with The Family)

Hell Below (with Adamski)

Feeling Irie

Feel the Vibe (as Khayan and The New World Power)

Mind Control (with The Nebula Funk)

Got To Get Up (with Carpe Diem)
Agharta-The City of Shamballa (with Westbam featuring Ifo)

Afrika Shox (with Leftfield)
You Ask For the Moon (as Khayan and The New World Power)

And the Millennium of the Gods (with Gary Numan)
death mix
planet rock
zulu groove
mind control
You Ask For the Moon
Greatest Rap/Hip-Hop Artists - #23
Greatest Rap/Hip-Hop Producers/D.J.s - #41
Greatest Rap/Hip-Hop Albums - Planet Rock #44
Greatest Rap/Hip-Hop Songs
    - Planet Rock #7
    - Looking For The Perfect Beat #107

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