Afrika Bambaataa Will Receive a Lifetime Achievement Award For Helping to Birth Hip-Hop
Considered to be the Godfather of the culture, Afrika Bambaataa blazed a trail through the New York city club scene during a time when the city’s youth culture was experimenting with what would become Hip-Hop (a term credited to Bambaataa). His contributions to that landscape are being recognized by the Global Spin Awards next month, where the Bronx icon and Universal Zulu Nation founding member will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for helping to birth not only Hip-Hop, but also the bridging of several different musical cultures, something embodied perfectly by his seminal 1982 song “Planet Rock,” which fused the sounds emanating from Electronica and Funk before “Electro-Funk” became a discernible genre of its own.
In a conversation with Guardian writer Paul Lester, Bambaataa and Mark Ronson (also being honored at the Awards for his own contributions to contemporary New York’s club culture), Bambaataa reminisced on the Big Apple’s hey day, when it seemed like art, dance, fashion, music, and nightlife all co-mingled with one another at just the right temperature. Back then, Bambaataa was involved with the steadily growing undercurrent in the city, when street gangs were losing their grip on communities and being replaced with a new movement, one that championed peace and unity. “According to lore, when he began spinning records at block parties and in parks and school halls, he converted this grim ghetto-scape into a benign community of loved-up funkateers: the Universal Zulu Nation,” writes Lester. Bambaataa shared his personal experiences during those times, explaining “Punk rockers started traveling uptown to my parties and that’s when everybody started thinking there was going to be this big racial tension, but there was nothing but love and harmony…There were Black people learning how to do the punk rock dance and white people learning how to do the Hip-Hop dance. It was very interesting times.”
The two DJs go on to describe New York’s ever-evolving club scene, when the ’90s golden era was flowering and the years after, when artists like Jay Z could be seen rubbing shoulders with Grunge fans and skateboarders. To read more of the nostalgic anecdotes from two of the culture’s most influential artists, head to the Guardian’s website to read “Afrika Bambaataa and Mark Ronson: uptown and downtown funk masters.” Check out the video below to hear a 1982 performance from Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force.