[STAY WOKE]From Africa to Hip Hop with Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa influenced the culture through music and unity

One of the newest music art forms to be recognized as a music genre is Hip Hop. Today many people argue about the state of Hip Hop. Some people think the newcomers don’t know enough about those that came before them. Others say newcomers are not pushing the culture forward in a positive direction.

However, when we speak on the culture there are many aspects that come into play. While there are traditional aspects to culture, every individual typically plays a role in its development. Individual contributions are ultimately what form tradition and culture. With time comes change, and as time goes on people are known to change or adapt. If or when people do change, so does their contributions.

Hip Hop isn’t dead in 2019, but it has most definitely evolved since the 1970s. The evolution of Hip Hop is a two-way street, which means each side must be able to share and receive knowledge without crashing into each other. The stories of the past must be told, but they must also be valued by those who hear them. All of this has an effect on the contributions made.

Leaders are Trailblazers

Afrika BambaataaWe’re going to tell the story of Afrika Bambaataa born in 1957 as Lance Taylor. He grew up in South Bronx, New York which most people associate with the birthplace of Hip Hop. Each of his parents were immigrants from Jamaica & Barbados. He was introduced to the idea of Black people being oppressed at an early age due to his mother being an activist. As a teen, he went on to join a gang called the Black Spades who organized themselves to fight against racism and bigotry.

Bambaataa quickly rose to the position of a warlord within the Spades. In this position, his duty was to expand the gang’s turf and membership. His efforts were very successful as his fearless tenacity helped the gang become the largest in the area. This clearly showcased the strength in his ability to lead others.

In the years that followed Bambaataa earned a trip to Africa after winning an essay contest. This experience had a huge impact on his view of the world. Being able to witness firsthand the united way of life among the communities was very inspiring to him. So much so, that he wanted to create the same environment in his own neighborhood. He then changed his name to Afrika Bambaataa Aasim, which is an adaptation from the Zulu chief Bhambatha. After changing his name, he formed The “Bronx River Organization” as an alternative to the “Spades” gang.

He began hosting hip-hop parties around the age of 20. This soon became the gateway to his goal of giving back to the community and helping youth who were susceptible to gangs. He was determined to encourage them to take another route and join the Universal Zulu Nation. All the while he was in the midst of pioneering this new Hip Hop movement with the likes of other notable figures.

This Sound is Profound

In 1982, Afrika Bambaataa along with a group of artists, DJs, and dancers left the U.S. to go on a European hip hop tour. During this time Hip Hop was spreading beyond the parties and neighborhoods of urban New York. This broadened his horizons even more as he felt this was the way to push forward with the expansion of Hip Hop; as well as the Universal Zulu Nation. His sole purpose was to bring people together and promote unity. In fact, many people say that hip hop actually saved a lot of lives with less gang violence and such.

Afrika went on to establish two rap crews while strengthening his musical versatility. One of those groups was Soulsonic Force whom he collaborated within 1982 to release “Planet Rock”. The single became the first gold-certified vinyl 12-inch single. This particular record also gained recognition as an iconic hip hop track, as well as being credited for break-dance and electronic music origins.

Afrika BambaataaIn the years following Bambaataa continued to make strides in introducing new ways to use sounds in music. His contributions spread from Hip Hop, Electro-funk, to Techno, and House Music. He is credited with being a disc jockey, singer, songwriter, and producer, as well as the longtime leader of the Zulu nation.

Unfavorable allegations brought against him in recent years caused him to step down from his leadership position in May 2016. Even though it was his vision, ideas, and actions that lead the Zulu Nation to where they are today, there is presently a clear dissociation. This, however, does not change the fact that Afrika Bambaataa was very influential in pushing the Hip Hop Culture forward and beyond its local boroughs and neighborhoods. It’s also safe to say he successfully promoted unity among Black people by providing an alternative to gang life.

The actions of those before us paved the way for us to expand with our creativity and achievements in music and beyond. So when it comes time to pass the torch in life, it’s important to remember where you got it from. We must continue to pass the torch and keep the fire burning, even if that means acknowledging those who made a few mistakes along the way.


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