In 1982, Hip-Hop artist Fab Five Freddy was putting together music packages in the largely white downtown Manhattan New Wave clubs, and invited Bam to perform at one of them, the Mudd Club. It was the first time Bam had performed before a predominantly white crowd, making it one of the first times that Hip-Hop had fused with white culture. Attendance for Bam'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 (and where the Rock Steady Crew b-boys became part of the Zulu Nation), then to the Peppermint Lounge, The Jefferson, Negril, Danceteria, and the Roxy. "Planet Rock", a popular single, came out that June under the name Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force. The song borrowed musical motifs from German electro-pop, funk, and rock. All the different elements and musical styles were blended together; and in doing so, they offered Hip-Hop as a new vision for global harmony. 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. It influenced many styles of electronic and dance music, e.g. freestyle music, house music and techno music.
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.
Afrika 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 also released by the label in 1984. That same year, Bam 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, Run-D.M.C., Lou Reed, and numerous others. During 1988, he recorded another landmark piece as "Afrika Bambaataa and Family" on Capitol Records, titled The Light, featuring Nona Hendryx, UB40, Boy George, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Yellowman. Bam had recorded a few other works with Family three years earlier, one titled "Funk you" in 85, and the other titled Beware (The Funk Is Everywhere) in 1986.
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).
Greenstreet Records, John Baker, and Bambaataa organized a concert at Wembley Stadium in London in 1990 for the A.N.C. (African National Congress), in honour of Nelson Mandela's release from prison (not to be confused with the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute held at the same venue two years earlier and organised by Jerry Dammers). The concert brought together performances by British and American rappers, and also introduced both Nelson and Winnie Mandela and the A.N.C. to hip-hop audiences. In relation to the event, the recording Ndodemnyama (Free South Africa) helped raise approximately $30,000 for the A.N.C. Bam 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 2000, Rage Against the Machine covered Afrika's song "Renegades of Funk" for their album Renegades. In that same year, Afrika 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 has also performed the lyrics on the track "Is There Anybody Out There" by The Bassheads. As an actor, he has played a variety of both hilarious and serious voice-over character roles in the international television series known around the world as Kung Faux from Dubtitled Entertainment and Tommy Boy Films.
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, KY. As of Summer 2008, he was featured as part of the Rock the Bells 2008 tour, dj-ing on the second stage on select dates.
- 1986 Planet Rock – The Album
- 1986 Beware(The Funk Is Everywhere)
- 1987 Death Mix Throwdown
- 1988 The Light
- 1991 The Decade of Darkness 1990-2000
- 1992 Don't Stop… Planet Rock (The Remix EP)
- 1993 Zulu War Chant
- 1993 What's the Name of this Nation…? Zulu
- 1994 Feel The Vibe
- 1996 Jazzin By Khayan
- 1996 Warlocks & Witches, Computer Chips... & You
- 1996 Lost Generation
- 1997 Zulu Groove
- 1998 Agharta - The City of Shamballa
- 1999 Electro Funk Breakdown
- 1999 Return To Planet Rock
- 2000 Hydraulic Funk
- 2001 Electro Funk Breakdown (Compilation)
- 2001 Looking for the Perfect Beat: 1980-1985
- 2004 Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light
- 2005 Metal/Metal(Remixes)
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