Afrika Bambaataa: interview



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Hip hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa talks to Time Our ahead of his set at Nevereverland

  • Afrika Bambaataa: interview

    Afrika Bambaataa

  • Whether you know it or not, you owe everything you hear and do to Afrika Bambaataa. One of the first generations of hip hop artists out of New York, Bam is the world’s foremost historical genre-blender, having brought Krautrock and new wave into the funk and disco hip hop axis. He also worked tirelessly to bring hip hop to mainstream attention, even converting his former street gang into the electro-proselytising Universal Zulu Nation that empowered a generation.

    Basically, he’s the shit. Even today, Bam is as open-eared as ever, searching MySpace for new sounds and digging lil’ ol’ England’s percussive tribal fidget house scene, although, he chuckles, ‘It just sounds like hip house to me.’ Antipodean electro-pimp Modular Records recognises this too and Bam is in town to headline DJ at its second Nevereverland event at the Coronet this Saturday. He’ll be spinning alongside Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip, label stalwarts the Bang Gang DJs, dubstepper-cum-junglist Zomby,Tame Impala and many more fizzing acts who sound approximately eff-all like him.

    But there’s a reason for such an inclusively eclectic line-up, and Bam invented it. He once remarked that hip hop fans couldn’t say there was a single type of music they disliked, because hip hop is what happens when you stick all the genres in the world into a washing machine and spin on a high heat. Does he still agree with this sentiment?

    ‘Oh, definitely,’ he says. ‘It’s true like that, to the people who really listen to all the different flavours of hip hop music. But if you were to listen to some of these so-called radio stations that claim to be hip hop, you wouldn’t think it.’ Because while hip hop’s ‘anything goes, but everything goes even better’ philosophy has been the biggest influence on pop music in the past 20 years, its core philosophy has been pushed, pulled, twisted and diverted in a million different directions.

    Here, Bam guides us through the victories and defeats of hip hop’s first three decades.

    Hip hop has diversified like a crazy picornavirus!
    ‘Oh, definitely. ’Cause that’s what I’ve been trying to do when we first made hip hop music. Myself, Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc – if you ever heard that set, then you heard music from all over the place. But somewhere down the line the evil ones stole the legacy of hip hop and flipped it to a corporate type of hip hop. They decided to tell everybody “Well, this is what hip hop is”, instead of coming back to the pioneers and getting the true definition of what hip hop is and what it was and what we been pushing for all these years.’

    But the true multiplicity of hip hop is not represented in the mainstream media…
    ‘My definition of hip hop is taking elements from many other spheres of music to make hip hop. Whether it be breakbeat, whether it be the groove and grunt of James Brown or the pickle-pop sounds of Kraftwerk or Yellow Magic Orchestra, hip hop is also part of what they call hip-house now, or trip hop, or even parts of drum ’n’ bass. So we got to look at, what is the style of hip hop that y’all really wanna be playing on the airwaves? ’Cause they not playing a whole broad base of it. Where’s your go-go? Where’s your electro-funk?’

    Hip hop can inspire the downtrodden masses!
    ‘I’d like to see people pay attention to the science of hip hop. The knowledge part, the political side of what hip hop could do, or where hip hop is gonna go. I always say it’s gonna become universal as we become a galactic union. But people get caught up in worshipping certain rappers or they try to demonise hip hop by looking at what certain rappers’ are doin’ in their lives.’

    Though this can motivate them in Mammonic ways.
    ‘They tell you to buy something that’s three or four hundred dollars off the backs of people who probably made it for five or ten dollars. It’s sickening. And this is what they’re defining as hip hop today – you’ve got to be bling-bling, or be disrespecting your
    woman. When did that came in?’

    The outside world have found their own hip hop identities!
    ‘I told people when they used to copy the Americans, “You know, you can take from America, but speak from your own issues in your own language.” We used to have arguments, like, “I can’t speak this is in the German language, it sound funny.” And I was like, you got to do your own stuff – and now we got stars all over the place with their own sounds and grooves. They just need stations to start playing international flavours of hip hop. Thank god for the net and the digital diggin’ in the crates now! ’Cause there’s a lot of interesting music.’

    Hip hop oldies don’t get no respect.
    ‘The Rolling Stones, they won’t come out to tour for a lot of years, but when they do come out everybody says, “Here come the masters.” In hip hop they forget about the old school or the true school, it’s about what happening now. They say the Q-Tip album can’t be played today.’

    Afrika Bambaataa DJs at Nevereverland at The Coronet on Mar 14. Fancy a boozy schmooze on the dancefloor? We’ve got 75 exclusive pairs of tickets to give away!

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Users say


you owe everything you hear and do to Afrika Bambaataa.. really you need to check the record. maybe you should of interviewed some real people from the late 70`s. it was not Africa Bambaataa. wanna do a real story on hip hop culture and where it came from. key word ( DJ Kool Herc ) the real father of hip hop .. not some faggot ass gangsta who tried to strong arm the industry the movement the culture the art with his gangs of shocka zulu. you want a real story .. email me. i have it all on video from 83 to 99 the world of hip hop and NYC drum and bass. movement. just so you know we are all a product of the streets ..