Afrika Bambaataa: Founder of hip-hop culture

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Known as the godfather of hip-hop, Afrika Bambaataa evolved from an inner-city gang leader to the emissary of a worldwide youth culture.

Afrika Bambaataa was born and raised in the South Bronx—at the time one of the most desolate urban areas in the United States. Street gangs ran rampant during the early 1970s; Bambaataa himself led a large group of African-American and Latino teenagers called the Black Spades.

Forever changed after winning a trip to Africa, he changed his birth name to Afrika Bambaataa (after Zulu chief Bambatha kaMancinza), and converted the Black Spades gang into the hip-hop espousing Universal Zulu Nation.

Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell and Joseph “Grandmaster Flash” Saddler complete a trio of hip-hop’s founding fathers that includes Afrika Bambaataa — All three were popular South Bronx DJs.

Promoting deejaying, rapping, graffiti, break-dancing and street knowledge as the five formative elements of hip-hop, Bambaataa is responsible for the global spread of the culture.

The New York City Rap Tour of 1982 was the first time hip-hop left America to tour internationally, Bambaataa and several break-dancers, MCs, graffiti artists and DJs performing throughout Paris, London and Strasbourg.

The Universal Zulu Nation currently has chapters in Germany, Holland, Korea, Japan, Australia and the UK.

The classic hip-hop song “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force was recorded in 1982, an influential staple of the rap genre.

Rap music eventually earned billions for the worldwide record industry, creating jobs and an expressive outlet for Black youth everywhere.

Video: Africa Bambatta

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