West Indian Hip Hop legend Afrika Bambaataa (Kevin Donovan) was born October 4, 1957 and grew up in the South Bronx, New York. As huge lover of music, Bam collected R&B and Rock records and also played trumpet and piano while attending Adlai E. Stevenson High School. Taking the name of a nineteenth century Zulu chief , Bambaataa joined the local Bronx Rivers Projects division of the notorious Black Spades street gang. Though neighborhood violence was common during the early 1970s, a new form of music called Hip Hop and block parties helped ease community tensions. As gang popularity began to diminish in 1973, Bam soon found himself break-beat DJing at house parties after being inspired by DJ Kool Herc and Kool DJ Dee. His catalog not only included typical R&B and Funk records, but also consisted of atypical genres like Go-Go, Soca, Salsa Reggae, Rock, Jazz, Funk and African music.
DJ Afrika Bambaataa easily drew party crowds with the help of his former Black Spade following, but he soon realized that his true passion was to unify urban youth through his newly formed group called the Universal Zulu Nation. Bam referred to the movement, culture and music as “Hip Hop,” and it became the tool he used to draw kids away from the perils of gang life. His definition of the culture included the elements of MCing, DJing, B-boying, graffiti, and knowledge. Bam gained an even larger following after performing for a predominantly White crowd at Manhattan’s New-Wave Mudd Club, and his downtown parties often had to move to larger venues.
In 1982, Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force released “Planet Rock,” a groundbreaking song that became a worldwide hit and blended German electronic music, Funk and Rock. His early use of drum machines and high-tech computer sounds created a new style of music called Electro Funk and heavily influenced other musical genres like Freestyle or Latin Freestyle, Miami Bass, Electronica, House, Hip House, and early Techno. That Fall, Bam helped spread Hip Hop culture overseas by coordinating the first European tour that featured graffiti artist Rammellzee, B-boys and B-girls of the Rock Steady Crew, the Double Dutch Girls, and Fab Five Freddy. “Looking for the Perfect Beat” and “Renegades of Funk” were released in 1983, and Bambaataa (aka the Godfather of Hip Hop) collaborated with the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, on a track called “Unity” in 1984. He worked on Sun City, an anti-apartheid album in 1985 and Capitol Records’ The Light in 1988.
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 recorded an album with The Jungle Brothers called Return to Planet Rock (The Second Coming) and organized a concert with John Baker and Gee Street Records for the African National Congress in honor of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.  Bam still records today and has a remake of James Brown’s “You Don’t Work You Can’t Eat” on iTunes along with “It’s My Funk” with Africa Islam. His Zulu sneaker and clothing collection with C1rca Select was launched in the Spring of 2011, and he helped feed the homeless during the holidays that same year.  He continues to be recognized and honored as the Amen Ra of Universal Hip Hop culture.
South Bronx, NY
Style/Claim to Fame
- Known as the “Grandfather” and the Amen Ra of Universal Hip Hop Culture
- Father of Electro Funk music
- One of the originators of break-beat DJing
- Leader of the Zulu Nation
- Responsible for spreading Hip Hop throughout the world
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