3 questions: Afrika Bambaataa

Categories: 3 Questions
Afrika Bambaataa.jpg
The Godfather of Hip Hop, the Master of Records, Afrika Bambaataa gave hip hop its name, reframing graffiti, DJing, breakdancing, and rapping as "four elements" of a single culture. (The "fifth element": knowledge.) A former member of the Black Spades, Bam founded the Universal Zulu Nation in the 1970s, using his influence among black and Latino youth gangs to integrate a South Bronx scene as it was taking shape. He later brought hip hop downtown, to Europe, and beyond, collaborating wildly as an MC (with James Brown, John Lydon, Uberzone--visit www.zulunation.com for the full list). His DJ sets are legendary for their eclecticism, mixing Latin rock with electro--a genre he helped create, with 1982's Kraftwerk-sampling "Planet Rock." Bam recently answered questions over the phone in anticipation of his first Minneapolis appearance in years.

City Pages: Name your first show in Lower Manhattan.

Afrika Bambaataa: I'd been playing parties down there, but the first show playing a concert was with Bow Wow Wow at the Ritz. I got to give the punk rockers a lot of credit. They were the first whites that really embraced hip hop. They embraced it so hard, they even started coming to parties Uptown, where people thought there would be racial incidents and all that. When that music hit, you didn't see nothing but get-down and get-your-groove-on.

CP: You've been crossing barriers your whole life, right?

AB: I've even sat among people who are strict racists and stuff, can't stand to see black and white together. Had conversations when I was writing little stories in high school about certain things. We'd sit down and start talking, and they'd start spacing out when I know certain music that they know, or certain artists. The whole conversation start changing.

We had a lot of problems in New York. I played in this place where a black guy got killed in Brooklyn, and I had to go play in a skating rink. I got on the Italians' asses. I said, "Listen, you can't tell me nothing about Italy, 'cause I been to Italy. You forgot that you all mixed with the black Moors, so let's stop the foolishness."

CP: Where do you see hip hop going in the future?

AB: I see it going through another change as it starts traveling from different planets. When we meet extraterrestrial beings, things will start happening. We are not alone.

Africa Bambaata performs Saturday at Foundation. 21+. $10. 10:00 p.m. 10 S. Fifth St., Minneapolis; 612.332.3931.


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