In the Beginning: Hip Hop's Early Influences
Photo by Jean-Francois Dubos. Courtesy of EMI Music Group.
Though rap and hip hop have nearly countless musical, stylistic, and spiritual forebears, few of those figures were actually there, on the scene as rap was developing into an art form of its own. Afrika Bambaataa was there, however, organizing the earliest block parties and dance competitions and overseeing the emergence of rap and hip hop from its jazz and funk-inflected fusion origins into a form of modern, urban, musical poetry. Born in the Bronx, New York, on 10 April 1957, Bambaataa went from a founding member of the Savage Seven street gang to one of hip hop's most profoundly important guiding hands. A master DJ who blended innovative samples—jazz, funk, soul, R&B, as well as Afrocentric beats—Bambaataa as either producer or performer helped craft such watersheds of early hip hop as 1982's "Planet Rock" and 1980's "Zulu Nation Throwdown." His influence particularly on the Afrocentric school of hip hop and rap—De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers, and KRS One, among others—has been indispensable.