Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force's Planet Rock: The Album is 25 years old today
"Party people! Party People! Can y'all get funky?" You already know what it is as soon as the first twinkling bells, crowd screams and intergalactic beat drops for Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force's cult hit, "Planet Rock." Get your ass to the nearest dance floor and do an old school dance, straight away! The Grandfather of Universal Hip-hop Culture began telling us how it is, and how it might be in the rap world long ago. This day in hip-hop history, 25 years ago, Planet Rock: The Album was released introducing us to one of the most pioneering songs in the genre, "Planet Rock."
Afrika Bambaataa (real name possibly Kevin Donovon, depending on who you ask) initially wanted to use hip-hop to draw angry kids away from gang violence and other perils of street life. Successfully merging the notorious street gang the Black Spades into the Universal Hip-hop Culture (the Zulu Nation), Bambaataa helped bolster the popularity of hip-hop with a lot of his music.
Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force (a mash-up collective including Afrika Bambaataa, himself, Mr. Biggs, The G.L.O.B.E, DJ Jazzy Jay, Cosmic Force and Pow Wow) came together to create a blindingly intergalactic tale of a new era. The scat-style rapping hip-hop ensemble created the single "Planet Rock," which takes listeners on a journey through the sounds of music with lyrics that are disco-esque themed ("We know a place where the nights are hit/It is a house of funk/Females and males /Both headed all for the disco") and a beat that is undeniably electronic funk.
Released in 1986, "Planet Rock" was the first gold certified rap 12-inch vinyl. Planet Rock: The Album further introduced hip-hop to the global masses, inspiring the growth of the b-boys and b-girls movement. Filled with tracks crafted for bodies in motion, the socially conscious aspect of the music was always in the forefront. "Renegades of Funk" is a perfect example of an out of this world beat, with lyrics meant to incite.
Planet Rock: The Album is the epitome of hip-hop that sounds like its from another galaxy. "Frantic Situation" with Melle Mel provides a lyrical and sonic foundation for rap albums that followed, even ones storming the charts today. Jay-Z and Kanye's Watch the Throne mega-album released this summer, is a direct descendent of Melle Mel and his gruff execution of angst amidst the frenetic beat.
The project clocks in at a humble seven songs. Each track should be played as loud as possible -- preferably through a boombox. "Who You Funkin' With" is the best of the tantalizing, soul clapping, feet stomping collaboration between Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force. The lyrics are hilarious ("All the king's horses, and all the king's men would never wanna funk with us again!"), and the rhymes are paired with rhythmic eloquence against the stuttered drums.
Afrika Bambaataa with Soulsonic Force didn't just change the game of music. They ushered in a socially conscious way of thinking and bore of a new genre with extreme artistic potential. Hell, the man is even credited with giving hip-hop the name, hip-hop. It doesn't really matter who you are -- it's like a universal principle: When "Planet Rock" hits the speakers, you get up off of that thing, and dance until you feel better.
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