Afrika Bambaataa

TOUCH Magazine (2005)

Back in The Bronx in the late Seventies, hip hop as we know it today was being created…Along with fellow pioneers such as Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa paved the way for today’s hip hop superstars. We catch up with him to see what he has to say about the elevation and development of the art form…

You’ve said that the fight is on to save hip hop culture. In what ways do you feel it needs to be saved?

We need to reclaim our airwaves and have more of a balance. So many DJs today claim to be playing hip hop, yet they’ll play 50 Cent, but not, for example, Common Sense.

To what extent do you feel that hip hop has lost a lot of it’s consciousness since the days when you started out?

I definitely feel it’s moved away from the consciousness, it’s like money has become their God. The ones who want the bling bling, more power to them, but is your stuff really real?

Do you think the culture has taken a step back in that respect?

We got people who are trying to change it by doing different things. I give a lot of props to Missy who ain’t scared to try things and wear wild outlandish costumes. Also Dre from Outkast; they’re bringing the entertainment side back to hip hop.

You’re the leader of The Universal Zulu Nation. Do you personally pick members and what does the selection process involve?

No I don’t, there’s a council that picks them. Anyone can apply to join, although we expect our members to be thinkers, researchers, and to deal with factology.

I hear you’re very clean living…

I’m not with all that drug culture; I don’t need no drug, if I wanna act crazy, I just act crazy. I don’t need no alcohol or drug to make me act wild or stimulated, but each to their own.

Do you feel rappers have a responsibility to their listeners?

There are many artists who have a responsibility to their peers and those who follow them, but there are others who don’t care about all that, they’re just in the industry to make money. So it’s up to the individual, what are you in the industry for?

How do you feel about rappers using the N-word in tunes?

Why use the N-word when so many of our people have died not to use the N-word? It’s an accepted word now, but the true meaning behind it goes back to racism and white supremacy.

You’ve obviously influenced millions of people, but who are some of your influences?

Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, John Lennon, too many really to name…

Who do you think is hip hop’s great hope for the future and who are you feeling in terms of today’s artists?

It’s hard to say, there’s so many out there. Like I said I love Missy as she’s keeping the entertainment aspect of the culture alive, she ain’t scared to wear wild clothes and give you a show, and I’m also crazy about Busta and Ludacris. I love all the French hip hop, the Punjabi Hindi mix that’s going on, all the international flavour hip hop. In terms of the UK scene I gotta give it to Dizzee, when he had that funky song with the old skool flavour, and Miss Dynamite, I love all her stuff, and Skinnyman, definitely.

Words: Anna Nathanson


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