Afrika Bambaataa

Nardwuar: Who are you?

Afrika Bambaataa: I'm Afrika Bambaataa, the godfather of hip-hop last millennium, the Amu-ra of universal hip-hop culture this millennium.

And Afrika Bambaataa, who do you have beside you?

AB: This is the great man that they call and he can speak for his self...

King Kumanzi: Emperor Kumanzi, King Kumanzi, Universal Zulu Nation international spokesman and MC. Peace.

Afrika Bambaataa, is hip-hop's birthday really November 12, 1974?

AB: Well, hip-hop's birthday, that we say is November 12 is when we decided to call this whole culture hip-hop. Hip-hop even goes further than that, but we decided to name it hip-hop as a culture, meaning with the b-boys, the b-girls, the MCs, the aerosol writers, graffiti artists and the DJs and that fifth element that holds it all together. What we say in the Universal Zulu Nation is the knowledge. Knowledge, culture and overstandin'.

Why November 12, 1974, what's the significance of that date?

AB: Well that's the date that I decided we should name this as a whole culture and start moving from there. November was the time where people used to party inside in the centers or community gymnasiums or many of the inside clubs that we had and where people would come and have an enjoyment time. Everybody got together and got down to the hip-hop music that was being played by all the great pioneers at that time.

Afrika Bambaataa, what can you tell me about breakbeats? What are breakbeats?

AB: Breakbeats is that certain part of the records that makes the audience get crazy on the dance floor. It could be just a few seconds, it could be a minute long but you take it and you extend. Now today a lot of breakbeats are a whole lot of different things. They call 'em drum 'n' bass breakbeats. They had the breakbeats of the certain songs off of funk records, rock records, hip-hop records, soca records, anything that has that certain sound, that certain beat, that certain bass, that certain grunt, that certain movement of the record that makes different sounds when you scratch it. These are all part of the breakbeat sound.

Incredible Bongo Band

Afrika Bambaataa, one particular breakbeat I wanted to ask you about was this one. [Nardwuar pulls out a record] What can you say about the importance of the Incredible Bongo Band's breakbeat?

AB: Well, this is the national anthem for all hip-hop people, especially the b-boys and the b-girls. This is one of the songs that Kool Herc and myself used to play back in the day and the Grandmaster Flash. "Bongo Rock," "In-A-Gadda-Da- Vida" and all the drum beats that was coming from this great group, the Incredible Bongo Band many good sounds on this album. And this was the one albums that you used to get cheap for $1.99 and now many of the stores have just started selling it for 25 to 30 to 50 dollars just for this album. It's a great album, a great group and a great sound.

Afrika Bambaataa, if you turn the record over, I wanted to point something out. Check out where this record was actually recorded. In... [Nardwuar points to the back of the record]

AB: Well I don't know if it was really recorded in Vancouver, 'cause I've never seen this one here before. So somebody might have just put that there.

No! It's really recorded in Vancouver. Michael Viner's Incredible Bongo Rock is recorded here in Vancouver. So does that mean that Vancouver is kind of ground zero for hip-hop then?

AB: I don't know, 'cause all my old albums I never seen that on here. I couldn't say where it was recorded. Some people say it was recorded in the West Indies, others say it was recorded in England so it's hard to say. It's the first time I've ever seen that on there.

No, it's really recorded in Vancouver.

AB: That's what you said but that's not what I seen a few years ago.

No, it really is. I'm not joking. The musicians may not have been from Vancouver, but it really was recorded here.

AB: I couldn't tell ya 'cause back then we didn't have these special things. [reading the back of the record] Can Base Vancouver, this looks like this was just put on here.

Can Base Vancouver

No, it wasn't! But this is an important record though.

AB: It's an important record, but I don't remember seeing that on my album. My original albums, was nowhere on there. [laughs]

Afrika Bambaataa I wanted to also ask you about New York. In the 1970s, the early '70s, how many abandoned buildings were there? I've read there' was about 6,000 abandoned buildings in New York. What was it like back then?

AB: Well, I don't know what area part was abandoned. Certain parts of the South Bronx was abandoned but in my area you had many buildings. It wasn't like what they say with broken glass everywhere like in "The Message". We had a lot of projects, housing development, housing and things in my area, so you had a little section that had abandoned buildings in certain parts, maybe in Harlem or Brooklyn. But then later on people were fighting like crazy to get back to the Bronx now 'cause it's upswinging and all types of nationalities and races are movin' in like crazy.

Afrika Bambaataa, was it like the movie Blade Runner?

AB: No, it was nothing like Blade Runner.

Then what was it like back then in the Bronx with all those abandoned buildings? What was it really like? 'Cause you were a warlord, what was it really like back then?

AB: Why everybody keep sayin' abandoned buildings? If it was abandoned buildings, then where was everybody livin'? So don't go for that, it's just a story that many people is trying to put out. They had some abandoned buildings, but you had a lot of buildings where people was livin' at. You had people who was nurses and doctors. You had construction workers. There was life there, you had people who was into drugs, you had people that wasn't into drugs, the same as anywhere else. Just like Vancouver has a drug problem. So you know, we had many things that was over there. You had abandoned buildings, you had that people lived in.

Afrika Bambaataa, what's the importance of Blackout '77 to hiphop?

AB: Blackout '77 got nothin' to do with hip-hop. It's just when the blackout happened in New York the whole city went crazy. Meaning they was goin' crazy, they was goin' to stores. It was chaos. It was wild in the streets. But then everything went back to control and people was livin' as they always live and people move on in life

But Afrika Bambaataa, after Blackout '77 weren't there more turntables on the streets? Didn't a lot of people go into stores and take turntables during Blackout '77?

AB: No, not true. Whoever came with that is talking a lot of BS.

I read that in the book, Yes Yes Yes Y’all.

AB: Yeah, well, Yes Yes Yes Y’all gotta get it together. That don't even sound right.

Afrika Bambaataa, what is the correlation between doo-wop and hip-hop?

AB: Well, doo-wop was the sound when people used to be on the street corners and they used to get in harmonies and they used to be singing, had a lot of soul. And then hip-hop is where people were taking the certain beats and grooves that might have been in doo-wop and added it to a breakbeat and started to funk it up in the hip-hop community and now you got hip-hop music that's happenin'.

Did any hip-hop groups give any doo-wop groups any respect in the '70s?

AB: Oh yeah. Some hip-hop groups, they loved what we was doin' and then you had some people, not just people into the doo-wop, but people who was into a professionalism that claimed that, "Oh that's not even music, it's gonna be a fad, it's gonna fade away." But look: hip-hop is still here and it's definitely goin' to take over the universe.

KK: That’s right.

Afrika Bambaataa, you're one of the originators of the block party. What's the importance of a lamp post and a block party?

AB: Well, a block party is when you go out and you set up your DJ equipment, your turntables and the speakers and all that and you try to get the power. Either you could get the power from somebody else's home by getting long extension cords, or you could take the power straight from a lamp post.

Afrika Bambaataa, is this right here [Nardwuar pulls out another record] the very first rap record,— King Tim III? Can you tell me? What is the first rap record?

AB: Well, that depends on how you lookin' at rap. You could say this is the first of, started with the first rappin' that led up to which we call hip-hop. So King Tim III from the Fatback Band was the first record that came out on a 12-inch. But if you want to dig deeper, we can look at Pigmeat Markham when he made "Here Come The Judge." We could go back in the '60s and look at Shirley Ellis when she did "The Name Game" and "The Clapping Song." You could go to the Three Dog Night when they did "Joy To The World." You could go to the Sly And The Family Stone's Dance To The Music album and hear it on the b-side when he was rappin', and all the James Brown records, call and response records was rap records. Go back to Bo Diddley. I mean, rap could go so far back, but this is the first of, what we started comin' out with, what you know today as hip-hop culture started with the Fatback Band doin' they first rap record out there.

Whatever happened to King Tim III? Do you ever see him around? What ever happened to him?

King Tim III

AB: You gotta ask the Fatback Band.

Did you ever see him back in the day, King Tim III?

AB: No, only when he was doin' his little disco shows, 'cause this is what started with the disco rappin'. Then when Sugarhill came with the "Rapper's Delight," came all sorts of hiphop style of rappin'.

Afrika Bambaataa, who are some of the great unrecorded rappers, hip-hop artists?

AB: The great one known as Super Nature. Very, very, very funky brother that he could just look at certain things you had a telephone, a key or a picture and just started rappin' and rhymin' and goin' down on the words. And there's another brother that started doin' some recording afterwards by the name of Immortal Technique, which is heavy on the political tip.

Afrika Bambaataa, did Run DMC mark the end of the golden age of hip-hop?

AB: Run DMC is the second or really the third wave of hiphop culture that started out that took it a little further when we did Time Zone's "World Destruction" — the first rock record with hiphop. Then came "Walk This Way" with Aerosmith, the second record and they just took it to other elements and other vibrations that they gave to the people with their style of hip-hop.

Afrika Bambaataa, how did punk rock help pave the way for hiphop?

AB: Well, punk rock didn’t pave the way for hip-hop, but punk rock is the first of white people who respected and loved the sound of hip-hop. It was at the same time when hip-hop was comin' out, punk rock was the people who was going against how rock music was supposed to be made and played. And the same with hip-hop was against all the disco after a while to show you how the funk supposed to be made and played. So they both started liking each other, especially when the Universal Zulu Nation started playing in many of these new wave clubs and everybody started inter-mingling with each other.

Afrika Bambaataa, of course you did "World Destruction" with Johnny Rotten, the original punk rocker. What other punk rock groups had you seen before that? What was the first punk group that you saw?

AB: I worked with John Lydon of Public Image. He was also known as The Sex Pistols. I also knew Blondie, Debbie Harry. We knew Siouxsie And The Banshees, Adam Ant, Billy Idol. All these groups that was happenin' at the time. The Romantics, The Ramones. A lot of people that used to come by my clubs that we used to play and DJ back in the day.

Afrika Bambaataa, what can you tell me about this particular new wave/punk band [Nardwuar pulls out yet another record] that's been heavily sampled, what's the importance of ESG?

AB: ESG is one of the first records that I started playin' with a song called "U.F.O." And these are some sisters and brothers straight from the Bronx that had a different sound than all the other music that was happenin' in the Bronx. And it was the "U.F.O" record that I was pumpin' all over the place that started a lot of hip-hop DJs to jump on their record and make them get big. And a lot of other records that they came out with, they just kept that sound flowin' 'cause they had a little funky sound that was hot.


And they weren't necessarily hiphop were they? They were more new wave sort of punk weren't they?

AB: It was like new wave punk funk. Something like Rick James, the punk funk king.

Afrika Bambaataa, you're the godfather of hip-hop, but aren't you also the godfather of crunk?

AB: I ain't the godfather of crunk. Don't know nothing 'bout the crunk 'cause I ain't dealing with the crunk. So you got to speak with my man Dr. Dre and Lil' Jon and all the posse down there in Miami. They're dealing with the crunk. Crunk CRUNK! But I'm the godfather of hip-hop culture last millennium, the Amura of universal hip-hop culture this millennium.

I would say Afrika Bambaataa, you are the godfather of crunk because of the 808 drum machine. You're the first person to bring that to record in a hip-hop style and Lil' Jon's still doing that today. If it wasn't for Afrika Bambaataa, there wouldn't be any crunk!

AB: Well, crunk is depending on how you looking at what is crunk. So, we want you to go back and research what the word crunk mean and what he really was talkin' about. The 808 is the electro-funk sound and Lil' Jon was electro-funk back in the early days with Jermaine Dupri with "Shorty Lee," "My Way" and "My Boo." So he's very well versed on the electrofunk sound.

Afrika Bambaataa, who was Pambaataa?

AB: Pambaataa was one of the Zulu Queens who was hot back in the day. She was a female DJ and an MC that used to shock the house and turn the mother out. Afrika Bambaataaa, again beside you, who do you have?

AB: The great Emperor King Kumanzi.

KK: Peace. From the Zulu Nation.

AB:: From the Universal Zulu Nation and is also on Dark Matter Moving At The Speed Of Light, "Got That Vibe" and many other songs on that album.

So King’s the version of the Zulu Nation in the 21st century. What did the 20th century Zulu Nation look like? Was there some ski goggles involved in the Zulu Nation?

AB: Was there ski goggles involved in the Zulu Nation, brother?

KK: Well, when we talk about hip-hop gear, we take anything. Whether ski goggles or skull cap. We could make any style hip-hop. What you're wearing now we could flip and make it hip-hop. So it was ski goggles, it was gloves, it was all types of stuff. Whatever you wanted, was hiphop.

AB: And it's all about fashion. It's all about the movement, how you speak, how you walk, how you talk, how you look, the vibration and remember, none of this would happen if you hadn't dealt with the fifth element of hip-hop and that's the knowledge.

KK: That’s right.

Afrika Bambaataa, are there any Canadian members of the Zulu Nation? What Canadian members are there of the Zulu Nation?

AB: There's Canadian members. We have a large chapter over there in Toronto. We have some of the brothers and sisters in Montreal, and there's a few sprinkled out here in Vancouver. So there's a lot happenin' up here in the big Canadian and big ups to Michie Mee and all them that was up here back in the early days who pioneered Canadian type of hip-hop for hip-hop culture up here.

Michie Mee!

AB: That's right.

Afrika Bambaataa, the dance floor is empty. How do you get the dance floor full? What song might you play?

AB: Got to play the funk. Anything that brings that funk, because funk is your own reward. Without the funk you become a dip that become a piece of... Excuse me…

But any specific song Afrika Bambaataa? Any specific song?

AB: Anything by James Brown. Put James Brown on, the floor gonna get hot!

Afrika Bambaataa-

AB: Public Enemy! [laughs] There's been a-

AB: Run DMC! [laughs]


AB: Dr. Dre! Ow! [laughs]

Afrika Bambaataa, there's been a fight on the dance floor, then you have to go do some DJing. What song do you put on after a fight on the dance floor?

AB: You know, we try and stop the fight when they fight and get people to calm these situations down. We try peace, unity love and having fun. Try to let them know what hip-hop's all about and fightin' would only destroy it and make other people who try to say "Hip-hop, all that brings is violence." They have to understand that it's individualism that's causin' problems in all that or certain rappers that they're trying to blame. You can't blame all people that's into hip-hop culture. Say if one rapper did something wrong, "See what them hip-hop people do!" No, that's just a rapper doin' his thing. When you say hip-hop, you talkin' about all the culture.

Afrika Bambaataa, but what's a particular song that'll calm people down?

AB: That's hard to say. There's many great records that could calm people down. You could go back to the Incredible Bongo Band.

Recorded in Vancouver.

AB: That's what he (Nardwuar) said, "Recorded in Vancouver! Or you could go back into some James Brown "Sex Machine," or you could go to some Public Enemy or you could go to some of what's happening now with Missy Elliott. You know, music make you lose control...

Afrika Bambaataa, the great thing about you is you've always experimented and played the most wild, incredible tunes. Have you ever played and have you ever met Muhammad Ali and this [Nardwuar pulls out another record] particular record, Muhammad Ali Vs. Mr. Tooth- Decay?

AB: This ol' album I got here, Muhammad Ali, speakin' to the kids and trying to get people to…

Ali and His Gang Vs. Mr. Tooth Decay

Brush their teeth!

AB: Brush their teeth. And Muhammad Ali's a deep brother there’s the whole history you could research on 'em, Muhammad Ali on the internet and in many books and movies about this great man. And Muhammad Ali also seen UFOs.

Now you wouldn’t be afraid to play something like this on the dance floor would you?

AB: If it's funky, if there's a breakbeat on there I'll play this joint. I play the most weirdest crazy stuff that you would ever see or hear on the dance floor.

Did you ever meet Wilt Chamberlain at all?

AB: Wilt Chamberlain? No, I haven't met him.

How about The Village People, Afrika Bambaataa?

AB: The Village People? I've met them and seen their shows and seen them in the, was it the Donna Summer movie?

Can't Stop The Music maybe?

AB: Can't Stop The Music was a good movie that they was in. And they used to rock the house for the disco era at the time. In fact, in the early hip-hop days, the only two groups that we could play that was still left out of the disco was The Village People and Donna Summer.

That is great. The Village People get some props from Afrika Bambaataa. Thank you.

AB: Alright. Afrika Bambaataa, did you ever meet Kraftwerk?

AB: Many times. That was my group.

What was the interaction between Afrika Bambaataa — Planet Rock and Kraftwerk?

AB: Kraftwerk was one of the groups who I idolized and liked a lot from bringing the techno-pop. Or what the Yellow Magic Orchestra was saying they was "technopop." So it was Yellow Magic Orchestra, Kraftwerk and Gary Numan and a man by the name of John Carpenter that brought you your Halloween soundtrack movies, and Dick Hyman, who I used to check out all their different music and say, "We need some electro funk," made from this sound that was the techno-pop. And thus from the Sly And The Family Stone and the James Brown and the George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, blessed me to have that funk to make the birth of electro-funk with myself, Arthur Baker, John Robie and the Soul Sonic Force.

Afrika Bambaataa, what did Kraftwerk they think of you? What did they think of you sampling their record and what was it like when you first met them? What did they have to say to you?

AB: Kraftwerk was cool. We met up in a club in Paris. We was supposed to do songs. There's some books that say that they was dissatisfied when they had little troubles and beef with Arthur Baker, but everything got cool. Me and them as musicians, we was cool with each other and we never sampled their record. It was played live, that's how bad John Robie is. Everybody think it was sampled but he played that sucka so good that people thought it was a sample record. At that time it wasn't sampling. We had live musicians that just knew how to drill down on them synthesizers.

Afrika Bambaataa, another thing which I think is amazing, aside from playing any sort of tune, you're also into William Cooper, who believes there's going to be an alien invasion. But it's not aliens, it's actually the government flying UFOs. What do you know about government-controlled UFOs?

AB: For many people, just go to and look on the Books For Your Mind list. There are many things that's out here. We are not alone and then there's a book called 50 Years Of Repression, which is showing that even Hitler made UFOs back in the day. So this ain't nothin' new to the government and is nothing new to your bible. Read your bible more closely and carefully and if you go to any ancient culture, especially in Africa, ancient Kemet, which y'all know as Egypt today, you will find that we've been dealing with extra-terrestrials for many years. And we'll definitely keep dealing with them as many years to come 'cause many technology you have today is on alien technology and it's going to get more deeper as these years come to fold. And look out for… what is it, 2012?

What's 2012? Because Cooper believed on July 5, 1998 there’d be an alien invasion, but that didn't happen. So what's happening in 2012?

AB: We don't know if there's been an alien invasion or not 'cause as you know there's a lot of technology that definitely been moving. So you don't know what's going on, what's walking around here, what people looking like. Are there clones in the government or whatever? But there's much research stuff that you have to go out there and research on and for all the people who think we alone you crazy as hell. You on a planet. People say, "Oh, you really think there's something out there?" We are out there. The earth is out there. And you think that's something, check out the Hollow Earth Theory.

Afrika Bambaataa, anything else you wanna add to the people out there at all?

AB: Well, to the people out there on the so-called Earth, we wanna say you better respect Mother Earth. She is a living entity. If you don't respect Mother Earth, she will spit your ass out. And that's why you had the tsunami, you had the Katrina. You had over 60,000 people who lost their life in earthquakes in Turkey. In Venezuela there are over 30,000 and it's going to get more and more funky. That movie The Day After was a movie sent by the creator to make all humans wake up. So you need to go back and watch The Day After 10 times, the same way you need to go back and watch all The Matrix movies, over and over, 50 times before you get an overstanding.

Afrika Bambaataa, why should people care about Afrika Bambaataa And The Zulu Nation?

AB: 'Cause we are an organization who's an international hip-hop awareness movement that respects all nationalities, respects all types of religions, respects all types of knowledge of thought and we respect anything — outside our universe, inside out universe and universes and all dimensionals and time zones as well as our subterranean world of beings that is our insides of our earth.

Well, thanks a lot Afrika Bambaataa, really appreciate the time , keep on rockin' in the free world and doot doola doot doo...

AB: Funk you. [laughs]