Afrika Bambaata

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The first conscious artist of rap's aural collage was Afrika Bambaata, aka Kahyan Aasim, the Leonardo of the "beatbox", the producer of Soul Sonic Force's Zulu Nation Throwdown (1980), the rap auteur of Planet Rock (1982), Looking For The Perfect Beat (1982), Renegades Of Funk (1983), World Destruction (1984), whose album Beware (1986) summarized five years of experiments (facilitated by producer Arthur Baker) in mixing samples, epileptic beats, disco grooves and Kraftwerk's electronic pop, and defined the genre called "electro".
(Translated from my old Italian text by Nicholas Green)

Afrika Bambaataa (Kevin Donovan) became the "king of the Zulus" in the Bronx with a party in December 1976, but for years he would remain a local figure. When he decided to cut records of his own, arranging Zulu Nation Throwdown (1980) by the Soulsonic Force, he revealed himself to be an excellent musician as well. He raised the standards of commercial rap with his hyperactive EPs, archetypal "dance-floor" music: Planet Rock (1982), a dizzying collage of scratches, electronic effects, convulsive rhythms, and manipulated vocals, which bestowed prestige on the "beatbox" (thanks largely to producer Arthur Baker and mixer Jellybean Benitez); Looking For The Perfect Beat (1982), a rap symphony of sorts with mixed sounds (and another Baker masterpiece); Renegades Of Funk (1983), an agit-prop rap set to a monolithic and unrelenting rhythm; the masterpiece World Destruction (1984), a rhythmic hurricane with John Lydon on vocals and Bill Laswell on bass (credited to Time Zone); and the very long single Funk You (1985). On his first album, Beware (The Funk is Everywhere) (1986), featuring Funk Jam Party and Rock America, he would adulterate his harmonies with electric guitars, choirs and organs.

Bambaataa was the first to understand the expressive potential of rap and the first to bend it towards the chic taste of intellectuals. His records are also the first to conceptualize the praxis of rap for what it is - a form of aural collage - and to push this concept to the technological limits of digital production.

Afrika Bambaata (Kevin Donovan) divenne il ras degli Zulu del Bronx con il party del dicembre 1976, ma per anni rimase una figura locale. Quando decise di incidere dischi in proprio, dopo aver arrangiato Zulu Nation Throwdown (1980) di Soul Sonic Force, si rivelo` anche sopraffino musicista. Elevo` lo standard di qualita` dei rap in commercio con i suoi iper-dinamici EP, archetipici della "dance-floor" music: Planet Rock (1982), un collage vertiginoso di scratch, effetti elettronici, ritmi epilettici e vocalismi manipolati, che diede lustro alla "beatbox (merito soprattutto del produttore Arthur Baker e del mixer Jellybean Benitez), Looking For The Perfect Beat (1982), una sorta di sinfonia rap di suoni mixati (e ancora un capolavoro di Baker), Renegades Of Funk (1983), un rap agit-prop a ritmo monolitico ed ossessivo, il capolavoro World Destruction (1984), un uragano ritmico con John Lydon al canto e Bill Laswell al basso, accreditato a Time Zone, e il singolo chilometrico Funk You (1985). Il primo album, Beware (1986), con Funk Jam Party e Rock America, sofistico` le armonie con chitarre elettriche, cori e organi.

Bambaata fu il primo a capire le potenzialita` espressive del rap e a piegarlo al gusto chic degli intellettuali. I suoi dischi sono anche i primi a concepire la prassi del rap per quello che e`, una forma di collage aurale, e spingere il concetto al limite tecnologico dei mezzi computerizzati.

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

After rapping on Shango's Funk Theology (1984), Bambaata released an eclectic mix of styles, The Light (1988), studded with guests. Looking For The Perfect Beat is a compilation of the singles from 1980-85. Bambaataa's own albums were largely disappointing: The Light (1988), 1990-2000: Decade of Darkness (1991), Zulu Groove (1997), Hydraulic Funk (2000), Electro Funk Breakdown (2001).

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