Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force

Song#:  1102
Date:  07/17/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  48
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Hip-Hop, Rap, Electronic

Pop Bits:  Kevin Donovan, aka Afrika Bambaataa, was an influential DJ who also formed the Zulu Nation, a social/political group formed of members of the hip-hop community. Already a prominent DJ who organized large block parties, Bambaataa was inspired by the electropop of Yellow Magic Orchestra ("Computer Game," 1980, #60) and decided to merge the electronic sound with hip-hop beats. With the help of producer Arthur Baker and synth player John Robie, Bambaataa crafted this single that reached #4 on the R&B chart and #3 on the dance chart. The widely popular track gained some traction on the pop chart and peaked inside the Top 50. Bambaataa would go on to record many other tracks over the years, but none were as popular or influential as this early hip-hop single.

ReduxReview:  I was barely aware of hip-hop in general around this time, so I completely missed this song. Even if I had, I can't say I would have jumped right on board as this genre was so foreign to me. In later years I discovered this song and thought it was pretty great. I even think I heard this song before I even knew the Kraftwerk lick (see below) so when I heard their track for the first time, I was like....hey, wait a minute! Despite my lack of exposure to hip-hop and electro at the time, I found my way to these songs eventually.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  One of the driving forces of this song is the synth line borrowed from Kraftwerk's 1978 song "Trans-Europe Express" (#67). Bambaataa also used elements from their 1981 song "Numbers" to help form the drum beat. These were not samples, but uncredited borrowing and reworking of the Kraftwerk material. This eventually led to a lawsuit that was settled out-of-court.


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