Afrika Bambaataa
Afrika Bambaataa

Birth name

Lance Taylor


17 April 1957 (age 60)


The Bronx, New York, United States


Hip hop, electro, disco, electro house


DJ, producer, activist

Years active



Tommy Boy

Associated acts

Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, Busy Bee Starski, DJ Jazzy Jay, DJ Kool Herc, Jazzy Five, MC G.L.O.B.E., Melle Mel, Time Zone

Afrika Bambaataa Aasim (born Lance Taylor; 19 April 1957) is an American DJ, record producer and activist from the Bronx, New York. He is notable for releasing a series of genre-defining electro tracks in 1980s that influenced the development of hip hop. Bambaataa is one of the originators of breakbeat DJing and is respectfully known as "The Godfather" and "Amen Ra of Hip Hop Culture", as well as the father of electro funk. Through his co-opting of the street gang the Black Spades into the music and culture-oriented Universal Zulu Nation, he has helped spread hip hop culture throughout the world.

He left his position as head of the Zulu Nation in 2016 following sexual abuse allegations committed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Early lifeEdit

Born as Lance Taylor (previously falsely assumed as Kevin Donovan) to Jamaican and Barbadian immigrants, Bambaataa grew up in The Bronx River Projects, with an activist mother and uncle. As a child, he was exposed to the black liberation movement, and witnessed debates between his mother and uncle regarding the conflicting ideologies in the movement. He was exposed to his mother's extensive and eclectic record collection. Gangs in the area became the law, clearing their turf of drug dealers, assisting with community health programs and both fighting and partying to keep members and turf. Bambaataa became a member of the Black Spades, a street gang active since the late 1960s. He quickly rose to the position of warlord of one of the divisions. As warlord, it was his job to build ranks and expand the turf of the young Spades. He was not afraid to cross turfs to forge relationships with other gang members, and with other gangs. As a result, the Spades became the biggest gang in the city in terms of both membership and turf.

After Bambaataa won an essay contest that earned him a trip to Africa, his worldview shifted. He had seen the movie Zulu and was impressed with the solidarity exhibited by the Zulu in that film. During his trip to Africa, the communities he visited inspired him to create one in his own neighbourhood. He changed his name to Afrika Bambaataa Aasim, adopting the name of the Zulu chief Bhambatha, who led an armed rebellion against unfair economic practices in early 20th century South Africa. He told people that his name was Zulu for "affectionate leader".


Early career and formation of the Zulu NationEdit

Inspired by DJ Kool Herc and Kool DJ Dee, Bambaataa began hosting hip hop parties beginning in 1976. Bambaataa would deejay with his own sound system at The Bronx River Houses' Community Center. He performed at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in the Bronx and formed the Bronx River Organization, which he intended to be an alternative to the Black Spades. Because of his prior high status in the Black Spades, he already had an established party crowd and group of followers drawn from former members of the gang.

About a year later, Bambaataa reformed the group, calling it the Zulu Nation, inspired by his wide studies on African history at the time and, specifically, the 1964 film Zulu. Five b-boys joined him, whom he called the Zulu Kings. As he continued deejaying, more DJs, rappers, b-boys, b-girls, graffiti writers, and artists followed him, and he took them under his wing and made them members of the Zulu Nation. He established two rap crews: the Jazzy 5 and the Soulsonic Force. He became a popular DJ in the South Bronx scene and became known not only as Bambaataa but also as the "Master of Records" for his extensive record collection.

In 1980, Bambaataa's groups made Death Mix, their first recording with Paul Winley Records. According to Bambaataa, this was an unauthorised release. Winley recorded two versions of Soulsonic Force's landmark single, "Zulu Nation Throwdown", with authorisation from the musicians. Disappoined with the results of the single, Bambaataa left the company. The arranger credit on these recordings is correctly attributed to Harlem Underground Band leader, Kevin Donovan. This led to the false assumption that Bambaataa's real name was Kevin Donovan, which was widely accepted by the hip hop community until recently, following sexual abuse allegations, when Bronx River residents spoke out and revealed in oral testimonies that Bambaataa's real name was in fact Lance Taylor.

In 1982, Bambaataa and his followers, a group of dancers, artists and DJs, went outside the United States on the first hip hop tour. He saw that the hip hop tours would be key to expand hip hop and his Universal Zulu Nation. In addition, it would help promote the values of hip hop that he believed are based on peace, unity, love, and having fun. He brought peace to the gangs; many artists and gang members say that "hip hop saved a lot of lives."

Career peakEdit

In 1982, Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force dropped their live band to go high-tech. Bambaataa credited the pioneering Japanese electropop group Yellow Magic Orchestra, whose work he sampled, as an inspiration. He also borrowed an eerie keyboard hook from German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and was provided the electronic Roland TR-808 "beat-box" by producer Arthur Baker and synthesiser player John Robie. It resulted in "Planet Rock", which went to gold status and generated an entire school of "electro-boogie" rap and dance music.

Bambaataa, following the success of "Planet Rock", was booked on the first ever European hip hop tour. Along with himself were rapper and graffiti artist Rammellzee, Zulu Nation DJ Grand Mixer DXT, the Rock Steady Crew and Double Dutch Girls, and graffiti artists Fab 5 Freddy, PHASE 2, Futura 2000 and Dondi.

Bambaataa's second release was "Looking for the Perfect Beat", then later, "Renegades of Funk", both with the Soulsonic Force in 1983. He began working with producer Bill Laswell at Jean Karakos' Celluloid Records, where he developed two groups on the label: Time Zone and Shango. He recorded a collaboration with former Sex Pistols lead singer John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon and Time Zone in 1984, titled "World Destruction". That same year, Bambaataa appeared in the movie Beat Street. He also collaborated with James Brown on the single "Unity", the first time that Brown collaborated with a performer associated with hip hop. It was billed in music industry circles as "the Godfather of Soul meets the Godfather of Hip Hop."


In 1990, Bambaataa made Life magazine's "Most Important Americans of the 20th Century" issue.

On August 14 2012, Bambaataa was given a three-year appointment as a visiting scholar at Cornell University. The appointment was made in collaboration between Cornell University Library's Hip Hop Collection, the largest collection of historical hip hop music in North America, and the University's Department of Music. His archives, including his vinyl collection, original audio and video recordings, manuscripts, books, and papers arrived at the Cornell University Hip Hop Collection in December 2013.

In 2014 and 2015, DJs Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow toured internationally using Bambaataa's vinyl collection as part of the "Renegades of Rhythm" tour.

Sexual abuse allegationsEdit

In April 2016, Bronx political activist Ronald Savage accused Bambaataa of molesting him in 1980, when Savage was 15. Following Savage's allegations, three more men accused Bambaataa of sexual abuse. Bambaataa issued a statement to Rolling Stone denying the allegations. On 6 May 2016, Bambaataa left his position as head of the Zulu Nation.


Studio albumsEdit

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