Afrika Bambaataa (born April 17, 1957) is an American hip hop artist, DJ, record producer, and social activist. He is often credited with helping launch the hip hop movement in the early 1980s. He is best known for his 1982 single, "Planet Rock," which is widely considered to be the first hip hop record to ever be released.
Bambaataa was born in the South Bronx of New York City to a working-class African American family. As a child, he was a member of a local street gang called the Black Spades, and was known as "Master Bambaataa". He was heavily influenced by the civil rights movement, and by the time he was a teenager, he was already a DJ, playing at local clubs and events.
In the early 1970s, Bambaataa was an active member of the Universal Zulu Nation, an organization founded by Bronx-based DJ Afrika Islam. The group's goal was to spread peace and unity through music and culture. Bambaataa used his skills as a DJ and producer to create a unique sound that blended elements of funk, soul, and electronic music.
In the late 1970s, Bambaataa released his first singles, "Death Mix" and "Zulu Nation Throwdown," which were very successful. He followed up these singles with a series of albums, including his most successful one, Planet Rock, which was released in 1982. This album spawned the hit single of the same name, which has been sampled and referenced countless times by hip hop artists since its release.
In the mid-1980s, Bambaataa began to focus more on activism and community work. He founded the Zulu Nation's Stop the Violence Movement, which aimed to reduce gun violence in New York City, and was an active participant in several other social justice initiatives. He has also been involved with the creation of several hip hop-based educational programs, and even served as the artistic director for the Hip Hop Theater Festival from 2002 to 2005.
In addition to his musical and activism work, Bambaataa has been a vocal advocate of science fiction, particularly of its influence on hip hop. He has spoken of the importance of technology and the potential of music as a tool for social change. He has also been a vocal supporter of video games, and has released his own video game, Afrika Bambaataa's Electric Funk.