If you want to understand just how vital Afrika Bambaataa was to hip-hop's early development, it's still best to listen to "Planet Rock." Besides its all-encompassing vision of a world united by music — elevating the feel-good vibe of South Bronx street parties to a global scale — the groundbreaking 1982 single paired the budding genre's familiar funk breaks with the icy minimalism of Kraftwerk. "Planet Rock" openly borrowed from the German pioneers, using synthesized repetition to achieve the cosmic harmony Bambaataa had in mind. Hip-hop may have been seriously co-opted in the decades since, and these days the influential founder of Zulu Nation is best known as a slick electro DJ, but his knack for large-scale musical hypnosis still demands respect.
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