“Hip-Hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa’s records are the most important in the history of the genre; the patient zero whose breadth of genres influenced, knowingly or not, every subsequent DJ and hip-hop producer.”
Using only vinyl pulled from Afrika Bambaataa’s historic collection – over 40,000 strong and permanently archived at Cornell University – DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist aim to present Bambaataa’s legacy in all its genre-busting and socially-minded complexity. DJ Shadow states, “His collection includes not just Soul and Rap, but also Soca, Calypso, Dub, Salsa…it’s obvious that this music was important to him, and it’s reflected in his own music. For example, when the Soulsonic Force is singing an African chant, it actually comes from a Manu Dibango record. That’s when being a crate-digger comes in handy – you have to be able to pick up on the references and reiterate them.”
Johan Kugelberg, who in 2007 established the Cornell Hip Hop Archive, and a member of Zulu Nation, brought the idea of this tour to Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow, and introduced the two to Afrika Bambaataa. “Hip Hop ultimately is multi-generational and communicative, and an ongoing grassroots network” he says. “This tour will bring together hip hop fans over generations.”
Sorting through the collection with this holistic aim in mind was daunting. “The first sort was to make sure we didn’t leave anything important behind. We definitely over-pulled,” adds Cut Chemist. To help them narrow their selections, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist focused on the appearance of the records themselves, “It was pretty clear what he played a lot and what he didn’t. The sure-shots were covered with tape and the jackets were beautifully tattered; that made it easier after a while to pull records.”
“The program will be multifaceted,” DJ Shadow explains. “Bambaataa as artist, exploring the influence of his classics like ‘Planet Rock;’ Bambaataa as collector, and the genre-defining breaks he discovered; and Bambaataa as peacemaker and force for social change. He influenced an entire generation worldwide, so we feel a great obligation to get it right.”
Naturally, it was paramount to the two DJ’s that the tour have the full blessing and support of Afrika Bambaataa himself. “I call on all who love Hip-Hop to come out, see them, hear them,” says the Godfather. “My story is our history in DJing.”
The Renegades of Rhythm tour will use six turntables and a variety of real-time effects. “It adds another performance level, real-time sampling from the record that’s being played,” says Cut Chemist. Visuals for the tour will be supplied by acclaimed video director, multimedia producer and regular DJ Shadow collaborator Ben Stokes. The tour is produced by Jamal Chalabi and Backlash Management.
The tour may be rooted in a historic vinyl collection, but both DJs are quick to point out that people should not come to this expecting strictly an ‘old-school’ set. As DJ Shadow sums it up, “DJ Shadow + Cut Chemist + Bambaataa’s records + his blessings: it’s going to be epic. That’s all you really need to know.” Or, as Afrika Bambaataa puts it, “DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist are going to blow your funky mind.”