Saturday, January 21, 2006

Planet Rock (1982) – Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force

The festivities begin with Afrika Bambaataa inciting the party from what sounds like the inside of a metal garbage can. (Reverb turned to about ½?) He then abdicates the mic to the Soul. Sonic. Force . . . who assume their M.C. duties in a waggish powwow. Most impressive about this jam is that—despite its sparse arrangement of Roland TR-808 and bass synth, with an occasional cyborg voice, orchestral synth or space effect sprinkled in—it is the most influential composition in hip-hop, melding electronic programming, recognizable synth hooks and zingy rapping with the stark atmospheric vacuum of space. Perhaps its simplicity rouses the primal urge to get loose. Much of its appeal can be attributed to the fact that it sounds like music emanating from a nightclub on the rings of Saturn, but equal credit goes to producer Arthur Baker and musician John Robie for devising this cosmic opus. The Bonus Beats and Instrumental version are just as essential, showcasing the beat in its minimalism, closing out the event with robotic “shout-outs” to various cities.

This, THE seminal electro-funk jam, owes an unpayable debt to Kraftwerk. While it has been well-documented that “Planet Rock” features the synth refrain from Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europe Express,” less attention has been paid to the fact that it utilized the exact same beat from Kraftwerk’s “Numbers”—including a variation of the stuttering triplet hi-hat pattern that clasps and releases—as well as finding inspiration for the “ichi, ni, san, shi” call-and-response. Said beat was copied so much in ‘80s electro-funk/hip-hop via “Planet Rock” that Kraftwerk should have made a fortune on publishing.

  • Listen to "Planet Rock" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "Looking For The Perfect Beat" (1983) – Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force
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