In April 1982, Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force created the song “Planet Rock”. Planet Rock was Bambaataa’s grand statement, although this was an underground hit, it became very popular. 26 years after its release, in 2008 this song is still on the VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop. Ranked number 21, showing the significance of how this song was and still is very important to early hip-hop songs having a great impact.
Planet Rock would go on and sell many times without ever being played on the radio. The artist Afrika Bambaataa himself was very influential on both the culture and the community of hip-hop. He was known Known as the Godfather of Hip-Hop and known to be different from everyone else from the Bronx. Although a great icon, after Planet Rock Bambaataa would become a bigger and more known artist. Bambaataa started as a gang member in the South Bronx then later expanded his knowledge of music to the community spreading to downtown. Thus allowing those downtown with little experience or knowledge of hip-hop to gain. Even in performance Bambaataa’s outfits stood out from every other MC.
Planet Rock’s artist intended to influence and build/change hip hop. Bambaataa created a universal Zulu nation, which had an impact on the Bronx youth, hip-hop downtown and established Zulu Credo, a worldview on how to behave to the music of hip-hop. He was such a generative figure that anything he created would become a big hit. This song especially had a different style of electro-pop, something the others did not. It sounded unlike anything from the Bronx or hip hop. Planet Rock went beyond the Bronx and the next day everyone was playing and dancing to it.
The record would cost $800 to make and would go on to sell 650,000 copies. The record showed it wasn’t just urban or from the Bronx, but more inclusive such as Bambaataa’s ideas. After this hit, hip-hop became global. The multiple styles that the record blends are pretty remarkable. The music and instrumentals inspired by Kraftwerk, the Yellow Magic Orchestra, and Gary Numan. Planet Rock brought the idea of electro funk to hip-hop. Musically and sonically it was unlike other hip hop songs at the time.
This hit differed from others due to the fact it was created with keyboards and a TR-808 drum machine. It sampled Kraftwerk ” Trans-Europe Express”, a German electronic band. “Planet Rock became the first gold-certified vinyl 12-inch single, peaking at No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. It created a new, funky, Afro-futurist template for hip-hop and also influenced the techno sound developing in Detroit.
” Tommy Boy Records, Bambaataa’s label, would test his songs to see their worth. Planet Rock was played in a New York club called The Funhouse. A crowd of about 2,500 people would come around on the weekends. A very subtle note that may go unnoticed to some is the significance of the songs name, Planet Rock instead of Planet Rap. This coming from the focus of the music and instrumentals of rock instead of the rapping in the song.