Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983
Tim Lawrence is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of East London and the author of
The Planet Rock Groove
Tom Silverman teamed up with Bambaataa to map out the record that became “Planet Rock” and called in Arthur Baker to produce and John Robie to add synthesizer parts. For the vocals, Bambaataa spoke through an electronic mic while the Soulsonic Force fashioned a new, conversational mode of rapping because of the track’s unusually fast tempo. The result heralded the breakthrough of a new form of synthetic funk. Released a month later, “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five carried rap into social realist territory. Steven Hager focused on Bambaataa rather than Flash when he published the first major article on hip hop (in the Village Voice) in September. Baker and Robie went on to lead the citywide charge into electronics, Malcolm McLaren contributed “Buffalo Gals,” and Man Parrish’s “Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don’t Stop)” took rap further into electronic territory.
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