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During Bambaataa's early years, he was a founding member of the Bronx River Projects-area street gang, The Savage Seven. Due to the explosive growth of the gang, it later became known as the Black Spades, and he rose to the position of Division Leader. After a life-changing visit to Africa, he changed his name to Afrika Bambaataa Aasim. Bambaataa was influenced by the depiction of the Zulu warriors attacking British troops at Rorke's Drift in the Michael Caine film Zulu.
After the visit, Bambaataa decided to use his leadership to turn those involved in the gang life into something more positive to the community. This began the development of The Organization, which soon later became known as the Zulu Nation, a group of racially and politically aware rappers, B-boys, graffiti artists and other people involved in hip hop culture that gained fame in the early eighties to mid nineties. By 1977, inspired by DJ Kool Herc, Bambaataa had begun organizing block parties all around the South Bronx, and he was soon renowned as one of the best DJs in the business. In 1980, he produced Soul Sonic Force's landmark single, "Zulu Nation Throwdown".
In 1982, Bambaataa organized the very first European hip hop tour. Along with himself were rapper and graffiti artist Rammellzee, Zulu Nation DJ Grand Mixer DXT (formerly Grand Mixer D.St), B-boy and B-girl crews the Rock Steady Crew, and the Double Dutch Girls, as well as legendary graffiti artists Fab 5 Freddy, Phase 2, Futura 2000, and Dondi.
Also in 1982, Bambaataa became a solo artist (having produced several other singles) and released "Jazzy Sensation" on Tommy Boy Records in that year. "Planet Rock", a popular single, came out that June under the name Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force. The song melded electronic hip hop beats with the main melody from Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express", as well as portions from records by Ennio Morricone and Captain Sky - thus creating a new style of music altogether, electro funk. It influenced many styles of electronic and dance music, e.g. freestyle music, house music and techno music. In 1984, Bambaataa recorded "Unity" with James Brown and released "World Destruction" under the name Time Zone (with John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten). Shango Funk Theology, a full length album, came out under the name Shango. This was followed by "Funk You" in 1985 and then his formal full album debut, Beware (The Funk Is Everywhere).
Bambaataa then left Tommy Boy and signed with Capitol Records, released The Light (as Afrika Bambaataa & the Family), which included aid from George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Boy George and UB40. 1990-2000: Decade of Darkness was released in 1991. It included both hip house tracks that were produced by the Italian team De Point (most of those have been collected on ZYX record's The 12" Mixes compilation) as well as hip hop and electro funk tracks. On Warlocks and Witches, Bam (as his name is often abbreviated) focused on hip hop. From the mid-1990s, Bam returned to his electro roots, collaborating with Westbam (who was named after him) and culminating in 2004's album Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light which featured Gary Numan and many others. In 2000, Rage Against the Machine covered Afrika's song "Renegades of Funk" for their album Renegades. In 2006, he featured on the British singer Jamelia's album Walk With Me on a song called Do Me Right. Bambaataa's fourth son is a drum and bass/Jungle MC known as TC Izlam, who frequently performs at the popular drum and bass event Konkrete Jungle in New York City.
Bambaataa has also performed a variety of both hilarious and serious voice over character roles in the international television series known around the world as Kung Faux  from Dubtitled Entertainment and Tommy Boy Films .
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