If any one person could be said to have invented hip-hop it's the man born Kevin Donovan in the Bronx in 1960 who, during the mid-'70s, organized block parties where he acted as DJ and his friends acted as emcees, rapping to the beats he selected so carefully. The wider world didn't turn to Donovan, who had since renamed himself Afrika Bambaataa, until 1982, when he released the single "Planet Rock," which augmented Kraftwerk's proto-techno song "Trans-Europe Express" with call-and-response rapping from Bambaataa and his crew, Soulsonic Force.
Befitting his role as more of an instigator than an innovator, Bambaataa has since acted as producer and philosophical guru, mainly as the spiritual head of the Zulu Nation collective, which coughed up true rap innovators like De La Soul, Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers. More significantly, the beatwise production values that Bambaataa oversaw in the early '80s were direct influences on a variety of regional dance music styles that emerged in the 80s and 90s, from Miami bass to Chicago house to Detroit techno.
Still, Bambaataa remains a DJ at heart, and to help celebrate the one-year anniversary of Unit in Tokyo's Daikanyama, he'll be spinning sides with fellow turntablists Dj Kentaro, DJ Quietstorm and others.
Afrika Bambaataa: July 23, 10 p.m., Unit. Tickets 5,000 yen. For tickets and more information, call Box Office at (03) 5459-8630.