Some of the best known crate-diggers on the planet, Shadow and Chemist were recently given the incredible opportunity to dig through what may very well be considered the holy grail of vinyl: Afrika Bambaataa’s personal collection of 40,000+ records. Initially they were commissioned to make a new mix that was exclusively built from his collection, but with Bambaataa’s blessing the pair decided to take it several steps further and take the mix on the road.
Along with Grandmaster Flask and Kool Herc, Bambaataa is one of the forefathers of hip-hop music. His DJ block parties in the Bronx in the late ‘70s are the stuff of legend, and his influence in shaping the nascent hip-hop culture is incalculable. You’ve undoubtably heard his music. His encyclopedic knowledge of obscure funk grooves and utilization of diverse musical genres ranging from dub, punk, calypso, and salsa earned him the nickname “Master of Records”. And just as he layered various threads of music together, he carried this philosophy over into everyday life: using music to uplift the violence-torn Bronx communities and bringing different walks of life together in peaceful harmony – servants to the groove.
Here’s a 2013 interview with the man himself, talking about his musical influences and going through his massive collection:
At the time, spinning artists as diverse as James Brown, Gary Numan, and Kraftwerk in the same mix was heresy, but Bam always made it work with his unparalleled attention to the groove and flow. In that sense, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist are the perfect foils to bring the hip-hop pioneer’s collection to a new audience, creating a funky fresh story without ever treading into nostalgia trip territory. The duo had two days to pore over Bam’s record collection, which is currently being housed and digitized at Cornell University. The more worn and beat up a record jacket appeared, the more they could tell that disc was one of Bam’s favorites. They pared it down to a more manageable 700 records, and then started to assemble the intricate jigsaw puzzle that could be showcase the origins of hip-hop. Here’s a glimpse of the early days.
All-told, about 200 records made it into the final set, which they have been taking across the county since early September. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, the stage set up consists of six turntables, two mixers and a drum machine — paired down just a bit from the eight turntables the duo used on their last project together, 2008’s The Hard Sell where they exclusively spun 45s. The rave reviews from audiences around the country have been pouring in; in fact, the 100 minute set has been so well received that the pair will be taking the show across the pond to Europe next spring.
There is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and this celebration of Afrika Bambaataa’s enduring legacy and the power of hip-hop is no exception. So dust off those dancing shoes and get a head start on burning off those Turkey Day calories. We’ll see you there.