The Bronx episode of “Parts Unknown” was jam-packed with hip hop royalty, from DJ Kool Herc to Afrika Bambaataa. These legends changed music forever and laid the bedrock for the sounds of today. There would be no Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, or Biggie Smalls without these pioneers. Don’t know about any of this? Here’s the playlist you need.
Not to be confused with DJ Kool, DJ Kool Herc is credited with creating hip hop in the early 1970s. He is the “grandfather of hip hop” and still resides in The Bronx. Grand Wizard Theodore, also from The Bronx, is a maverick in his own right; he is credited with inventing scratching, the sound made when you move a record back and forth on a turntable. Today, this technique is used by hip hop artists and DJs everywhere.
You may recognize this song from the “Parts Unknown” episode; this is the track Melle Mel performed in the studio. Melle Mel was an original member of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, a group that pioneered the crossover stylings of hip hop, rock, and other genres.
Speaking of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, this is one of the most iconic hip hop songs in history. This track was on the breakthrough album that elevated street hip hop to a new level.
The Fatback Band released their first rap song on the album XII just before The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979. Melle Mel credits them as one of his influences.
You definitely still sing the first line of this song on a regular basis: “I said a hip hop, Hippie to the hippie, The hip, hip a hop, and you don’t stop, a rock it out” are probably some of the most iconic lyrics of all time. And who doesn’t love to yell “Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn”? Even Pitbull remixed this line into a song. But according to Melle Mel and Anthony Bourdain, The Sugarhill Gang was a corporate, manufactured band just like The Monkees or The Archies—while they helped bring rap to the mainstream, they aren’t a definitive source of the genre.
How does a hip hop artist bring new wave sound into his work? Sample Kraftwerk, of course. According to Afrika Bambaataa of Zulu Nation, he found Kraftwerk’s album in a shop in the Village and thought it had great funk sound. The rest is history.
You may remember this song from the dance portion of the Bronx episode. This piece is a blend of rock and country riffs and hip hop beats. The original B-Boy, Ringo, did his signature dance moves in front of a heavily graffitied wall. B-boying, or breakdancing, was popularized around the same time as rap music in the Bronx. Often, when a DJ was playing a show B-boy dancers would bring the moves.
Zulu Nation is a global hip hop organization that was started by Afrika Bambaataa in the Bronx in the 1970s. Other famous members of the organization include DJ Jazzy Jay, Jam Master Jay, Ice-T, Ad-Rock, and Ice Cube.
You may have recognized a familiar face freestylin’ at the end of the show. Yep, that was Bronx native, Armageddon, a member of the Terror Squad rap collective. While he is a newer face compared to the other men listed here, Armageddon has created his own legacy and still makes music today that reflects his life in the Bronx. Terror Squad was founded by Fat Joe and has attracted new members in recent years including “Snapchat King” DJ Khaled.