Afrika Bambaataa | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Afrika Bambaataa

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I don't know if it's related to fear of a Macless planet, but as the millennium approaches, interest is rising in the so-quaint-they're-cute sounds of early-80s electro funk. Indie labels like Detroit's Interdimensional Transmissions and Miami's Schematic are rediscovering the primitive joys of the TR-808 drum machine, and artists ranging from the cerebral Andrea Parker (see separate Critic's Choice) to the down and dirty DJ Assault have built their own styles on a solid foundation of bleep and bass. So there's never been a better time for Afrika Bambaataa to reassert his place as the Almighty Zulu Godfather of the Global Electro-Funk Nation. Not that anyone's ever questioned it: the intergalactic throb of "Planet Rock" and its follow-up, 1983's dizzying "Looking for the Perfect Beat," still defines electro, and Bam's cred goes even deeper than that, to the very roots of hip-hop itself. His ultrarare Paul Winley Records 12-inch, "Death Mix," recorded (with a tin can and string, from the sound of it) in the late 70s and released in '83 after he left Winley for Tommy Boy, is one of the few commercially released documents of hip-hop's pre-Sugarhill Records years. But Bambaataa's hardly resting on his laurels. Last month his collaboration with progressive-house kings Leftfield, "Afrika Shox," topped the British pop charts, and late November will see the release of his contribution to the "United DJs of America" mix-CD series. The forthcoming disc is hardly the monumental throwdown you'd hope for from a DJ of such stature, staying within a fairly rigid definition of electro. Still, it has its charms, particularly when it dips into the booty-bass call and response--DJ Boo's Gary Glitter appropriation "Rock and Roll Part 2 (Raise the Roof)," 12 Gauge's "Dawg Call"--that was one of the greatest gifts "Planet Rock" gave the world. And it's probably an appropriate prelude to this performance, a live PA focusing on electro funk. Friday, 10 PM, Crobar the Nightclub, 1543 N. Kingsbury; 312-413-7000.

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