5:17 pm Aug. 15, 2012
Ben Ortiz, the assistant curator of the Hip Hop Collection at Cornell University, was talking about his latest hire: D.J. Afrika Bambaataa, the South Bronx hip-hop legend and creator of the Universal Zulu Nation.
“Who better than the man who named hip-hop?” Ortiz said of the appointment, which will have the legendary artist visiting the campus several times a year for lectures, meetings with students and community groups, and performances at Cornell. Bambaataa, Ortiz said, was the first to "identify" hip-hop as a cultural movement in an interview with The Village Voice in 1982. He cited, as many do, a very specific point of origin for the form: a house party on April 11, 1973 at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx; Bambaataa is thought to have attended.
The appointment was first announced on July 30 during the Tools of War Park Jam in Crotona Park in the South Bronx, according to a Cornell official. But the Cornell Hip Hop Collection—the nation’s largest hip-hop culture archive—made the official press announcement yesterday.
Ortiz said that Bambaataa's first lecture will take place on Nov. 27, as part of Cornell's first university-level hip-hop class, “Hip-Hop: Beats, Rhymes and Life.” The class is to be co-taught by teachers in the Africana, Music, and English Departments, Ortiz said. He added that more than 100 students have already registered.
Since the creation of the Hip Hop Collection in 2007, Cornell has hosted a number of visiting hip-hop legends, including Grandmaster Caz, D.J. Tony Tone, Popmaster Fabel, and D.J. Disco Wiz, the first Latino hip-hop D.J. The core of the collection was donated to the university by author and collector Johan Kugelberg, and forms the basis of the book “Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop,” which Kugelberg edited. (For his contributions to the cultural preservation of hip-hop, Bambaataa inducted Kugelberg, a Swedish expatriate, into the Zulu Nation in 2009.)
Bambaataa’s appointment comes at a historic time in the history of hip-hop, said Ortiz. 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the genre—if one agrees that it originated on that night in 1973, that is. Bambaataa will make several in-class appearances at Cornell throughout the school year. His second, in April, will coincide with a large exhibition of photographs, sound recordings, graffiti zines, and album covers.
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