The Kings Of New York – Universal Zulu Nation 42 Years At The Top Of Hip Hop Pt. 1
The Universal Zulu Nation celebrated their 42nd anniversary in New York City the weekend of November 12th, 2015. While the masses think the creators of Hip Hop culture are some mythological beings from a lost era, anyone in the know realizes those pioneers are still here, still current and yes still your favorite rappers favorite rappers. If you’re Dj’ing any genre of music, it’s impossible to not have been influenced by Dj’s like Afrika Bambaataa and Jazzy Jay. They not only influenced the sounds of modern music, they influenced the technology itself. In other words, if Dj’s like Boogie Blind didn’t have 50 thousand records, who would ever have thought of the need for Serato? Why would a Dj even need a mixer? Before a group of talented youngsters with power from the street lights rigged up their make shift sound systems, Dj’s just…well played some records.
The Zulu Nation started as an alternative to the gang culture in the mean streets of The Bronx. They pre-date Hip Hop by one full year. Their message of peace, love, unity, and having fun has spread to every continent that humans inhabit. As it may sound bizarre to some, Afrika Bambaataa even has his eyes set on Mars. Why does that sound bizarre? NASA has the same ambitions. While in the current climate of “Rap Music” most strive to copy a successful artist, or to make headlines on a gossip site to remain relevant, Zulu Nation has NASA like ambitions. Q Tip, Grand Master Caz, Ice T, Big Daddy Kane and other Zulu Nation affiliates have all been ahead of their time as well (coincidentally enough).
The Zulu Nation anniversary weekend in New York City focuses on paying homage to legends like T La Rock, Kool Herc, Joe Conzo, The Cold Crush Bros, The Fantastic Freaks, Grand Master Caz, Jazzy Jay and so many other legends who took Hip Hop from the neighborhood to the globe. Before Def Jam had one artist, they turned to giants like T La Rock. It’s easy to find a rapper now, because the world has a blueprint to read. While allowing every day Hip Hop lovers to mingle once a year with the giants of the culture, Zulu Nation assures that the next generation of rappers, B-boys, B-girls, visual artists, and Dj’s get a good look at that blueprint, study it well and spread the message themselves.
Yaheard.com caught up with some of the Zulu Nation’s biggest legends, to get their perspective on Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun.
AFRIKA BAMBAATAA (Afrika Bambaataa is one of the originators of breakbeat DJ’ing and is recognized as “The Godfather”of Hip Hop)
Y: After 42 years what’s next for The Zulu Nation?
Afrika Bambaataa: Well the Universal Zulu Nation is many respected territories, countries, cities and towns that are doing their thing… whether it’s community work, or different things in politics or just doing peaceful stuff and having fun. For Zulu Nation as we become galactic beings in Hip Hop we are definitely going to be other places in the Universe. Now we’re trying to get to Mars and Jupiter. When they get to Mars they will reveal soon that there have been cities and all that up there and that’s where the Zulu’s came from…. Mars…thats why we have all these pyramids and Memphis, Tennessee’s when the great kings were ruling over on this side. (Editors note* This is a reference to Memphis, Tennessee originally being part of the Kingdom of Mali a kingdom that stretched from Africa across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas).
Y: How has the social awareness in Hip Hop evolved or devolved from the beginning to now.
Afrika Bambaataa: It depends on what part of the Hip Hop culture and the different areas that you are dealing with. You have some that are more advanced in the political aspect of Hip Hop and some that are just waking up to the consciousness of having the 5th element of Hip Hop which is knowledge.
Dj Eclipse (pictured on the right with Yaheard Records Marchitect) is an internationally known turntablist whose pioneering work with Mc Serch, Fat Beats, and Non Phixion made him a sought after asset for Zulu Nation
Y: How long have you been in the Zulu Nation?
Dj Eclipse: I’ve always been down with the nation, but officially in the last year…more or less they approached me about helping them out with some of their events namely the anniversary because they saw me doing things at Summer Stage with Rock Steady and what not..so when Muhammed and Amed approached me like “can you help us with this.. and also you should be down.” I said, “I should be down!”
Y: How has the response to positive Hip Hop records in the party changed from the the early days of your Dj Career to now?
Dj Eclipse: To me I don’t like to break it down between positive and negative because I like positive and negative it’s just about how it’s portrayed. I like the movie Scarface, I like Onyx, I like M.O.P…they aren’t necessarily positive but they’re not negative per say as well…I like all spectrums of Hip Hop music as long as it’s good and as for me that just breaks down to the creativity of it…how you’re saying something. Obviously the more negative stuff is the stuff that kind of gets over more in main stream and radio and commercialism but that’s not what we’re here for, we’re here for the true music so we look past what’s considered good or bad and we look at like…what’s behind it.
Y: How do you feel when people like Ben Carson use a Hip Hop song for their campaign. Do you feel like Hip Hop is a tool for anyone to use or do you feel a line should be drawn?
Dj Eclipse: You know what? I’m on that line because I haven’t decided yet on how I really feel about it. On one hand it’s great that Hip Hop is being utilized to inform people to take it to that level…on the other hand I feel as if you’re not from it and not about it..you kinda shouldn’t use it. I only heard a snippet of it but when they start talking about it I kinda cringe…You shouldn’t take it out of context…we really care about the culture.
Mickey Bentson (Manager – Big Pun, Ice T, Body Count and Sirius Xm personality) and Amad Henderson (Co Founder of the Zulu Nation) Pictured with Yaheard’s Marchitect
Y: What was the inspiration to expand the Zulu Nation Anniversary this year to include unsigned artists as well as R & B?
Amad Henderson: First…Zulu Nation is all of that… For the last 41 years we focused on our Hip Hop fam. So this year is the 42nd annual of Zulu Nation but it’s actually the 41st anniversary of Hip Hop culture as well… so this year we said we wanted to bring in another flavor and reach out and put our foot down in other areas which is The R&B night…next year it might be something different.
Mick Bentson: As a Universal Zulu Nation member being with Afrika Bambaataa we played all kinds of music we didn’t just play Hip Hop. We played Funk, we played R&B, we played Jazz, we played Rock-N- Roll….so that plays a role in our culture of Hip-Hop…
CHECK OUT THIS EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE FROM ZULU NATION 42nd ANNIVERSARY WEEKEND
Be sure to check out Part 2 where we talk to Hip Hop legends Grand Master Caz, Prince Whipper Whip, international award winning New York Culture photographic artist Joe Conzo, as well as more from Amad Henderson, Mick Bentson, Afrika Bambaataa, Dj Eclipse, and more of Zulu Nation’s biggest Hip Hop superheroes.
Photography and Videography by Jo Worme.