|Single by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force|
|from the album Planet Rock: The Album|
|Released||April 17, 1982|
|Format||Vinyl record (7", 12")|
6:25 (12" version)
5:15 (7" edit)
|Afrika Bambaataa singles chronology|
"Planet Rock" (also known as 'Don't Stop... Planet Rock') is a 1982 song by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force. The song featured Marvella Murray, Yvette Murray, Melissa Johnson and Sandra Wheeler on additional background vocals. Although it was primarily an underground hit in the United States, Canada, and UK, it helped change the foundations of hip-hop and dance music and became one of the most influential pieces and a milestone and eventually an icon of the hip-hop, breakdance and electronic music cultures. It is credited with pioneering the genre and developing the electro style, building on the work of Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, and George Clinton, combined with distinctive Roland TR-808 beats, and helped pave the way for other genres such as techno,house and trance. In November 2004, "Planet Rock" placed at number 240 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and number 10 in About.com's Top 100 Rap Songs. "Planet Rock" peaked at number four on the soul chart and number forty-eight on the Hot 100, and went to number three on the dance charts.
Afrika Bambaataa recorded the song with the Soulsonic Force and producer Arthur Baker in a Manhattan studio, the New York City Upper East Side Intergalactic Studios, a popular site for NYC club scene productions. The song blends synthesizer and vocoder sounds with breakbeats on a Roland TR-808 drum machine. Toward the end of the scheduled recording session, NYC music clubscene fixtures DJ David Azarc, soundman Jim Toth, and promoter Tom Goodkind—all from the Peppermint Lounge—asked Arthur to please hurry. The three had scheduled the next recording session for a band that would become the Washington Squares. Ever accommodating, Arthur told them that things would move faster if they assisted him with the backup vocals. The voices singing "rock it don't stop it" on "Planet Rock" are in fact those of the Washington Squares.
Bambaataa cited the influence of synthpop pioneers Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO),funk pioneer George Clinton, new wave artist Gary Numan, and funk artists James Brown and Sly & the Family Stone. Bambaataa's concept was to merge these electronic and funk influences together, along with TR-808 beats, to create electro-funk. He has acknowledged Kraftwerk as an influence, but has expressed that their contributions to his work, overall style and aesthetic have been over-emphasized, stating that "Kraftwerk was one part of a sound," while citing YMO, George Clinton, Gary Numan and the TR-808 as other major influences on his work. YMO, for example, utilized the Roland TR-808 drum machine in 1980, with YMO member Ryuichi Sakamoto anticipating electro's beats and sounds with "Riot in Lagos" (1980).
The use of the Roland TR-808 drum machine gives the beats in "Planet Rock" a distinctive sound. The melody interpolates parts of Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express" (1977). The Japanese counting part "Ichi, ni, san, shi" was used in YMO's "Rap Phenomena" (1981) and Kraftwerk's "Numbers" (1981). "Planet Rock" also features a brief synthesizer arrangement of the whistling melody from Ennio Morricone's For a Few Dollars More soundtrack.
Since its release, "Planet Rock" has had a significant influence on music and on popular culture. In 2008, it was ranked number 21 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop. In 2012, Rolling Stones list of "The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time" included "Planet Rock" at number three. The influence of "Planet Rock" can still be heard in hip-hop sub-genres such as G-funk and in the work of producers such as Timbaland and The Neptunes, who use electro-based sounds in their productions.
In the Black Star cover of Slick Rick's "Children's Story," Mos Def criticizes a fictitious DJ for the overuse of sampling the classics. He says in the song that the DJ "jacked the beat to 'Planet Rock'," which is ironic and potentially misleading, since one might say that the beat to "Planet Rock" was "jacked" from a Kraftwerk song (specifically "Trans-Europe Express"), as mentioned earlier. In 1998, Afrika Bambaataa produced a remix combining electro and house music elements, called "Planet Rock '98," which is regarded as an early example of the electro house genre.
The 2016 documentary film 808 was originally titled 'Planet Rock & Other Tales of the 808'. Remixes of Planet Rock by Boys Noize, Kaytranada, Vanilla Ace and Lunice were commissioned to promote the film.