Hip Hop Legend Afrika Bambaataa Visits Cornell

By Adam Chick

November 27, 2012 Updated Nov 27, 2012 at 11:26 PM EST

Ithaca, NY (WBNG Binghamton) One of the grandfathers of hip hop has a new gig as a visiting scholar to Cornell University.

Afrika Bambaataa, or Bam to his friends, visited the school to discuss the roots of hip hop.

His music, which would pave the way for artists like Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, started with a trip to Africa.

The turmoil he saw completely changed Bam's mindset, who, at the time, was the leader of a violent New York City gang--the Black Spades.

"Seeing what was going on there and coming back with consciousness and speaking to the different communities on slowing down with the violence in your area and becoming warriors and light guiders for your area," said Bambaataa.

Bam left the Spades and formed the Universal Zulu Nation, a group headed by reformed gang members committed to organizing events for youths such as music parties.

It was the very beginning of what Bam calls "Hip Hop culture," a movement that incorporates rapping, DJ'ing, hip hop dance, and graffiti.

There's a difference, Bam says, between Hip Hop, rappers, and how they're both portrayed in the media. He says the national media sometimes considers them one and the same.

"They want to see what Lil' Wayne is doing. Or they want to follow a rapper when he does something wrong and say all Hip Hop does this," said Bambaataa.

Bam's ultimate goal is to promote peace throughout the world. His message is one of common sense and negotiation instead of the violence that plagues places like his home town, the Bronx.

"So this way Palestinians and Jews could sit down and talk. Other places and other countries they could have certain things where youth and adults could sit down in this place just like the politicians do in the United Nations. But we got something that's dealing with the streets, nations of all people," said Bambaataa.