Afrika Bambaataa is one of the most important people in the history of hip-hop, if not the most important. The guy was hip-hop before hip-hop was even a thing. In fact, he's widely recognized as the one who gave the genre its name. Thanks to a $260,000 grant from the National Endowment for Humanities, Bambaataa's collection of more than 40,000 records will be archived as part of Cornell University Libarary's Hip Hop Collection. The records will be numbered in the order he collected them, and many will be annotated by Afrika Bambaataa himself. Once the collection is archived, it will be made publically available online.
For the past three years, Bambaataa has served as a visiting scholar at Cornell, travelling to campus in order to speak with students and professors. Up to this point, his records have been archived at the university, however this new grant means that information about the collection can be made widely available to the public. This is some seriously awesome news for hip-hop nerds.
In the late '70s and early '80s, Bambaataa threw block parties in the South Bronx as a way to lure youth away from gang violence and crime. The music, of course, was provided by Bambaataa; at least initially. Extending a drum break by cutting back and forth between two identical records, he created the craft of breakbeat DJing, a technique that helped lay the foundation for an entirely new artistic culture.
I'm sure that some of the records used at Bambaataa's block parties will be included in this Cornell archive, and that's exciting. Hip-hop has developed from an underground scene into one of the most popular genres in the world, and anyone in the future who wants to learn more about its genesis will be able to get familiar with the music that inspired it all. In a way, this collection is hip-hop in its earliest form. I think I speak for many when I say it's important that we preserve it.