The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

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Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force, 'Planet Rock'

Afrika Bambaata soul sonic force
Anthony Barboza/Getty Images

Non-album single, 1982

"One of the most influential songs of everything," says Rick Rubin. "It changed the world." Helmed by 25-year-old Kevin "Afrika Bambaataa" Donovan, a reformed South Bronx gang-member-turned-punk-mystic-community-leader/DJ – with help from superstar producer-in-the-making Arthur Baker and keyboardist John Robie this atom bomb interpolated parts of Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" and "Numbers," mating synth stabs with robotic MC chants ("Rock rock to the planet rock/Don't stop!") into a jam that got the world break-dancing. It introduced Roland 808 beats to hip-hop, for which acts from the Beasties to Kanye would be grateful. Even more important, it coined the sonic language of electro, Detroit techno, freestyle R&B, Miami bass, Brazilian favela funk – i.e., much of modern dance music. "At the time we barely considered it a rap record," says Rubin. "It was more about this new sound." Chuck D adds crunk music to the list of genres that "Rock" inspired: "It's as important as Willie Mitchell or Booker T. were to the Memphis scene. There hasn't been a song like it in hip-hop since."

 

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