Planet Rock (song)

"Planet Rock"
Single by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force
from the album Planet Rock: The Album
Released April 17, 1982
Format Vinyl record (7", 12")
Recorded 1981
Length 7:31
  • Arthur Baker
  • John Robie
Afrika Bambaataa singles chronology
"Jazzy Sensation"
"Planet Rock"
"Looking for the Perfect Beat"
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"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 electronical music culture. It is credited with pioneering the genre and developing the electro style, building on the work of Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra,[1] combined with distinctive Roland TR-808 beats,[2] and helped pave the way for other genres such as techno,[3] house and trance. In November 2004, "Planet Rock" placed at #240 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and #10 in's Top 100 Rap Songs.[4] "Planet Rock" peaked at number four on the soul chart and number forty-eight on the Hot 100,[5] and went to number three on the dance charts.[6]

Background and recording

Produced by Arthur Baker, "Planet Rock" blends synthesizer and vocoder sounds with breakbeats. It was influenced by electropop pioneers Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO),[1] funk pioneer George Clinton, and artists such as Gary Numan.[7] The melody features parts of Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express" (1977). The use of the TR-808, however, gives the beats in "Planet Rock" a distinctive sound.[2] The Japanese counting part "Ichi, ni, san, shi" was used in "Numbers" as well as YMO's "Rap Phenomena" (1981). "Planet Rock" also features a brief synthesizer arrangement of the whistling melody from Ennio Morricone's "For a Few Dollars More" soundtrack.

The record was recorded in the NYC upper eastside Intergalactic Studios, a popular site for NYC clubscene productions. Toward the end of the scheduled recording session, NYC music clubscene fixtures DJ David Azarc, soundman Jim Toth, and promoter Tom Goodkindall from the Peppermint Loungeasked 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.


Afrika Bambaataa has acknowledged Kraftwerk, but has explicitly expressed that their contributions to his works his overall style and aesthetic have been over-emphasized. Bambaataa stated that "Kraftwerk was one part of a sound," while citing Yellow Magic Orchestra and Gary Numan as other major influences on his work;[7] Yellow Magic Orchestra, for example, utilized the Roland TR-808 programmable drum machine in 1980,[8] and anticipated the beats and sounds of electro with "Riot in Lagos" (1980).[2] The influence of "Planet Rock" can still be heard in hip-hop subgenres such as G-funk and in the work of producers such as Timbaland and The Neptunes, who use electro-based sounds in their productions.

Track listings

  1. "Planet Rock"
  2. "Planet Rock" (Bonus Beats)
  3. "Planet Rock" (Instrumental)




Since its release, "Planet Rock" has had a large influence on music and on popular culture. In 2008, it was ranked number 21 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop.

Cybotron's Juan Atkins cited "Planet Rock" as an influence on his Detroit techno sound in the 1980s.[3]

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, 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.[11]

The song was remixed by Paul Oakenfold for the 2001 film soundtrack album Swordfish, and was sampled by LL Cool J in the song "Control Myself."

The band, altogether with the repeating line "Just hit me", is quoted by James Murphy in the final rant of the seminal LCD Soundsystem single "Losing My Edge".

Jazz and neosoul vocalist Dwight Trible released a track on his 2005 album "Love is the Answer" entitled "I Was Born on Planet Rock" featuring rapper Scienz of Life, a tribute to "Planet Rock" and its legacy on hip hop culture and music.

Additionally, the song has been featured in the 2002 film Ali G Indahouse in what might be the film’s best-known scene, which features Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen), Ricky C (Martin Freeman), and Dangerous Dave (Tony Way) breaking into the Prime Minister's mansion and getting through a laser room by breakdancing through the room and was used as the main theme of the 2006 basketball video game NBA 2K7 as well as in the PlayStation game Thrasher: Skate and Destroy. The song was also played in the episode, "I've Met Cats and Dogs Smarter Than Cory and Trevor," of the Canadian TV show Trailer Park Boys. The song is featured on the NBA 2K15 soundtrack.


  1. 1 2 William Eric Perkins (1996), Droppin' science: critical essays on rap music and hip hop culture, Temple University Press, p. 12, ISBN 1-56639-362-0, retrieved 2011-05-26
  2. 1 2 3 "The Wire, Volumes 143-148", The Wire, p. 21, 1996, retrieved 2011-05-25 (see online link)
  3. 1 2 Cosgrove, S. (b), Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit liner notes, 10 Records Ltd. (UK), 1988 (LP: DIXG 75; CD: DIXCD 75).
  4. "100 Greatest Rap Songs: 100-91". Retrieved 2016-11-13.
  5. Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 44.
  6. Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 28.
  7. 1 2 "Father Afrika Bombaataa", CMJ New Music Monthly (76), p. 72, December 1999, ISSN 1074-6978, retrieved 2011-05-26
  8. Jason Anderson (November 28, 2008). "Slaves to the rhythm: Kanye West is the latest to pay tribute to a classic drum machine". CBC News. Retrieved 2011-05-29.
  9. "Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force* Music By Planet Patrol - Planet Rock (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2016-11-13.
  10. Topley, John (2009). "Thirty Years of the Fairlight: John Topley's Weblog 2009".
  11. "Electro House". Polystar. Eurodance Hits. Retrieved 5 June 2012.

External links

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