• Joshua Houston

In the decimated South Bronx of the late 1960s and early '70s, a bloody war raged between a dozen youth gangs, among them the fearsome Black Spades. One sharp and very young Spade from Bronx River, already a natural leader, made a name for himself by crossing turf lines to recruit and forge alliances with other gangs, swelling the ranks and reach—and soon getting himself promoted to warlord of his set. After the historic 1971 gang truce, he founded the peaceful Bronx River Organization (later just the Organization) as an alternative to gang life, and threw block parties, spinning Joe Cuba, James Brown, and the Monkees (his other Spades title "Master of Records" applied here as well) for the massing crowds. In high school, he entered a UNICEF essay-writing contest, winning the prize of a trip to Africa, touring the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Guinea-Bissau. When he came home—inspired by the sight of black people determining their own destiny, and revisiting a childhood dream he'd had since watching the 1964 epic Zulu—he recast the Organization as the Universal Zulu Nation.

This man, their founder, was of course known as Afrika Bambaataa—the godfather of hiphop culture. Having literally turned thousands of gang members into a peaceful unified tribe, squashing black/brown tensions, Bambaataa decreed that hiphop's true values were "peace, love, unity, and having fun"—and that hiphop culture comprised four elements: b-boying, MCing, DJing, and graffiti writing.

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