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"Planet Rock" is a 1982 song by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force. The background and hooks featured Marvella Murray, Yvette Murray, Melissa Johnson and Sandra Wheeler. 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. It is credited with developing the electro style, building on the work of Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra, and helped pave the way for other genres such as house, and trance. In November 2004, the "Planet Rock" placed at #240 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and #10 in About.com's Top 100 Rap Songs. "Planet Rock" peaked at number four on the soul chart and number forty-eight on the Hot 100, and went to number three on the dance charts.
Produced by Arthur Baker, "Planet Rock" blends synthesizer and vocoder sounds with breakbeating. It was influenced by electropop pioneers Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO),funk pioneer George Clinton, and artists such as Gary Numan. In particular, its melody is identical to Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express" (1977), while the TR-808 beat is based on Kraftwerk's "Numbers" from their 1981 album Computer World, from which it also borrows the Japanese counting part "Ichi, ni, san, shi". The track 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 Goodkind—all from the Peppermint Lounge—asked 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.
The main melody of "Planet Rock" is interpolated from the title track of Kraftwerk's influential album Trans-Europe Express, while the drum pattern resembles "Numbers" from the 1981 Kraftwerk album Computer World, another popular underground club record. The borrowings eventually resulted in an out-of-court settlement between Kraftwerk and Tommy Boy Records headTom Silverman.
Afrika Bambaataa has acknowledged a debt to Kraftwerk, but has expressed that their contributions to his 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; Yellow Magic Orchestra, for example, utilized the Roland TR-808programmable drum machine in 1980, and anticipated the beats and sounds of electro with "Riot in Lagos" (1980). 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.
- Planet Rock (Vocal)
- Planet Rock (Bonus Beats)
- Planet Rock (Instrumental)
- Engineer - Bob Rosa, Jan D. Burnett
- Executive Producer - Tom Silverman
- Mastered By - Herb Powers Jr.
- Mixed by, Producer - Arthur Baker
- Keyboards by John Robie
- 7" & 12" edits by Jellybean Benitez
- Video By - Video Mix Productions - Danny Cornyetz & Jessica Jason
- Roland TR-808 drum machine
- Fairlight CMI Series II 8-bit sampler (orchestra hit "ORCH5")
- Moog Micromoog and Prophet 5 (John Robie's keyboards as stated by Arthur Baker in Sound on Sound)
- Lexicon PCM41 for Bambaataa's "vocoder" sound (really tight delay setting)
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.
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, "Jacked the beat from Planet Rock," notably ironic given the controversy with the similarities between the Kraftwerk single.[clarification needed] 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.
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 1 game Thrasher: Skate and Destroy.