At the Ithaca nightclub known as the Haunt, it's no ordinary Tuesday evening. The dance floor is filled—but most people aren't dancing. Instead, they have their eyes glued to a large video monitor as vintage clips from TV shows and documentaries scroll across the screen. Images of James Brown, George Clinton, and other funk legends are occasionally interspersed with a younger version of the man standing center stage behind a massive DJ system: Afrika Bambaataa, widely considered the godfather of hip hop.
Throughout the night, Bambaataa showcases the skills that made him one of the formative forces in hip hop during the Seventies and Eighties. Alternating between vinyl albums on a turntable and digital files on his laptop, he creates a variety of funky grooves while overlaying sonic snippets from such artists as Aretha Franklin, the Four Tops, James Brown, AC/DC, Cee-Lo, and C+C Music Factory.
Bambaataa's Haunt show was part of his first trip to Ithaca since receiving a three-year appointment as a Cornell visiting scholar. He also lectured to students in the University's new hip hop course, met with young men incarcerated at the Finger Lakes Residential Center, and spoke at Ithaca College. Earlier that day, Bambaataa took part in a panel discussion in the Biotech building entitled "The Roots of Hip Hop." Organized by the curators of the Cornell Hip Hop Collection—now part of Kroch Library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections and considered the largest such archive in the country—the panel was hosted by internationally known DJ Rich Medina '92.