Leaving The Nation: Adisa Banjoko Pens Open Letter To Universal Zulu Nation
Known around the world as “The Bishop of Hip-Hop,” Adisa Banjoko has consistently remained one of the industry’s leading voices and advocates of the culture. With a career that spans over 20 years, this Californian scribe + Universal Zulu Nation member has been penning stories and documenting hip-hop for pubs such as The Source, XXL and Rap Pages before you younglings even knew what a pull quote was. After writing a history of hip-hop’s four elements — graffiti, break dancing, DJing and rapping — he put all his energy into his latest book, Bobby, Bruce & Bam: The Secrets of Hip-Hop Chess.
As a father and educator of young minds, Banjoko, like the rest of the true school hip-hop heads, have been following the unraveling story of Afrika Bambaataa and allegations that he has had improper relations with young boys. After an initial accusation was made, three more men came out with stories of their own and Bam’s former bodyguard spoke with Star of Shot97 about his recollection of the events. All of the madness that has forced members of the Universal Zulu Nation to take sides, speak out for or against the allegations and shed light on the storied past of a hip-hop legend. Freed of constraints of web articles and magazine assignments, Adisa took to his own site to share his thoughts in an open letter to the former Black Spade member.
“It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles.” — Niccolo Machiavelli
“Hip-Hop is an art for the youth, by the youth. If they are not safe, then Hip-Hop itself is not safe. This is an art that comes from the streets. I do not expect angelic behavior from all of its participants. If anything Hip-Hop teaches you about your own moral compass. Language and actions that you might think are unacceptable, I may not worry about or vice versa. Ultimately I believe that if the elders in Hip-Hop have the title of leaders, teachers, mentors and protectors of the community at large we have a duty to the youth that is greater than other alliances with adults. That is the case here. I don’t like Bill Cosby, but I love comedy forever. I don’t know what is going on with Afrika Bambaataa, but I will love Hip-Hop forever.
Today, I want to formally resign from the Universal Zulu Nation (UZN). If you don’t know what the Universal Zulu Nation is I can only say: It is an organization that founded and organized what you know now as Hip-Hop. They have been the keepers and the custodians of the subculture since the early 1970’s. They have united many people across the world under the banner of Hip-Hop and they have been instrumental in negotiating peace treaties between rappers and other street organizations. It is impossible to quantify their value to the world of music, dance, art, or fashion- let alone the rap industry. So much of what you know, or what you think you know about Hip-Hop simply does not happen without the UZN. The founder of the UZN is Afrika Bambaataa. He is also known under the title The Amen Ra of Hip-Hop.”
Back in March, Ronald Savage, a former member of the Zulu Nation, spoke with The New York Daily News about his relationship with the 57-year-old hip-hop pioneer. Detailing that it started off as monitorship and later escalated into abuse, the larger hip-hop world has not actively engaged in communicating its thoughts about the claims involving a hip-hop legend. KRS-One recently wrote about the issue on his own blog, saying he won’t give any time to “slander and disrespect” being issued towards Afrika Bambaataa, and insisted that the conversation needed to shift.
Banjoko, who has been a part of UZN since the early 1990s, continues to fight for the betterment of the young by taking a direct stance against the allegations stacked against Bambaataa. In doing so, he doesn’t weigh any verdict against the hip-hop icon, but does say that he would be changing the title of his book from the aforementioned Bobby, Bruce & Bam to Bobby, Bruce & The Bronx: The Secrets of Hip-Hop Chess.
“I am working now to change the title to Bobby, Bruce & The Bronx: The Secrets of Hip-Hop Chess. As an independent author, this is going to be costly for me and time consuming but I should have the new site and cover art complete within 60 days. Quite frankly I don’t have the money to make the changes, but I will find a way to get it done.
Moving forward I’m sure there will be many necessary conversations about what these accusations against Afrika Bambaataa mean. We will have to talk about Hip-Hop in many new ways. These accusations against Bam are forcing a lot of new conversations to happen that have not been happening. They will be excruciating for many of us. However, I think we may be looking at a purging of some of Hip-Hop’s toxic elements. Getting rid of them will refine the art form for future generations. Making that happen is more important to me than anything else.”
Read the full open letter from The Bishop of Hip-Hop by clicking here.