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Calypso Legend And Civil Rights Icon Harry Belafonte’s Influence on Hip-Hop



Harry Belafonte
The legendary singer and civil rights icon Harry Belafonte. Image source: Charley Gallay / Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards file.

Today we lost a legend, a civil rights icon, and a musical pioneer.

Harry Belafonte died at the age of 96 on April 25, 2023 of congestive heart failure in his New York City home.

Harry Belafonte’s Musical Influence

Belafonte was known for his influence on folk and blues, but was most known for making calypso music popular. However, the Harlem native made an imprint on hip-hop culture as well.

1984 Hip-Hop Film “Beat Street,” Which Belafonte Was The Executive Producer

The “Jump In The Line” singer executive produced Beat Street. Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five wrote the theme song for the 1984 hip-hop film.

It was one of the first movies, which starred Guy Davis and Jon Chardiet, about break-dancing and hip-hop culture. It focused on an aspiring DJ from the Bronx and his best friend, a promoter. The pair tried to get into the industry by educating people on hip-hop and the culture of the genre.

He even helped bring three of hip-hop’s earliest female rappers together for a vital part in the movie, MC She Rock, Debbie D., and Lisa Lee.

DVD cover of 1984 Beat Street. Image source: Etsy.

The Legend’s Hits Sampled On Hip-Hop Records

Hip-hop artists have also sampled the legend’s music. Pitbull, T-Pain, and Sean Paul’s “Shake Senora,” Doja Cat’s “Won’t Bite” featuring Smino, and Lil Wayne’s “6 Foot, 7 Foot” featuring Cory Gunz.

In addition, Jason Derulo’s pop hit “Don’t Wanna Go Home” – samples the calypso singer’s “Day-O (Banana Boat Song).”

Harry Vs. Jay-Z

Belafonte has even had a feud with Jay-Z about handling social issues.

We know the civil rights icon worked with the great Martin Luther King Jr. – so of course he was not holding back on the New York rapper.

The entertainer said in 2012 before concluding their beef in 2015, “I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay Z and Beyoncé, for example.”

Hov’s response was a diss in a song and talking about his prescence being “charity.”

“We Are The World,” With The Help Of Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte was a trailblazer that played an important part in history.

He worked on iconic song, “We Are The World.” Many know that Quincy Jones was the mastermind behind the charity single, but Belafonte was a key part in the preparation. He contacted entertainment manager Ken Kragen, who gave us Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers and Stevie Wonder to add to this iconic hit.

The trailblazer will be missed.

Written by Vhannah | Instagram | YouTube

My name is Vhannah. I'm from New York. I love to write — including for TV, on my blog "Vhannah Montana," or here (about my passion for music and what's trending in the industry).

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