Note: This post is actually in response to a really good conversation starter posed by DJ Mane One on his Facebook page. The question generated several good replies, many of which match up with my own. Before including my reply there, I figured I'd post it here.
[Placing professorial cap on head] Ahem.
Mane, I would have to say that "Planet Rock" could be classified as a rap record (meaning hip-hop), but also as a funk/electro-funk record. But I'll try to explain just why I think that a special exception has to be made with this song.
It's mainly because of how the public first heard "Planet Rock."
That may sound kinda wack at first, but this is what I mean. While it may have been otherwise in NY (I kinda doubt it, tho), radio stations, discos, skating rinks, etc. were only playing the b-side of "Planet Rock" when it dropped -- the instrumental version. For upwards of 2-3 years after it was released, the instrumental was all that most people heard.
Thus, outside of maybe radio and club DJs, few knew that there was a vocal/rap version. And most didn't seem to care much for it when they did finally hear it; rap was still in it's infancy in '82, though, and the rap of Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force didn't sound like the rap of Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Melle Mel, and Sequence.
As for me, I think that I first heard the a-side version in early '85, when I bought a copy of "Tommy Boy's Greatest Beats." And, as much as I loved the instrumental (there were two instrumental versions being played in Chicago, one of which was a bootleg remix), I was not a fan of the vocal when I first heard it. But I quickly grew to love it.
Due to how it was most often heard by the public, particularly the listeners of R&B stations, "Planet Rock" was an electro-funk song, like "More Bounce to the Ounce." And funkadelic was clearly as much of an influence as Kraftwerk, and the very first thing that Bam says in the intro of the vocal is "Just taste the funk then hit me."
So, to be really fair, I think it's acceptable to also put "Planet Rock" in an electro-funk sub-category, as it has already been done for various record compilations. Despite my own territorial nature to classify it strictly as hip-hop, it's not. It's funk and rap. Well, rap AND funk.
– Professor XXL (aka St. Paco)
P.S. A Chicago DJ named Mike Macharello produced a bootleg remix of "Planet Rock" for WGCI, one of the city's two R&B stations on the FM dial then. Before his remix, they wouldn't even play "Planet Rock" -- but it was in the rotation for three years afterward. I have a cool memory of me, my sister and our friends dancing to it on the patio in our backyard. It's been uploaded to YKFS for your listening pleasure.
[Press-N-Play®] Planet Rock - Mike Macharello Remix