Monday, November 14, 2011


Also an emigrant from the Caribean (born in Barbados), Grandmaster Flash is the best known DJ of the Holy Trinity of Hip Hop.
Flash learned the basic art of cutting between records from Herc in NY of the mid-70's. Along with Afrika Bambaataa, Flash was an early competitor of Herc.  Flash clearly recalls Herc embarrassing him because he didn't have the system (nor did anyone else at the time) that could compete with Herc's. He decided to make up for what he was missing in volume with flawless technique.

Not only could Flash cut from one record to the next without missing a beat, he added in a new element.  He would take phrases and sections of different records and play them over other records (blending).  He installed a device that would allow him, through the use of headphones, to hear what was going on on each record.  Herc didn't use this technique until much later.

He began to develop a following from house parties and block parties. A 13 year old named Theodore, practiced with Flash and is often credited as the inventor of ´scratching´.  Grandwizard Theodore is credited for inventing two dominant deejay techniques- scratching and the needle drop. Not a bad thing for ones resume.

It was in the summer of 1975 as Theodore tells the story,
"I used to come home from school everyday and play records. This one particular day, my mother banged on the door yelling at me because the music was too loud. When she walked in, I still had my hand on the record that was playing and I kind of moved it back and forth. When she left, I was like 'Yo! That sounded kind of cool. I better experiment with that.'"  His initiative to take this accident and recognize it as a means of making original music was pure creative innovation. "I always wanted to be different from other DJs. I kept perfecting my idea so that when I did it in front of an audience it would sound dope."  Obviously this technique was mimicked by every DJ and became standard practice.

By 1978, Flash had surpassed Herc in popularity, but there was a decided shift in the realm of HIPHOP.  While still important, deejays began to take second place to MC's. 1986 is the year that the MC element of HIPHOP took the definite forefront and excallerated its development. The end of the original Old Skool era.

Flash rapped and made the shout outs on his own at first, but he also knew if he wanted to remain innovative and retain his flawless turntable technique he needed some help. He started giving the MC´s more centre stage.

Flash is also credited with using the electronic beat box.  He would put it between his turntables and use it to play the beat in between records. He also came up with the mixing technique of cueing the record with headphones while the other was still playing.

In 1981, Flash released what is considered the most influential display of cutting and scratching ever recorded: "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel."  On it he uses sections of "Rapture", "Good Times," "Another One Bites the Dust," and sections from some of their previous work. This was the first time that people heard a song of nothing but a record on a record. Its the first all in DJ record ever. But, without question, the most influential song ever recorded by this group was released in 1982. HIPHOP classic "The Message" peaked at #4.

"The Message" changed the playing field for what a rap record could do.  It showed that you could make things other than party songs and still sell records. It featured one of the most talented rappers of the time: Melle Mel. Melle Mel´s lyrics paved the way for later HIPHOP acts as Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions who would also go on to infuse much of their music with political and social commentaries. Another classic HIPHOP song is "White Lines (Don't Do It)".

To this day Grandmaster Flash is considered to be the HIPHOP emisary that brought HIPHOP culture to the masses.

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