There are important figures in pop and then there is GRANDMASTER FLASH. The man who invented hip hop comes to Glasgow to prove he's still a cut above.
Worc‘s: Rory Weller
'YOU KNOW, I FEEL LIKE A FATHER THAT GAVE birth to an incredible child.’ says seminal DJ and producer (irandmaster Flash about the hip hop acts who have followed in his wake. ‘Some of these artists I see as my children. it‘s a beautiful thing. Some of the children are bad. heh heh heh. but it's the controversial people who keep hip hop going. Iiverything can‘t be as expected or as planned. There‘s gotta be someone in there that wants to revolt or someone that wants to do something different.‘
In l‘)7‘) it was Flash (aka Joseph Saddler). who was looking to be different. Ile laid the foundations for modern hip hop. Born in Barbados 4() years ago. he grew tip in the Bronx among the block parties. He saw the need to bring a vocalist up on stage to push his vision forward. and was one of the first to bring a drtnn machine into the mix.
While we call individuals pivotal to a scene 'godfathers'. it's no hype to say that Flash is more. He is the daddy of the biggest
'Some of these artists I see as my children. Some of the children are bad, but it's the controversial people who keep hip hop going.’ Grandmaster Flash
selling musical genre world-wide. outselling rock and — as he proudly comments — country It)().
But rap. as first conceived by Flash and fellow pioneers Kurtis Blow and the Sugar Hill Gang. had little in common with today‘s money—spinning genre. It was born in rags. Poor kids from Harlem and the Bronx couldn’t afford the entrance to downtown New York discos like Studio 54. so they created their own party out of two turntables and a microphone. Many record companies dismissed it as ‘ghetto crap' at first. but two decades later. this music has taken over the
world and made superstars ottt of the likes of
Puff Daddy. Bttsta Rhymes and Lauryn Hill.
‘I was the first to do the whole thing. it just wasn't there before.‘ Flash says. with humility rather than bravado. 'I'm glad to see that people took the same interest as I did. Where would I be if it wasn‘t for the people that came after me and took it to the next level'.”
Playing parties around Brooklyn. he trained under his heroes I)Js Pete Jones and Kool Herc. Spending a year holed tip in his apartment on l()7th street. he perfected his turntable techniques in secret. coming tip with cutting — or ‘scratching‘ as it would be known. Custom-made for parties. the technique meant taking the best bit of any given tune and extending it to one long peak.
110 THE LIST )9 AQ' l5 19‘“)
‘Jones and Here were great. bttt the good parts of their records were too short and that made me angry. you know. Also. in James Brown's “Funky Drummer". the drummer didn’t get his solo position tmtil the last damn second of the record. and that kinda pissed me off. I had to find a way to extend that best part. In my process of , ‘f- - thought in my crazy mind a. ‘ . at that time. I wanted to - — ’ .j' do something. So I - . ‘ perfected the art of taking W a 3()-second passage of music and. with duplicate copies. making five minutes. I was like a human sampler. uh huh.‘
The rest is history. "I‘he Adventures Of (irandmaster Flash 011 The Wheels of Steel’ was the first rap record to use samples. while classic rap tracks 'The Message‘ with The Furious Five and ‘White
Lines (Don‘t Do It)‘ with .\lellc .\lel followed swiftly. Add more than twenty years DJing round
the world. and you‘re f dealing with a living
Now he's working on a new album. a mix of original material. scratch techniques and experiments in new technology. 'I really don‘t want say what it is until I‘m done.‘ he teases. ‘When you‘re creating you never know what it is until it's finished.’ You can be sure that Flash is still way young enough to be a father again.
Grandmaster Flash 015 at 92, Glasgow, Sun 2 May. Adventures Of DJ Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel Vol. I is due later this year. Photograph from Rolling Stone: The 705 published by Simon 8: Schuster, priced £20.