Hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash continues his UK summer assault in Worthing. Working over the sound system at the Pavilion Theatre on Sun 14 Jun, this musical icon is eternally credible and ceaselessly eclectic. Offering jazz, pop, funk, disco, R&B and rock, he offers a one-man turntable protest against the vapidity of modern dance culture, returning it to its party-rocking roots. Deploying his trademark chunky beats, solid gold dancefloor fillers and rapid-fire mash-ups, Flash developed his style before many of your parents were born. This true originator has been going from strength to strength.
Like blues, jazz and rock, hip-hop has become a globe-straddling musical phenomenon, perhaps the most important of them all due to its ability to bridge the divides between class, race and language. Although he was born Joseph Saddler in Bridgetown, Barbados; Flash and his family migrated to the US, where he grew up in the South Bronx and turned his knowledge of electrical engineering to evolve the humble record player into a musical instrument. From parties in his New York neighbourhood came the dawn of a musical genre. Flash was the first DJ to physically manipulate the vinyl as it played. Essentially he laid the groundwork for everything a DJ can do with a record today, other than just letting it spin. What we now call a DJ is a role Flash invented.
By the end of the 70s, MCs were rhyming over the top of Flash’s performances, another trend to echo around the world. Before long, he started his own group, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Their reputation grew up around the way the group traded off and blended their lyrics with Flash’s unrivalled skills as a DJ and his acrobatic performances—spinning and cutting vinyl with his fingers, toes, elbows, and any object at hand. Going platinum with the single ‘The Message’, the group introduced hip-hop to an even larger audience. In 2007 they became first hip-hop group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Flash becoming the first DJ to ever receive that honour.
On top of his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Flash has been the recipient of many awards, including VH1 Hip Hop Honours; an Icon Award from BET in honour of his contribution to hip-hop as a DJ; The Lifetime Achievement Award from the RIAA; and Bill Gates’ Vanguard Award. He’s also written books, had his image in the Smithsonian Museum, mixed countless compilations packed with classics old and new, entertained the Super Bowl, the Queen, and scored TV shows.
Normally at his stage of life people would be re-evaluating his value to ‘the scene’, but we never doubted it for a moment. More than four decades later, and he shows no sign of slowing down. This coming year promises a new album and an embracing of digital DJing, moving from the legendary Technic 1210s to Native Instruments’ Traktor Scratch. Unlike nearly all of his peers, Flash continues to perform around the planet. Now he visits Worthing in the warm up for another exhaustive series of festival appearances, only it’s no such thing as ‘just a warm-up’ in the world of Grandmaster Flash. Forget that latest DJ, with his stupid hairdo and carefully programmed set of anodyne cutting-edge sounds. This is how a party should be.
Grandmaster Flash comes to Worthing Pavilion Theatre, on Sun 14 June, with support from DJ Format