Grandmaster Flash, one of the founding fathers of hip-hop, has announced he’ll play Worthing Pavilion on Sun 14 June. Born Joseph Saddler, this legendary DJ was living in the South Bronx during the 70s. He had been experimenting with his father’s vinyl since he was a toddler. His knowledge of audio equipment led him to an idea which would revolutionize the way music was performed… the turntable would become his instrument.
The career of DJ Grandmaster Flash began in the Bronx with neighbourhood block parties that essentially were the start of what would become a global phenomenon — the dawn of a musical genre. He was the first DJ to physically lay his hands on the vinyl and manipulate it in a backward, forward or counter clockwise motion, when most DJs simply handled the record by the edges, put down the tone arm, and let it play. Those DJs let the tone arm guide their music, but Flash marked up the body of the vinyl with crayon, fluorescent pen, and grease pencil—and those markings became his compass
He invented the Quick Mix Theory, which included techniques such as the double-back, back-door, back-spin, and phasing. This allowed a DJ to make music by touching the record and gauging its revolutions to make his own beat and his own music. Flash’s template grew to include cuttin’, which, in turn, spawned scratching, transforming, the Clock Theory and the like. He laid the groundwork for everything a DJ can do with a record today, other than just letting it play. What we call a DJ today is a role that Flash invented.
By the end of the 70s, Flash had started another trend that became a hallmark around the world: emcees followed flash to the various parts and parties to rap/emcee over his beats. 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.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five went Platinum with their single, “The Message.” Meanwhile, the single “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” introduced DJing to a larger listening audience than it had ever known before; it became the first DJ composition to be recorded by a DJ. The group’s fame continued to grow with “Superappin,” “Freedom,” “Larry’s Dance Theme,” and “You Know What Time It Is.” Punk and new wave fans were introduced to Flash through Blondie, who immortalized him in her hit, “Rapture.”
The rock n’ roll hall of fame also recognized Flash with an honor no one else in hip hop has received: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip hop group ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Flash is the first DJ to ever receive that honour.
By the time the 90s rolled around, Flash was handpicked by Chris Rock to spend five years as the music director for his groundbreaking HBO series, The Chris Rock Show. More recently, Flash has played for audiences as large as the Super Bowl and as elite as Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.
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; The 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.
Although Flash has been in the business for many years, he shows no sign of slowing down: this coming year promise, a new album, and he will began his descent from the analogue vinyl world of DJing to enter the digital world of DJing. His DJ application of choice is “Traktor Scratch” by Native Instruments.
The Smithsonian Museum of American History in honour of Black History Month has opened its exhibit RECOGNIZE! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture that Grandmaster Flash along with other hip hop artist such as LL Cool J, Erykah Badu and Common will be featured.
G grandmaster flash continues to tour the world, appearing at festivals, clubs and venues. He now has his eyes and ears on this new craze: dance music, which he now adds to his legendary repertoire.
Grandmaster Flash plays Worthing Pavilion on Sun 14 June 2015, with support from DJ Format.