hip hop music

May 6, 2003

Flash is Fast, Flash is Cool

Props were given to Grandmaster Flash in this weekend's Daily News. I'm glad to see that unlike Paul Cashmere, David Hinckley knows the difference between a DJ and a rapper.

Hip hop's frontier scout: Grandmaster Flash is still out there on the trail

Since most hip-hop careers don't last much longer than the pair of sneakers you wear when you sign the contract, perhaps the best tribute to Grandmaster Flash is that 30 years after he helped start the hip-hop game, he's still out there playing it.
Flash is working the clubs, touring Europe, spinning on Sirius satellite radio - doing the things deejays like Grandmaster Flowers and Pete Jones started doing in the parks and basements of the Bronx in the early '70s, when this new dance-and-party sound barely reached beyond the five boroughs.

Flash, born Joseph Saddler on New Year's Day 1958 in Barbados, was a teenage electronics wizard who soaked it all up and pushed it forward, exploring new possibilities for the turntables and the music.

It would be nice to say he lived happily ever after, too, but sometimes it's not all good. Flash battled with record companies and drugs. There were career dips.

"I've had some rough times," he says. "But I'm not bitter. I'm not angry. About 10 years ago, when things weren't working out, I went back to the basics, back to my turntables. I reinvented myself by using the same formula I did when I was first deejaying. I refused to be a myth, to be folklore. If I played someplace, I didn't want to tear up a room on sympathy. I wanted to tear it up with music.

"Remember, when I started, 'Apache' was a new record. There was no door open then. I had to kick it down."

Flash and the Furious Five graduated from block parties to records in the late '70s with tracks like "Freedom" and "Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel." They exploded in 1982 with "The Message," a stark warning in the style of Marvin Gaye, the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, with a hip-hop beat.

"Don't push me," it went, "'Cause I'm close to the edge."

By then, national magazines were picking up on Flash and his rappers, including Melle Mel. "Flash is fast," sang Deborah Harry. "Flash is cool."

But hit songs weren't a ticket to the American Dream...

Posted by jsmooth995 at May 6, 2003 2:18 AM

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