Hip Hop Pioneer – DJ
During Hip-Hop’s 30yr+ history, few names have become as well known to music lovers across the globe as that of DJ Grandmaster Flash. Not only is he one of the three pioneers responsible for the musical genre called Hip-Hop, but his use of the turntables made him the first dj to play the turntables as a musical instrument, thus helping to elevate the status of the dj to a masterful, artistic position. He is also responsible for assembling one of the earliest and greatest rap groups of all time – The Furious Five. These are some of the hallmarks of a career which has extended from the Bronx in the early 1970s to all corners of the globe into the 21st Century.
Of Bajan decent, Joseph Saddler, professionally known as “DJ Grandmaster Flash”: was born and raised in the Boogie Down Bronx. It was the area’s streets and nightlife that provided his inspirations. He developed his first crush on vinyl when he was just a boy playing with his father’s records. By the time he was a teenager he was studying electronics and engineering in school, and spinning records at block parties and public parks.
Creating And Displaying The Technique:
By 1971, Flash was inventing and demonstrating innovative dj techniques with turntables in response to his many observations at parties, and of other djs, thus later claiming the turntables to be an instrument.. The invention and technique of djing that Flash displayed and changed the way djs played forever was “Cuttin”. This is when the dj literally places their hand on the embodiment of the vinyl, or middle section of the record, and proceed to move or rub the material in a backward or forward motion in conjunction with their fingers on the dj mixer in a left to right, or right to left lateral movement. In Flash’s first years of displaying this technique he was known for “making the record dirty” because not until his time did djs ever place their hands in the body of a record.
“The Quick Mix Theory”, which encompassed the innovative technique of “cutting”, is the technique of using duplicate copies of a vinyl record and scientifically and percussively rearranging the arrangement of the music and extending the break parts of songs. This technique of cuttin’ included sub techniques such as: “Front door/Back door”, which is the on-time repeat of a song with the use of duplicate copies both playing while one is one beat behind the other to give the song an echo effect. “Fake Phasin” is using duplicate copies of the record, allowing one copy to be playing and having the other copy used to insert a short musical section in momentarily. Ex: Good Times break playing on 1 turntable and throwin in or rubbin the word “Good” on top as an enhancement to the song. And, doing tricks with toes, mouth, elbows, behind the back, and 360’s are all techniques that are a part of the Quick Mix Theory of Cuttin’.
NOTE: Some of the scientific thoughts that DJ Grandmaster Flash used to create the Quick Mix Theory were the following:
(Needle shape: Conical or Elliptical, Needle type: Diamond and Sapphire, Turntable (Torque Factor): Rubber Wheel driven, Belt driven, Direct driven, Amplifier type: Vacuum Tube vs. Solid State, Resistor, Capacitor, AC vs DC, Diodes, Oscilloscopes, Signal generators, OHM meters, I=E over R, R=I*E)
The “Clock Theory”, another technique of cuttin’, allowed Flash to find the break of a recorded song quickly by eye, and chooses to repeat or percussify an element or fragment of a sound by, once again, moving the disc in a backward & forward motion while using 2 turntables, a mixer, and duplicate copies of a song, and proceeds to physically spin the vinyl in a counter clockwise direction to arrive or re-arrive with pinpoint accuracy to a chosen area that is marked or taped by magic-marker, crayon, or sticker. This manual display of taking a song apart and rearranging its structure live contributed to the early development and rise of the DJ as a remixer, artist, and producer.
In the late 70’s, Flash took his inventions to another level, by recruiting emcee’s to rap over his music. The unity later became worldly known as “Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five”. Their reputation grew around Flash’s unrivaled DJ skills and the group’s blending and trading off lyrics. Flash also gained notice for the visually dynamic and acrobatic way he could spin and cut records using his feet, toes and elbows. Blondie immortalized Flash in the 1980 hit “Rapture”: “Flash is fast, Flash is cool!” And, in 1981, Grandmaster Flash recorded “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel”, which was the first record to feature complex cutting. The 80’s brought many albums, hits, shows, and recognition worldwide as hip-hop was becoming the new popular music. Even into the 90’s and now, DJ Grandmaster Flash still tours the world, still receives awards for his pioneer ship to hip-hop, and still creating musically and mechanically. He is a true definition of an icon.
Note: Hip-Hop Culture was created in 1971 by three DJs , Flash being one of them, and then, contrary to popular belief, came the graffiti writers and the break dancers, and the MCs followed much later.
DJ Grandmaster Flash’s activities and accomplishments over the last 10 years:
1998 – Played for the most celebrated football game of the season, the Super Bowl
Fall 1998 – Chris Rock invites Flash to be music director of the groundbreaking HBO-TV show series, “The Chris Rock Show”. This was a 4-year run.
2001 – Began hosting shows on Sirius Radio. Presently broadcasting his own show called the “Flash Mash Show” on Hot Jams 50, Saturdays, 5pm-8pm ET.
(Past radio gigs: New York radio stations WBLS(107.5 FM), Kiss(98.7 FM), and Hot 97(97.1 FM))
2002 – Performed for the closing of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England for more than 40,000 in attendance, and included Prime Minister Tony Blair and Quessn Elizabeth, and billions of television viewers around the world.
2002 – Releases “Essential Mix: Classic Edition, and The Official Adventures of Grandmaster Flash
2002 – Launches the Grandmaster Flash Signature Empath mixer for Rane Corporation
(Past endorsements include: Louis Vutton, Helmut Lang, Sprite, Tommy Hilfiger, Gemini Sound, and Kangol)
2002 – Contributes artifacts to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Washington.
(Past awards include: Pioneer Award from Source Magazine, the New Music Seminar Hall of Fame Award, the DMC Hall of Fame Award, and BET’s Diamond Award)
January 2004 – Honored by Bill Gates, founder and chairman of Microsoft Corporation, with the DJ Vanguard Award for being the first to utilize the turntables as a musical instrument.
June 2004 – Inducted into the Bronx Walk of Fame, along with the Furious Five, and have a street named after them in the Bronx.
2004 – Announced the formation of his new record label at the international Midem 2004 music conference in France, as keynote speaker.
Summer 2004 – Featured on cover of new high-end, hardcover, cultural magazine, “Swindle”, whose motto is “timeless content”.
September 2004 – Honored at the 7th Annual Mix Show Power Summit in Puerto Rico for his contribution to hip-hop culture, and dedication to mixshow radio and the art of the DJ.
October 1, 2004 – Presented key to the city of Cincinnati, OH, by city official “Councilman Smitherman” and honored on Oct.2nd with “Tha Blast Community Award”, presented by musician and local hero Bootsy Collins, for his pioneering contribution to urban arts and culture.
During 2004 and 2005 – Took on the task to educate aspiring youth in the entertainment field. Many schools of different levels were selected to experience a full spectrum lecture and demonstration of DJ’ing and its main ingredients. From the technical standpoint of his “instruments” to the actual entertainment in performing, Flash discussed all that is known and needed to be successful in the music industry.
May 9, 2005 – Produced music for and featured with Miami Heat basketball player Dwayne Wade, aka “The Flash”, in Converse’s debut of its brand new television commercial during the NBA Playoffs.
June 9, 2005 – Presented the Life-Time Achievement Award, courtesy of the RIAA, at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, in Cleveland.
August 28, 2005 – Requested by Diddy to be the dj for the MTV Video Music Awards in Miami. The event was broadcasted live worldwide.
September 22, 2005 – Honored with The Furious Five, on “VH1’s Hip Hop Honors”, for their contributions of adding social consciousness to hip hop. Flash was also honored for his contribution to DJ culture in hip hop. This event too was broadcasted and televised around the world.
February 28, 2006 – The Smithsonian Museum of American History announced its plans to embark on a collecting initiative ” Hip-Hop Won’t Stop: The Beat, The Rhymes: The Life” and invited Grandmaster Flash to donate his Hip Hop treasures to the Museum. The exhibition is set to launch in 2010.
Fall 2006 : _ Flash will come together with the scientists at Ortofon – (the makers of DJ Cartridges and inventors of “Cinema Sound” ) to engineer a special DJ Cartridge signature by Grandmaster Flash.
Fall 2006 : -Flash will be the first person to receive the “I AM HIP HOP” lifetime achievement award at BET’s First Annual Hip-Hop Awards show in Atlanta
2007: – Flash plans to launch his very own signature clothing line. The line will consist of button ups, T shirts, jeans, sneakers and accessories.
2007 : – Flash will release his much anticipated memoirs in a Book – penned by famed author David Ritz who wrote Marvin Gayes and Ray Charles’ autobiography and titled
“The Message: The Grandmaster Flash Story”.
2007: – Look for a new Grandmaster Flash Album
And to top it all Joseph Saddler – DJ Grandmaster Flash has been nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame making him the First DJ and Hip Hop Artist ever to be nominated along with the Furious Five.
With 26 + Awards under his belt, honoring Flash for being the First DJ to make the Turntables a Musical Instrument its easy to see why this man is such an icon and great inspiration to many around.