Turntable pioneer Grandmaster Flash is coming to the MontBleu
August 28, 2008
It seems almost impossible that hip-hop would trace its origin back more than three decades to an engineering student with a penchant for experimenting with vinyl.
Yet before he was Grandmaster Flash, Joseph Saddler was living in his native South Bronx in the early ’70s, studying electrical engineering and playing with his father’s record collection.
DJ Grandmaster Flash’s revolutionary idea was to make the turntable his instrument. Flash’s career shares its origin with the roots of hip-hop itself, out of the Bronx’s block parties.
According to his Web site, Flash was the first DJ to lay his hands on the vinyl and manipulate it backward and forward while most DJs put the needle down and let the music play. Flash also marked up the vinyl with crayon, fluorescent pen and grease pencil, a notation that became the scale for a new form of music.
Flash’s online biography credits him with inventing the Quick Mix Theory, which incorporates techniques such as the double-back, back-door, back-spin and phasing, allowing the DJ to make music by touching the record and gauging its revolution to make his own beat and music. Flash’s template grew to include cutting, which in turn spawned scratching.
By the end of the decade, Flash had started asking MCs to rap over his beats. He started his own group, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The group’s single “The Message” went platinum, and “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” introduced the new art of DJing to a larger audience. The New Wave band Blondie helped with that effort, to, paying tribute to Flash in “Rapture.”
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In the 1990s, comedian Chris Rock hand-picked Flash as the music director of his HBO talk show, and the DJ has played for audiences as large as the Super Bowl and as elite as Queen Elizabeth II, according to his Web site. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip-hop inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 and is a recipient of BET’s Icon Award, the RIAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Bill Gates’ Vanguard Award.
In addition, the artist published his memoir, “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash ” My Life My Beats,” this summer. He’s also part of the “RECOGNIZE! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture” exhibit, which will be open through Oct. 8 at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington D.C.
Today, Flash has a weekly show, “The Flash Mash,” which airs from 5-8 p.m. Saturdays on Sirius satellite radio. He’s also due to release a new album later this year. And, on Saturday, Aug. 30, the turntable legend visits the Opal Ultra Lounge inside the MontBleu Casino Resort and Spa.