Black Music Month: Grandmaster Flash

June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 7th, 889@Night is highlighting Grandmaster Flash.

Joseph Saddler, better known as Grandmaster Flash, was born on January 1, 1958 in Bridgetown, Barbados but raised in Bronx, New York. One of the pioneers of hip-hop DJing, cutting, and mixing, he invented the crossfade, allowing for a smooth transition between two vinyl records. Grandmaster Flash was the first DJ to physically manipulate a record with his hands and move it backward, forward and counterclockwise motion. His experimentation with the turntable led him to invent the Quick Mix Theory, which included techniques such as the double-back, back-door, back-spin, and phasing. This theory enabled DJs to make music by touching the record and forming their own beats. As an adolescent, he was influenced by Caribbean and black American music and played around with his father’s vinyl collection. A native of the Bronx, he was studying electrical engineering in the early 70s but had a deeper love for music – so he used his knowledge of audio equipment and revolutionized music with the turntable. DJ Grandmaster Flash began his music career by DJing neighborhood block parties, during the late 70s which was the dawn of hip hop music. His style of DJing was different from other DJs, he marked up the body of the records with various writing utensils which helped him with his DJing techniques. He also started to allow emcees to rap over his beats, in which he then created his own group, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five which included Melle Mel, Kidd Creole, Cowboy, Mr. Ness/Scorpio, and Rahiem. The group came to fame in the 1980s with their first successful single “Freedom” and later on with the “The Message”, one of the most influential hip hop songs. However in 1987 the group permanently broke apart and went their separate ways.

He put out a DJ mix album The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel which launched hip hop DJing to a larger audience; it was the first DJ album to be recorded by a DJ. He was then inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, becoming the first and only hip-hop DJ to be honored. Flash also won The Icon Award from BET in honor of his contribution to hip hop as a DJ, The Lifetime Achievement Award from the RIAA, and the Bill Gates’ Vanguard Award. He has entertained various groups of people from super bowl fans to Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. Now you can find Flash on his weekly show on Sirius Radio, The Flash Mash on Hot Jams 50. The show covers all of Flash’s musical taste, ranging from every genre of music; it airs on Saturdays from 5-8pm.

By Kathleen St Fleur

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