The Original Voice of the Ghetto
These outside block parties were beginning to come together as an all-round spectacle, where the first DJ battles took places bringing together local titans. Afrika Bambaataa and his Zulu Nation would crash Herc's events to put their under-developed talents to the test against Grandmaster Flash and Herc. The famous Herculoids sound system was put into effect to shut down these brazen up ‘n comers. Jazzy Jay from The Zulu Nation recalls:
Herc was late setting up and Bam continued to play longer than he should have. Once Herc was set up he got on the microphone and said "Bambaataa, could you please turn your system down?" Bam's crew was pumped and told Bam not to do it. So Herc said louder, "Yo, Bambaataa, turn your system down-down-down." Bam's crew started cursing Herc until Herc put the full weight of his system up and said, "Bambaataa-baataa-baataa, TURN YOUR SYSTEM DOWN!" And you couldn't even hear Bam's set at all. The Zulu crew tried to turn up the juice but it was no use. Everybody just looked at them like, "You should've listened to Kool Herc"
Young Flash was also victimised by the might of the Herculoids upon his challenges. He would take his techniques up to the Hevalo club to battle Herc but he would always embarrass Flash by cutting out the highs and low of the sound system, leaving only the midrange. Then after calling out Flash's amateur technique, crank up the highs to sizzle through the crowd, then the booming bass, vibrating straight to the bones of everybody in the house. Flash was always swallowed by Herc's performances. He nevertheless learned a lot from Herc and waited his turn to hold the crown. Raised in the Fort Apache section of Boogie-Down on Fox and 163rd street, he was of Bajan Barbadian decent, Jospeh Saddler was deeply amerced in the birthing culture of hip-hop music. The funk, soul and reggae-rooted soundscape of his neighbourhood provided him with the inspiration and love of music. He developed a strong bond with vinyl as a boy playing with his father’s reggae records. By the time he was a teenager he was a true scholar of electronics and engineering at school and putting it into practise with spinning records in his own unique format, performing public block parties in his neighbourhood. He idolized the work of local DJs Kool Herc and Pete Jones and studied their turntablism, Flash elevated his techniques and aspired to take this DJing format to another level of creation. He would rearrange recorded song structure, extending the break sections by using duplicate copies of the one record and going from one turntable to the next to continue the flow of the one particular section. He would physically manipulate his wrists and elbow back and forth while holding his finger down on the edge of the record, a discovery made by associate, Grand Wizzard Theodore Livingstone. By ’71 he was inventing methods and concepts he called ‘The Quick Mix Theory’ which encompassed the technique of ‘Cutting’ which was later refined to ‘Scratching’ as well as ‘Crab Scratching’, ‘Transforming’, ‘Flaring’, ‘Doubleback’, ‘Backspinning’ and ‘Phasing’. He created an element of scientific approach to the art form. Lastly the ‘Clock Theory’ was established which was a technique in finding the exact spot on the record where the break was, using the naked eye rather than listening through headphones to find it. He would mark the spot with crayon and continually hit the right spot each time. Nowadays DJ turntables are complete with so many buttons to alleviate this raw practise. Clearly Flash had become the master of this and one to revolutionize DJing.
When Flash first kicked off his elementary career in 1975 at his first park performance he staggered on stage, his new flashy techniques on the decks fell flat to the crowd of hundreds. Despite this he dusted himself off and continued to explore the engineering of turntables and began performing with his homeboy. Mean Gene – one of three brothers called The Livingstone Brothers with Cordeo and Grand Wizzard Theodore (who would later become an innovator of DJing himself.) Through the early years they were kids enjoying the birth of this new era, having a good time as a dance click at Kool Herc’s Sedgwick Ave. rec. room parties. He would DJ for later recording star, Kurtis Blow and later he would hook up with local Spades member, Keith 'Cowboy' Wiggins (R.I.P.) who acted as his MC hyping crowds, spurting, “Throw your hands in the air and wave 'em like ya just don't care!” The pair linked with two other locals at Flash's jams, the Glover brothers, Melvin 'Melle Mel' and Nathaniel 'Kid Creole' who formed a unique group of emcees interlacing their raps over each other, finishing each others verses over Flash's wheels of steel. By 1976 they took their act to local clubs, Back Door and Dixie where they recruited the muscle of the Casanova Crew for backup. Flash's crew built up, renaming them from Grandmaster Flash and the Three MCs to the Furious Four adding Rahiem, (Guy Todd Williams) and then, Furious 5 with Scorpio AKA, Mr. Ness, (Eddie Morris). They would later be made famous with their break performing at Disco Fever in The Bronx. They remained rocking the park jams stretching from St. Ann's, Mitchell, 63 Park and 23 Park. The scene was blowing up from all sides focusing now more on the showmanship of the event than the speaker system and it's volume. In this era, Kool Herc was losing his crowd to Flash's more complete show and refined DJ handling. Flash would enthral the crowds with his fresh bag of tricks, elbow scratching, flipping round, cutting and cross-fading with various body parts. He would introduce his protege, Grand Wizzard Theodore, a thirteen year old who invented the scratch accidentally while pausing the record on the turntable in his bedroom to hear his mother yelling at him. Inadvertently slipping his finger back and forth scratching the needle on the record. He was also renowned for having the technique of dropping the needle right onto the spinning backbeat. The compete show Flash brought to the table was now the latest benchmark to beat for all other DJs. Soon after DJs were forced to enlist rapping groups to hold the audience captive while the DJ spun records behind the emcees. By 1977 the DJ took a back seat in hip-hop while the MC took the wheel and steered us all into a new direction. Bring on Busy Bee Starski, Kurtis Blow, the Cold Crush Brothers and the Furious Five into the fold. The climate of hip-hop had changed forever.
Originally The DJ always carried top billin’ at shows, and the MC was his sidekick. Until a cat named The Original Chief Rocker Busy Bee Starski, the backbone of the microphone, (David Parker) took the stage and shone brighter than any DJ with his performance. From $20 a night help to the DJ to the forefront of hip hop iconic stature. Busy Bee Starski was a member of Afrika Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation when he earned his legendary emcee reputation as he became the now club-culture's first solo MC with a sharpened lyrical flair. He would rock the mic for Disco King Mario's sets, his shout-outs were second to none. He performed his best routines alongside Cool DJ AJ (later DJ for well-known MC Kurtis Blow) Busy Bee became a heavyweight Emcee pioneering the early battles. Most notable was against the king-hitter Kool Moe Dee. Thousands of copies of this battle continue to circulate on the streets over 20 years on. His spoken word drew enormous crowds. Although busy Bee would never make success through the recording industry, he stood as a breakthrough MC introducing the last of four elements into hip-hop, forever the DJ would remain behind the rapper on-stage in support. Busy Bee would inspire a new generation of super stars to follow behind him, each artist delivering a more polished and poetic rhyme than the last. One of the early legends at this would be the Casanova Fly.