Real Name: Joseph Saddler
D.O.B.: January 1, 1958 in Barbados
Affiliations: Melle Mel & The Furious Five
Grandmaster Flash is credited as being the first DJ to revolutionize the use of turntables. Created the ‘Quick Mix Theory’ involving a combination of back spinning, Phasing, double backing and cutting between turntables (scratching) Flash used duplicate copies of a record and two turntables but with a dexterous flair, he manually edited with a mixer to create the ‘Break’ (a point of isolated drum rhythm) - The ordinary playing of the record would be interrupted to overlay the break, and could be repeated by using the mixer to switch channels while the second record was spun back. This instilled Joseph with the Monika of Grandmaster Flash, which he was originally nicknamed in high school from hanging out with a friend Gordon (as in Flash Gordon). During the 30 year history of hip-hop few names crop as pure pioneers of an art form, Flash shone brightly as the definitive one.
Born in the Boogie-Down Bronx of Bajan decent, Saddler was deeply amerced in the birthing culture of hip-hop music, the areas nightlife and reggae rooted atmosphere providing him with the inspiration and love of music. He developed a strong bond with vinyl records as just 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 at public block parties in his neighbourhood.
Holding strong audience of local innovative DJ Kool Herc, Flash elevated his movements aspiring 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, 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’ 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. Grandmaster Flash first kicked off his elementary performing career with three brothers called The Livingstone Brothers. Mean Gene, Cordeo and Grand Wizard Theodore, (who would later become a strong force in the definitive years of hip hop) At this time they were kids enjoying the birth of this new era by breakdancing and having a good time at DJ Kool Herc’s parties at the Sedgwick Ave. Rec. Centre.
In the late 1970’s Flash formed a group with Melle Mel (Melvin Glover), his brother Kid Creole (Nathaniel Glover) and Cowboy (Keith Wiggins) calling themselves Grandmaster Flash & The 3 MC’s. Later joining the group were Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams) and Scorpio AKA, Mr. Ness (Eddie Morris) which then created “Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5” made famous with their break performing at Disco Fever in The Bronx. In 1980 they signed to Sugar Hill Records by Joe Robinson releasing several singles including ‘Freedom’ and the classic ‘The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,’ released in 1981. This track would be regarded as the most proficient demonstration of complex turntable dexterity. Their biggest selling single was ‘The Message’ this went platinum in less than a month. He played at the 1998 Super Bowl NFL Final half-time event. He also performed at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England in 2002 in front of Queen Elizabeth, 40,000 spectators and billions of television viewers around the world. In recogntion of his contribution to the modern music genre, Flash was awarded the Pioneer Award from Source magazine, the New Music Seminar Hall of Fame Award, the DMC Hall of Fame Award and B.E.T.’s Diamond Award. In June 2004, he was inducted into the Bronx Walk of Fame with a plaque dedicated at 161st St. and the Grand Concourse, and a street named after him in New York City!.
In 2005 Flash was awarded by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at Cleveland, Ohio with the Lifetime Achievement Award making them the first ever hip-hop group to receive this honour. On September 22, 2005, VH1 honored Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five for their contributions of adding social consciousness to hip hop. Flash was also honored for his contribution to DJ culture in hip hop. Grandmaster Flash has been immortalized in the halls of fame of music across the world. One of the most well-respected innovators of music and has never stopped performing and demonstrating this skill. The original pioneer of the science of hip-hop music, Grandmaster Flash is forever the legend in the game.
1982 The Message
1984 Greatest Messages
1985 They Said It Couldn’t Be Done
1985 Stepping Off
1985 Work Party
1986 The Source
1988 On The Strength
1997 Salsoul Jam 2000
2002 The Official Adventures Of…
2002 Essential Mix: Classic Edition
2005 Mixing Bullets and Firing Joints
2007 The Essential
(Davey D interview w. Grandmaster Flash)