Origins of the DJ: Grandmaster Flash Turns 63

To many, Grandmaster Flash is praised for being one of the early pioneers of DJing and early hip hop production styles like his signature record-scratch sound. Serving as the backbone for the famed New York City Rap crew, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five who together made a team that put out music that the charts couldn’t ignore. With singles like “The Message,” released in 1982, the group found their way onto the airwaves, making a name for themselves while simultaneously helping bring rap into the mainstream.

Grandmaster Flash

Born January 1st, 1958 in Bridgewater, the capital city of Barbados, Joseph Saddler, known professionally as Grandmaster Flash, immigrated to the Bronx with his family shortly after his birth. While growing up in The Bronx, a young Grandmaster Flash would secretly comb through his father’s record collection, sparking his explorative interest in music. After Highschool, is when the Grandmaster’s musical growth set in. Learning the techniques of early DJ mixing icons such as DJ Kool Hercs signature backspin technique which became a sound synonymous with the early NYC hip hop scene.

The late 70s saw the early formation of The Furious Five, rappers Melle Mel, Keef Cowboy, and The Kidd Creole were later joined by Rahiem and Scorpio all worked with Grandmaster Flash’s production. The group was particularly active in the party and freestyle scenes where they were quickly recognized for their charismatic MCing and Grandmaster Flash’s rhythmic drum breaks.

Grandmaster Flash’s contributions to the rap game were largely influential, with his signature production style going on to influence hundreds of producers, both mainstream, and in the rap scenes ever-present underground. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five set several precedents, including being the first rap group to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. There are a few examples of producers who come to mind when you think of early New York City DJing, Grandmaster Flash may be the best example.

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