Hip Hop Music began out of the fire that burned the South Bronx from a match lit by The Father, DJ Kool Herc. It was a fire of sound complimenting the existing fire that scorched the eyes from aerosol art lit by battling Graff Writers. It was a fire that complimented the hunger for rhythm blazing inside the youth of the Bronx creating a citywide inferno, and the rhythm fueled the fire that cooked the masses into a fever. It was arson, but nobody got burned.
The match that was lit creating Hip Hop Music was called the breakdown or break beat. It is the funkiest part of a record. It is the section that jammed the best from a song that rocked the massive wild. It is the sweet spot Kool Herc tapped time and again by dropping the needle on it keeping the B-Boys dancing. Song after song the climatic beat of the breakdown was the emphasis hyping up the people into celebration.
You can grab a record like Son of Scorpio, by Dennis Coffey, and literally see the break beat in the groove when the light hits it right. You can see it like the rings of Saturn. A true vinyl aficionado knows this.
But it is not just the record’s sweet spot. It was also the party people’s G-Spot, and when you rub it the right way, while staying on beat to the groove’s tempo, the crowd goes crazy! And by a simple theory, a kid named Flash discovered this G-Spot that eventually made him a Grandmaster all night long to the break-a-dawn!
His theory was to invent a technique of extending the break over time with two turntables, a mixer and cueing on beat. The rubbing of the break beat, The Quick Mix Theory of mixing and cutting, was born. From that day forward the beat never stopped; can’t stop; won’t stop the body rock and goes on!
And thus The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash began! Hoo-taaah!
I have just finished reading the new auto-biography, The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats (with David Ritz.) I was very excited to get my hands on this book since I got wind of it a few months back. Nothing in Hip Hop excites me more than listening to the Godfathers talk about when they helped pioneer our culture. I love their stories and influences because Hip Hop is about living through adversity, competition, and celebration. It came from real life because it is a culture of expression like Blues, Country-Western music, and Gospel. Let us never forget this truth!
There are many books and interviews on Hip Hop but none shine in comparison to works that document history and biography. Especially when it comes from the mouths of Brothers and Sisters like Grandmaster Flash. If you are a DJ or Hip Hop enthusiast you have no excuse not to own a copy of The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash.
Why? Because a child who does not know his daddy is a bastard, and Hip Hop today is filled with them like fish out of water.
Flash loans us his shoes for a moment as he takes us on the night he became seduced by music jamming during his family’s New Year’s Eve house party in 1960. He was turning three on January 1st and recalled how James Brown made him feel so excited as the rhythm engulfed his home. Thanks to His Father, from that point on is when he became fascinated by music and addicted to the rhythm of the beat.
His adventures continue with violence and infidelity in his parent’s lives until his Father walked out and began a new family. Flash’s home begins to fall apart leaving his Mom alone with He and his five Sisters. His family conditions worsen and finds himself shuttled through the foster care system.
Several years later, Flash takes us on his escapades as a teen to become a Graff Writer and then as a B-Boy while working on a sound system in electronics class. His Graff writing and B-Boying sucked, but when He first experienced Kool Herc’s parties at Cedar Park in 1974, Flash found his passion and obsession. This is what He wanted to be. A DJ. And He never looked back.
Flash made a name for himself as a DJ due to his invented Quick Mix Theory technique of mixing, back spinning, and cutting break beats when rocking parties. Eventually he added more to the show by inventing the idea of having an MC rap over his beats while he concentrates on rocking the house. He has one MC then two until there was a whole crew. The bar was pushed higher, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five rocked the Bronx and New York City.
There was much trial and error as the Furious Five meshed into one unstoppable force with Flash “on the beat box.” Unfortunately, there was treachery as the Furious Five became none after their stint with Sylvia Robinson (Sugar Hill Records) depleted the group.
The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash teaches us many hard lessons about his pitfalls of naivete in the recording industry, irresponsibility in fatherhood, and drug addiction in his cocaine induced purgatory. It also talks about controlling your own business, the rules of being a great DJ, and a list sprinkled throughout the book of Flash’s favorite break beats. Most of all, Flash’s story is about forgiveness and keeping the people you love close so you can succeed in life.
Just like syncing the break beats to mix on the turntables, Grandmaster Flash mastered how to get a perilous life back on rhythm as well. From the South Bronx to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it is The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash!
Videos c/o Grandmaster Flash