Grandmaster Flash Biography
The Furious Five, led by DJ Grandmaster Flash, were hip-greatest hop pioneers, expanding the genre’s aural and lyrical boundaries beyond its roots in party music. Flash started spinning records as a teenager growing up in the Bronx, performing live at neighborhood dances and block parties. Flash was born Joseph Saddler in Barbados on January 1, 1958. At the age of 19, he started spinning on the neighborhood disco circuit while also enrolling in electronics technical school courses during the day. Over time, he created the fundamental language that DJs still use today, including “cutting” (the act of switching between tracks precisely on the beat), “back-spinning” (the process of physically turning records to replay tiny snatches of music), and “phasing” (manipulating turntable speeds).
Flash didn’t start working with rappers until approximately 1977 when he teamed up for the first time with the late great Kurtis Blow. The rappers Melle Mel (Melvin Glover), Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), Kid Creole (Nathaniel Glover), Mr. Ness aka Scorpio (Eddie Morris), and Rahiem joined the Furious Five, which he later started working with (Guy Williams). The trio immediately rose to fame in New York City, drawing attention for both the Five’s expert rapping and Flash’s unmatched DJ abilities, particularly for their distinctive trading and blending of rhymes. Flash & the Furious Five were well-known locally, but they didn’t start recording until after the Sugarhill Gang’s hit “Rapper’s Delight” demonstrated that there was a market for hip-hop albums. After releasing “We Rap More Mellow” as the Younger Generation, they then recorded “Superappin'” for the Enjoy label run by R&B legend Bobby Robinson. They then changed to Sugar Hill, run by Sylvia Robinson (not related), when she assured them they would get the chance to rap over a current DJ favorite, Freedom’s “Get Up and Dance” (the idea had probably been originally conceived by Crash Crew for their single “High Powered Rap”).
The group’s debut for Sugar Hill in 1980, “Freedom,” entered the Top 20 on the R&B chart and sold over 50,000 copies; its follow-up, “Birthday Party,” was similarly successful. The band’s debut, “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,” from 1981 introduced “cutting” techniques used by Flash to assemble a beautiful sound collage from fragments of Chic, Blondie, and Queen songs. The following album by Flash & the Five, “The Message,” came out in 1982, and it was even more groundbreaking because it marked the beginning of hip-transformation hop into a form of social commentary. Melle Mel delivered a ferocious verse that described the harsh reality of living in the ghetto. Rap was cemented as a significant and enduring form of musical expression by the LP, which was a tremendous critical success.
Relations between Flash and Melle Mel soured after 1983’s anti-cocaine polemic “White Lines,” and the rapper subsequently departed the group to start a new group also known as the Furious Five. Grandmaster Flash released a string of solo albums after the original Furious Five disbanded, including 1985’s They Said It Couldn’t Be Done, 1986’s The Source, and 1987’s Da Bop Boom Bang. For a charity performance at Madison Square Garden, the original lineup was reassembled, and soon the group recorded a new album, 1988’s On the Strength, which received mixed reviews from both fans and critics. In 1994, the Furious Five joined a tour featuring Run-D.M.C. and Kurtis Blow as part of a rap package. A year later, Flash and Melle Mel also made an appearance on the “White Lines” cover by Duran Duran.
The Official Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on Strut and Essential Mix: Classic Edition was the only mix albums released by Flash between the late 1990s and 2002, save from a few compilations. As a musician, he continued to be a dedicated hip-hop spokesman throughout the 2000s. In 2007, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted him and the Furious Five. Two years later, rappers KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, Q-Tip, and Snoop Dogg were among those who appeared on Flash’s album The Bridge: Concept of a Culture.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Did Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five Break Up?
The group officially disbanded in 1984, but Grandmaster Flash continued to perform with some of the original members until his retirement in 2007.
When Was Grandmaster Flash Most Popular?
The 1980s was when Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were at the peak of their popularity. They released a number of hit singles during this time, including “The Message” and “White Lines (Don’t Do It).” Flash’s innovative style of DJing also helped to popularize hip hop music, making him one of the most important figures in the genre’s history.
How Many Records Has Grandmaster Flash Sold?
This is a difficult question to answer, as Grandmaster Flash’s sales figures are not made public. However, it is safe to say that he has sold thousands of records over the course of his career.