On this date in 1958, a man who will forever reform the stance of the turntable was born; Joseph Saddler, best known as Grandmaster Flash.
Amidst the infancy of hip-hop culture, Grandmaster Flash dominated the disc jockey scene of the North Bronx as he once was the DJ for big-time house rockers Kurtis Blow and Lovebug Starski in the mid-70s. Flash’s DJ sets became notorious for shaking crowds, and it was evident he was influenced by preceding disco DJs like Grandmaster Flowers and Pete DJ Jones. Flash was intrigued by the identity of the disc jockey through New York City disco DJ legends and the “hip-hopper” house rockers of his time, who reigned the opposing regions of the boogie down, DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa.
The DJ is the first star to brew out of hip-hop culture. With knowledge of the crowd’s desire to get down to the drum break known in hip-hop culture as the breakbeat (A type of instrumental that extends the dance part of the record), Saddler’s innovative nature caused him to develop a strategy that would deem his influence on the genre, unmatched and unquestioned, the quick-mix theory. The quick-mix approach was Flash’s way of endlessly playing the drum break by using two turntables and two copies of the same record, playing the gap on one roster while setting the destined part on the other. With a mixer, he switched to the other turntable, giving birth to an easier way to extend the break, which is currently known as the art of looping. The quick-mix-theory was heralded as a next-level tactic that stemmed from DJ Kool Herc’s groundbreaking “Merry Go Round Technique.”
The signature success of the quick mix theory led to his most famed act as the DJ for Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, whose 1982 hit “The Message” embodied the essence of New York City and brought global prominence to the once “thought-to-be-faddy” hip-hop genre. “The Message” is a track that documents Flash’s mastery of the turntable and is nonetheless recognized as one of the greatest songs of hip-hop history. The song is responsible for refining the content landscape of the rapping trend by bringing to light social commentary from the black youth of the Bronx, exposing the daily trials and tribulations caused by historically sanctioned methods of oppression.
Happy born day, Flash! Salute to you on your special day, and wishing you many more!