With a career spanning over three decades, a platinum record and even an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Grandmaster Flash has truly lived up to his name by becoming a master at the hip hop game. We caught up with the hip hop veteran on his recent visit to Taboo in Sandton and discussed everything from his early days playing block parties to his desire to see kwaito music going global:
Did you ever think that the block party movement you started all those years ago would lead you all the way to South Africa?
‘The culture as we all know was created in the Broxn, I had always hoped that it would at least spread to neighbouring to cities but never in my wildest dreams did I think that it would go globally to the point where I am sitting here in South Africa-Never in my wildest dreams’
What led you to writing your memoir The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash?
‘I had to write that book because sometimes as human beings we have things on our minds that we have to let go and I want people to understand that the long road that I took to get here was not always an easy one. I have had my ups and downs; I have had my addictions and family problems. I just wanted to let that go because when you let things go then the weight is lifted of your shoulders. I wanted to be clear and transparent that the road from point A to here was not an easy road’
You have been credited as a pioneer in terms of vinyl technique creation, how do you feel when you see other d.j’s using techniques you created?
‘When I see people doing my technique it makes me smile and then I say to myself, what was I thinking?’
And what is it exactly that you were thinking?
‘I was just angry because in most compositions when you buy songs the drummer never gets the full extended moment. The only music where drums played a major part in the song was Africa and we in the States did not get a lot of African music at the time. So I had to come up with a system where I could take duplicate copies of the record and cut and paste them over each other.
Are you still coming up with new music techniques currently?
‘When I play I always come up with something different, the basic technique stays the same you just find ways of expanding on it’
As someone who started out on vinyl what did you think about the move towards digital when playing sets?
‘I think it’s great, I consider myself a scientist so I’m into pushing the envelope and expanding on to the next thing’.
Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
‘My biggest musical influence is my father he catapulted me to get where I am as well as the godfather of hip hop Kool Herc these two people played a major part in all the things that I do’
Have you had the opportunity to listen to any local music?
‘Over the past few days I have listened to Kwaito and I think it is powerfully amazing-it has strong drums at the top and a sexy rhythms on the bottom. I think it is great and I wonder why it has not gone global’.
After all these years d.j’ing do you still read the crowd’s reaction to your set?
‘You have to read the crowd’s reaction if you don’t then you should be doing something else for a living. I insist on giving the audience that comes to see me my outmost attention.’
Out of all the accolades that you have received is there any in particular that stands out to you?
‘I could talk about the 25 awards etc. but the biggest accolade for me is just people saying ‘thank you’ that is the most significant thing for me. Just the words thank you’.
And with that said we said ‘thank you’ to the legend and wished him a happy stay in S.A.
Article by: Len Makhoba