Today in Hip Hop History: Grandmaster Flash’s Birthday

Today in Hip Hop History: Grandmaster Flash Birthday
Grandmaster Flash via

Today in Hip Hop History: January 1, 1958

58 years ago today, one of the hip hop pioneers was born in Bridgetown, Barbados in the West Indies. Named Joseph Saddler at the time, the boy would grow up into one of the most famous hip hop personas of all time: Grandmaster Flash. At a young age, his family moved to the South Bronx and his parents’ collection of music and LPs sparked the young boy’s interest, alongside his education in repairing electronics. After he graduated high school, Flash became an integral part in the early New York DJ scene.

After studying the earliest DJs in his area, Flash innovated a few moves in spinning: the backspin technique, which essentially infinitely loops the same song. Punch phrasing, using the mixer to repeat very short and sustained loops of the beat. Lastly, he perfected the art of scratching records. At the time of his emergence, Flash was quickly evolving the brand new phenomena that is known as DJing.

In addition to his solo DJ career, Flash became the lead guy in Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The group formed in 1978 and rose to national prominence in the early 1980’s. Their indubitable magnum opus, “The Message,” remains one of the most important and influential songs of all time. The song introduced social rhymes and politically-charged lyricism that had not ever existed in hip hop at its time.

The hip hop group was together for around 5 discontinuous years and released two full length albums. In 2007, they became the first hip hop group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; a feat truly revered by musicians worldwide.

As for Flash himself, many argue that his innovations on the turn table “transformed it into an actual instrumental.” His ability to move the crowd and get them going ranks up with there with other urban legends. The man revolutionized the way hip hop music was made, performed and enjoyed, and for that we at True Too Hip Hop thank you. Happy 58th birthday, Joseph “Grandmaster Flash” Saddler!

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