Grandmaster Flash (Saddler, Joseph)

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Grandmaster Flash (Saddler, Joseph)

January 1, 1957

Born in Barbados as Joseph Saddler, Grandmaster Flash got his start in the vibrant street-party scene of the Bronx in 1970s New York. A prominent DJ, Flash pioneered a number of record-mixing innovations, including "scratching," "break mixing," "punch phasing," and the "beat box." Flash's mastery of these techniques placed him at the forefront of the rap music scene, which exploded into national popularity in the early 1980s.

Flash's innovations centered around the use of multiple turntables to combine the best parts of songs to create an exciting new combination of beats and melodies. In addition to creating new sounds, Flash added an element of showmanship to his performances, mixing records behind his back and including friends who "shouted out" to excite the audience. These shout outs evolved into complex rhyming lyrics and became a permanent part of Flash's act when he formed Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The group's 1981 single, "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel," introduced a national audience to the exciting rhythmic montage of sound made possible by Flash's technological innovations. Their 1982 hit, "The Message," won critical acclaim and demonstrated that rap music could tackle the pressing issues of urban poverty and violence. Although the group broke up in 1982, their work remained influential to rap and hip-hop music. Flash remained active in the hip-hop scene and is known for his role as music director on the Chris Rock Show. Grandmaster Flash received the Founder's Award at the 2003 Billboard-AURN R&B/Hip-Hop Awards Show.

See also Hip Hop; Rap


George, Nelson. Hip Hop America. New York: Viking, 1998.

Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1994.

Toop, David. Rap Attack 3. London: Serpent's Tail, 1999.

michael wade fuquay (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005

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Grandmaster Flash (Saddler, Joseph)

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