“Today is Grandmaster Flash’s birthday and schools are closed. Thank you, President Obama.”
– Chris Rock
My plan was to write a post about how great “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” is, but the website Songfacts expressed it perfectly, so I’ll reprint what they wrote:
Folks born after the dawn of Hip-Hop will probably read about this song, listen to it, and wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, it’s just a bunch of dance songs mixed together, and it’s kind of a harsh mix. The big deal is that it was the first song ever made by chopping up pieces of other songs and connecting them in a way to create a new track. It introduced sampling, and spotlighted the cutting and scratching techniques that were the hallmarks of early Hip Hop. Today, any kid can easily make something like this with software that probably came preloaded on his computer, but in 1981, it required 2 turntables and some serious beatmixing skills. Grandmaster Flash was a DJ, not a rapper, and he had been performing in New York city since 1976, often as the entertainment at parties. His art was in figuring out how to mix songs together using their breakbeats, so the music would keep going. He was also one of the first to do scratching, which was moving the record back and forth on the turntable, which made the transitions a lot easier.
There was no editing on this track – Grandmaster Flash did it live in the studio after mapping out his cuts. He would put marks on the labels of his records so he would know when to bring the next one in, which is something he learned playing years of parties. It took him a few takes to get all his cues in the right place, but the end result at the time sounded like perfection. In the era of remixing and editing, every beat can be scrutinized and altered, but considering what Flash accomplished with what he had to work with, it was remarkable and extraordinary. It also demonstrated what you would hear at one of his live performances.
Today’s playlist is inspired by this old school hip-hop classic.
Never did get into the hip-hop but, after reading your blog, I’m sorry I didn’t. Perhaps if I had someone like you explaining its history to me I would have appreciated it more. Thanks Glenn.