Grandmaster Flash: Technology Is a Gift and a Curse

Grandmaster Flash

DJ and hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash discussed the role that technology plays in DJ culture during an interview with CNET at SXSW. The conversation took place before the debut of part two of Netflix’s The Get Down, which Flash associate produced.

“The audience wants to see you perform. And as a DJ, the best platform will always be turntables,” Flash said when asked how he feels about DJs scratching with the Touch Bar on Apple’s new MacBook Pro.

“Especially if you play multiple genres of music, the [beats per minute] fluctuate on all songs, you’re constantly trying to lock it in so that one beat connects on time to the next one. People want to see the constant battle going on. It’s something for them to look at, as opposed to [having] something that does it for you. I won’t say that it’s right or wrong, left or right, black or white. But why?”

Flash added that DJing, like everything else, goes in cycles.

“There has never been this much awareness for yesterday, of what was taking place in the ’70s,” he said. “So many people are trying to replicate what was.”

However, Flash doesn’t disapprove of all new technology.

“I used to have a room full of all the hardware. Two things happened: The room is increasingly hot — your power bill is out the window, it’s a mortgage. And it breaks down quite a bit. So, the scientist that I am, I went on a tear in the early ’90s when a lot of technology companies were making software versions of, like, a base module. Once I bought the app version, I took the hardware version and put it away. Slowly but surely, I put all my stuff away, because the wonder about technology is you can carry it with you. That’s a gift in it.”

The curse, he said, is when the technology does the work for you.

“I find that to be an insult to the audience. If you ain’t really mixing, then go try another profession. Don’t cheat the audience like that.”

Watch a clip of Flash’s master class for The Get Down cast below. Part two debuts April 7.

Related: Watch Grandmaster Flash’s Lecture on the Development of Hip-Hop DJing