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

  • John Carter

    More like he does not like it because others can now do or do even better with the music now.

  • Hamid Esmaeili

    please any body can tell me what is the track at 0:40 ??? please, please,help….
    looking for it for yeeeaaaars now!

    • ledale

      Jam on the groove – Ralph MacDonald

      • Hamid Esmaeili

        thanks a lot

  • Ed Martinez

    He’s right but audience doesn’t care about if you are performing or button pushing.And novice bedroom djs even less.They just like posses, and will point a finger at you if you do a small mistake mixing instead of using the sync

  • Kingsley Opoku

    I bet back in the old days, if they had the technology we have today, djs will employ these technologies as well. With all respect, Grandmaster Flash is the master of his era and got the techniques packed down. Today, technology does most of the syncing and scratching for us. All the crowd cares is the music pumping and having a good time. Lets move forward as humans. Grandmaster, I could not do what you did with vinyl, but I am using technology to get the job done. And that’s my taught.