Grandmaster Flash with the King of Sweden at the 2019 Polar Music Prize award ceremony in Stockholm. (Credit: Annika Berglund)
Flash, who was born in Barbados and raised in the Bronx, was one of three laureates for the 2019 award. The others were the German violinist, Anne-Sophie Mutter, and the music charity, The Playing For Change Foundation. All three received $130,000 of prize money.
The Polar Music Prize was founded in 1989 by Stig Anderson, who’s best known as ABBA’s manager. Anderson petitioned the Nobel Prize committee in the late 1980s to add a music award. However, his idea was rejected, so Anderson created his own award: the Polar Music Prize.
Flash accepted the prize from the King of Sweden, saying the award was “in honor of every DJ, every rapper, every graffiti artist, and every breakdancer.”
He added: “This thing that I did had not existed before, and I am one of many where I come from. It ended up being called hip-hop, taking the drum break from pop, rock, jazz, blues, funk, disco, R&B, and using duplicate copies of records. I would take one section and repeat it over and over again.”
De La Soul’s DJ Maseo spoke at the ceremony, saying: “Grandmaster Flash is a scientist and a virtuoso who has demonstrated that turntables and mixing consoles can be musical instruments … [He] changed the course of popular music. Some 40 years later, the musical form and the hip-hop culture that Grandmaster Flash helped to create, in the ruins of the South Bronx in the mid-1970s, has grown into the largest music genre, hip-hop, in the United States and the world.”
Flash is in impressive company. Previous Polar winners include B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Dizzy Gillespie, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder.
Watch Polar’s video about Flash below. You can also to listen to a Spotify playlist of his influences.
Related Post: Grandmaster Flash: Technology Is a Gift and a Curse
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.
Grandmaster Flash (credit: grandmasterflash.com)
DJ and hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash recently gave a lecture at New York’s Hot 97 on the development of hip-hop DJing. The presentation came just one week after the debut of The Get Down, a new Netflix series that explores the rise of hip-hop in the late ’70s.
The hour-long lecture focused on Flash’s technical contributions to hip-hop DJing, including the “peek-a-boo” system, which combined a microphone mixer, preamps, and a studio mixer. As Scratch DJ Academy’s book On the Record states: “this new setup enabled [Grandmaster Flash] to preview the combined sound of two records through headphones before it went through the speakers.”
Flash also explained and demonstrated his “quick mix theory,” which was made possible by the peek-a-boo system. Quick mixing enabled Flash to extend the drum break of a song indefinitely so that crowd could keep dancing to it. The technique was not only a major advancement in hip-hop DJing but led to the development of rap music.
While the innovations that Flash discussed were introduced over 30 years ago, they are still considered standard DJing techniques today.
Watch the full video below.
– Some of the most famous samples in hip-hop history (7:00)
– Discovering that the conical stylus is the best type of needle for DJing (13:10)
– Inventing the slipmat (15:10)
– Discovering that the Technics SL-23 was the best turntable at the time for DJing (17:50)
– Inventing the “peek-a-boo” system (21:00)
– His fascination for electronics as a child (22:50)
– Inventing the “clock theory” and “quick mix theory” (28:00)
– Embracing the latest DJ technology (34:00)
– Mentoring Grand Wizzard Theodore, who is credited as the inventor of scratching (36:50)
– Demonstrating his “quick mix theory” and finger drumming with the “beatbox” (42:00)
– The story behind the beatbox (52:00)
Related: Hot 97 Honors Grandmaster Flash
As part of Black History Month, Hot 97 host Ebro Darden recently honored DJ and hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash during his morning show. The Bronx legend is credited for inventing quick mixing, punch phrasing and taking scratching to a new level.
Related: Grandmaster Flash Talks Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ Video
It’s common knowledge that older generations often struggle with technology. In what might be one of the most hilarious examples yet, grandmas have been accidentally tagging themselves as hip-hop and DJ pioneer Grandmaster Flash on Facebook.
The error is a result of Facebook’s auto-suggest tagging feature, which is causing anyone who starts writing “grandma” to be presented with a link to Grandmaster Flash.
It’s not just an isolated occurrence though. In fact, it’s been happening so much that BuzzFeed recently wrote about it and someone has created a Tumblr blog dedicated to documenting the mistakes of grandmas around the world.
Here’s just a couple of examples:
So what’s Grandmaster Flash have to say about all this?
Earlier this week, Nicki Minaj took the web by storm when she unleashed her highly-anticipated music video for “Anaconda.”
The “Baby Got Back” sampled-track had already been the source of some debate but Nicki’s (expectedly) raunchy visuals added fuel to the fire, with some criticizing it for being tacky and having excessive product placement.
In a recent interview with BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Charlie Sloth, DJ and hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash spoke about the video and reflected on Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s original.
Whether you agree with him or not, it’s interesting to hear one of the genre’s founding fathers speak his mind about one of today’s biggest tracks.
Oh, and be sure to watch Nicki’s bootylicious video in case you haven’t seen it yet:
Related: Quincy Jones Criticizes Lil Wayne and EDM
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