Grandmaster Flash Tells Tales of Triumph and Struggle in Memoir
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five are without question the forefathers of hip-hop music. Best known for songs such as 'The Message' and 'Freedom' from the early '80s, the group brought hip hop music from the New York clubs to a wider stage. In 2007, they were the first hip-hop act to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On his own, Flash became a pioneer in creating music and sounds from his turntables particularly on the track 'The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel.'
But for the DJ, whose real name is Joseph Saddler, those successes were marred by conflict involving money, record company dealings, drugs and family problems. "For a long period of time I was pretty angry," he tells Spinner. "I characterize myself as being torn apart and being in lots of pain."
In his new book 'The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats,' co-written with David Ritz, Flash traces his life from his rough childhood in the Bronx to key aspects of his career: witnessing DJ Kool Herc spinning records in 1974; developing DJ-ing techniques such mixing and cutting; and, with the Furious Five -- Melle Mel, Scorpio, Rahiem, Kid Creole and Cowboy -- playing to 3,000 people at the Audubon Ballroom in 1976.
Despite the group's popularity and hits, Flash spent time battling Sylvia Robinson, the head of Sugar Hill Records, over money he felt was owed to them. Flash's role in the group was challenged after Robinson pushed him to record 'The Message.' As he writes in the book, he and the Furious Five were at first not interested in recording the track because the lyrics were so bleak in describing urban decay. "We as a group were like, 'What is this?'" he recalls.
Originally Flash wanted each of the members of the Furious Five to take a turn to rap on the recording. In the