Grand Wizzard Theodore (Theodore Livingstone) was born March 5, 1963 in Harlem and raised in the Bronx, New York on Boston Road and 168th Street. His older brothers Claudio and “Mean”Gene were part of a Hip Hop duo called the L-Brothers and introduced him to scratching even before he reached adolescence.
Born in Harlem, raised in the South Bronx, NY
Style/Claim to Fame:
- Invented the scratch
- Credited with pioneering the needle drop
- Took the scratching sound made when the records were cued and added a rhythm that made the turntable into a percussion instrument the DJ could “play”
DJ Grandmaster Flash, a frequent collaborator with the L-Brothers, took notice of his talent and would occasionally set up a milk crate to let young Theodore DJ when he performed in public parks. His name Grand Wizard Theodore came from the MC group The Fantastic Five because of the way he mixed Hip Hop and R&B records quickly back and forth.
One summer day in 1975, Theodore was playing “Passport” and The Incredible Bongo Band’s “Bongo Rock” in his bedroom. While practicing on his turntables at the age of 12 or 13, Grand Wizzard Theodore remembers inventing scratching. “I came home and played my music too loud, and my mom was banging on the door. When she opened the door, I turned the music down, but the music was still playing in my headphones. I had turned down the speakers, but I was still holding the record and moving it back and forth listening in my headphones. I thought ‘This really (sounded) like something….interjecting another record with another record.’ And as time went by, I experimented with it trying other records, and soon it became scratching.”
After developing his new technique, he amazed the crowd on August 18, 1977 when he debuted scratching and the needle drop at an outdoor party. The needle drop is performed when a “DJ sets a record spinning, then drops the stylus on the turntable at the exact point where he wants playback to begin without previously cuing up the record.” He also “built on (Grandmaster) Flash ‘s work by taking the scratching sound made when the records were cued and adding a rhythm that made the turntable into a percussion instrument the DJ could ‘play.’” He also emulated Flash’s style of acrobatic spin moves by using his elbows and feet to scratch records.
By the 1980s, Grand Wizzard Theodore was well-known in New York for being one of the best DJs, and he released “Can I Get a Soul Clap” with the Fantastic Five off of the label Tuff City. He and the group also appeared in 1983’s Hip Hop film Wild Style along with their rivals the Cold Crush Brothers. He also appeared on the Wild Style soundtrack with scratch mixes “Military Cut” and “Subway Theme” and instrumental “Gangbusters.”
Grand Wizzard Theodore began spinning records internationally in the 1990s and was inducted into the Technics DJ Hall of Fame in 1998. He has received Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the International Turntablists Federation and “Back to Mecca.” He also appeared at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Hip Hop conference in 1999. When the exhibit traveled to the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2000, he taught a DJ Master Class with the up-and-coming DJ Perseus. He appeared in the 2001 documentary Scratch about the origins of Hip hop and also appeared on the movie’s soundtrack.