Grandmaster Flash (Joseph Saddler)

Grandmaster Flash (Joseph Saddler)

Grandmaster Flash is not only one of the first Hip Hop DJs of all time, but he is also the creator of various turntable techniques that have come to define the art of being a DJ.  Born January 1, 1958 in Bridgetown, Barbados, Joseph Saddler moved to the South Bronx with his family in the 1960s.[1] [2]  Flash grew up admiring his father’s astounding record collection and would often play Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Led Zeppelin, and Aretha Franklin records even though he knew the consequence would be physical abuse.[3] [4]His fascination with electronics led him to Samuel Gompers Vocational High School where he was nicknamed Grandmaster Flash because he would often hang out with a friend named Gordon (as in Flash Gordon). [5] [6] 

As a teenager, Flash experimented with vinyl and studied the techniques of DJ Pete Jones, Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flowers.[7]  He began DJing at several house parties in the early 1970s and took notice of DJ Pete Jones’ knowledge of mixing.  He soon realized that he could perfect mixing by using headphones to listen to one turntable, cue up the record, and then play it for the crowd.[8] This discovery helped him design his own DJ mixing equipment, and he became the first DJ to ever lay hands on a record to manipulate it.[9] 

Flash created various turntable cutting and mixing techniques including break-beat deejaying –“ the process of remixing and thereby creating a new piece of music by playing vinyl records and turntables as if they were musical instruments.”[10]  He also enjoyed extending and looping the beats of his favorite song breakdowns by using two turntables and a mixer to play the same beat repeatedly.[11]  This practice is now commonly known as Quick Mix Theory, Backspin Technique and Beat Juggling.[12]  Punch phrasing (aka Clock Theory) “involved isolating short segments of music, typically horn hits, and rhythmically punching them over the sustained beat using the mixer.”[13]  Flash eventually became skilled enough to recognize breaks on a record with his naked eye and marked them with crayon so that they were easily accessible.[14]  Though Grand Wizzard Theodore is credited with the invention of scratching itself, Grandmaster Flash was known for cutting (moving between tracks exactly on the beat) which later evolved into crab scratching, transforming, flaring and doubleback.[15] [16]  He was also known for phasing (varying the speed of a record) and for being the first DJ to have rappers like Kurtis Blow and Lovebug Starski accompany his breaks at his legendary block parties.[17] 

At a time when disco ruled the world, Flash formed his own group to represent the Hip Hop movement that had become so prevalent with youth in the South Bronx.  The group dropped theirfirst single “Superrappin’” on Enjoy! Records in 1979 and was comprised of rappers Melle Mel, Cowboy, Rahiem, Scorpio and Kid Creole.[18]  The group went on to sign with Sugar Hill Records and the release of “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” marked the first recorded DJ composition and also debuted scratching on a track.[19]  They also made a social impact with hits like “The Message” and an anti-drug song called “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” though Flash has admitted to struggling with a cocaine base addiction in the 1980s.[20]  The group disbanded when Flash sued Sugar Hill Records over royalties, and they reunited for another album and tour in the late 1980s with only lukewarm reception.[21]  As a solo artist, he released various compilation albums and DJ mixes throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.[22]  His latest effort, The Bridge – Concept of a Culture, was released in 2009 and featured Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip.[23]           

Today, DJ Grandmaster Flash is now known as one of the founding fathers of Hip Hop who set the precedent for all DJs with his innovative cutting and mixing skills.  He became the first Hip Hop DJ to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 and has received various prestigious awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the RIAA and the Bill Gates’ Vanguard Award.[24]  There is no doubt that Flash will always be remembered for pioneering an entire musical art form that will be practiced and studied for generations to come.


Bridgetown, Barbados

Style/Claim To Fame:

  • Originating the following DJ techniques:
  • Break-beat deejaying
  • Quick Mix Theory
  • Punch phrasing (aka Clock Theory)
  • Backspin Technique
  • Cutting
  • Phasing


Super Rappin Recorded under Enjoy Records Released: 1976 Last RIAA certification: Singles: Super Rappin[20]
The Message Recorded under Sugar Hill Records Released: 1982 Last RIAA certification: Platinum Singles: “The Message“, “It’s Nasty”
Greatest Messages under Sugar Hill Records Released: 1984 Last RIAA certification: Singles:
  They Said It Couldn’t Be Done under Elektra Records Released: April 26, 1985 Chart Positions: #35 Top R&B/Hip Hop Last RIAA certification: Gold Singles: “Girls Love The Way He Spins”, “Sign Of The Times”, “Alternate Groove”, “Larry’s Dance Theme”
The Source under Elektra Records Released: 1986 Chart positions: #145 US, #27 Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, Last RIAA certification: Gold Singles: “Style (Peter Gunn Theme)”, “Behind Closed Doors”
Ba-Dop-Boom-Bang under Elektra Records Released: 1987 Chart positions: #197 US, #43 Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Last RIAA certification: Gold Singles: “U Know What Time It Is”, “All Wrapped Up”
On the Strength under Elektra Records Released: 1988 Chart positions: #189 US Last RIAA certification: Gold Singles: “Gold”, “Magic Carpet Ride”
Salsoul Jam 2000 under Salsoul Jam Records Released: 1997 Chart positions: Did Not Chart Last RIAA certification: Singles: “Spring Rain”
Flash Is Back under Marlboro Music Released: 1998 Chart Positions: Did Not Chart Last RIAA certification: Singles:
The Official Adventures of Grandmaster Flash under Strut Records Released: January 29, 2002 Chart positions: Did Not Chart Last RIAA certification: Singles:
Essential Mix: Classic Edition under Rhino/WEA Records Released: May 7, 2002 Chart positions: Did Not Chart Last RIAA certification: Singles:
The Bridge – Concept of a Culture under Strut Records Released: February 24, 2009 Chart positions: U.S. Sales: 2,607 Last RIAA certification: Singles: Swagger feat. Red Cafe, Snoop Dogg & Lynn Carter Singles: Shine All Day feat. Q-Tip, Jumz & Kel Spencer



They Said It Couldn’t Be Done

◄ (6 versions) Elektra 1985

The Source

◄ (4 versions) Elektra 1986

Ba-Dop-Boom-Bang…And Even More

◄ (10 versions) Elektra 1987

Kurtis Blow / Grandmaster FlashThe Message Live In N.Y.C. (CD, MiniAlbum)

Not On Label (Kurtis Blow / Grandmaster Flash) 1995

Flash Is Back

◄ (2 versions) Marlboro Music 1998

The Official Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash

◄ (2 versions) Strut 2002

The Bridge. Concept Of A Culture

◄ (4 versions) Strut 2009

Singles & EPs

Grandmaster Flash / Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five* – The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel / The Party Mix ◄ (3 versions)

Sugar Hill Records 1981

White Lines Pt(1)

PRT Records 1983

Sign Of The Times

◄ (6 versions) Elektra 1985

Girls Love The Way He Spins

◄ (6 versions) Elektra 1985

Alternate Groove

◄ (3 versions) Elektra 1985

Style (Peter Gunn Theme)

◄ (6 versions) Elektra 1986

Behind Closed Doors

◄ (2 versions) Elektra 1986

All Wrapped Up

◄ (3 versions) Elektra 1987

U Know What Time It Is

◄ (6 versions) Elektra 1987

The Message

(CD, Mini) Sugar Hill Records, TELDEC 1989

If U Wanna Party

◄ (4 versions) Nite + Blue Records 1996

Dr. Yann & Grandmaster FlashVinyl Beat Of Two Turntables With Cybernetics And Bio-Feedback (12″)

For Life Records 1998

Dance To The Beat

(12″, Promo) Marlboro Music 1998

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five / Grandmaster FlashThe Message / The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel ◄ (2 versions)

Sequel Records 1999

DJ Tomekk VS Grandmaster Flash Feat. Spezializtz, P.O.T. (2) & Big Sal1, 2, 3,… Rhymes Galore (Remix) ◄ (3 versions)

BMG Ariola Media GmbH 1999

DJ Tomekk vs Grandmaster Flash1, 2, 3,… Rhymes Galore ◄ (5 versions)

BMG 1999

The Official Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash Sampler

(12″, Smplr) Strut 2002

Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel And Furious Five, TheStep Off / Pump Me Up

Sanctuary Records 2004

Singles & EPs

Derek Risle Meets J.T* / Derek Risle Meets G.M.F* – Sexy Tech / The Ultra Dark Message (12″)

Not On Label (Derek Risle) 2006

Shine All Day

(CD, Single, Promo) Strut 2009

Grandmaster Flash Vs. Roots, TheThe Message Rolling With Heat

Not On Label 2010

Grand Master Flash*, Sugar Hill Gang* and Furious Five, TheRapmasters (12″)

Rapmasters Unknown


The Very Best Of Grandmaster Flash Melle Mel & The Furious Five (Original Versions)

(LP, Comp) Green Line Records 1988

Grandmaster Flash, Furious Five, The, Grandmaster Melle MelThe Greatest Hits ◄ (2 versions)

Sequel Records 1992

White Lines & Other Messages

◄ (2 versions) Wise Buy 1994

Message From Beat Street: The Best Of Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel & The Furious Five

(CD, Comp) Rhino Records (2) 1994

Grandmaster Flash Vs. Sugarhill Gang, The* – Grandmaster Flash vs. The Sugarhill Gang (2xCD, Comp)

Recall 2cd, Recall 2cd, Recall 2cd 1997

Grandmaster Flash, Furious Five, The, Grandmaster Melle MelAdventures On The Wheels Of Steel ◄ (2 versions)

Sequel Records 1999

Junior Cartier / West Street Mob / Roots Manuva / Grandmaster FlashSugarhill Gang Remixes (12″, Comp)

Sequel Records 1999

Sugarhill Gang, The* Vs. Grandmaster FlashThe Greatest Hits ◄ (3 versions)

Sequel Records 2000

Grandmaster Flash / Sugarhill Gang, The* – The Message The Best Of Grandmaster Flash & The Sugarhill Gang (CD, Comp)

BMG, Sanctuary Group Records Inc. 2002

Essential Cuts

(CD, Comp) Metro 2005

Grandmaster Flash

(CD, Comp, Promo) Daily Star Sunday 2007

The Message

(CD, Comp) Sakkaris Records Unknown

DJ Mixes

Presents Salsoul Jam 2000

◄ (3 versions) Salsoul Records 1997

Mixing Bullets And Firing Joints

(CD, Mixed, Album) Suss’d Records 2003http://www.discogs.com/artist/Grandmaster+Flash#p=1&t=Releases_All

Cited Sources

[1] http://www.discogs.com/artist/Grandmaster+Flash#p=1&t=Releases_All

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandmaster_Flash

[3] http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2008/06/grandmaster_flash_on_hiphop_hu.html

[4] http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Grandmaster-FlashBiography/B11AB376A9F3C2AB48256AA10003872A 

[5] Ibid.

[6] http://hiphop.sh/flash

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandmaster_Flash

[8] http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Grandmaster-FlashBiography/B11AB376A9F3C2AB48256AA10003872A

[9] http://rockhall.com/inductees/grandmaster-flash-and-the-furious-five/bio/

[10] http://rockhall.com/inductees/grandmaster-flash-and-the-furious-five/bio/

[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandmaster_Flash

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] http://hiphop.sh/flash

[15] http://www.globaldarkness.com/articles/grandmaster_flash_bio.htm

[16] http://hiphop.sh/flash

[17] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandmaster_Flash

[18] Ibid.

[19] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandmaster_Flash_and_the_Furious_Five

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] http://www.discogs.com/artist/Grandmaster+Flash#p=1&t=Releases_All

[23] Ibid.

[24] http://www.grandmasterflash.com/

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