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Grandmaster Flash Gives The Facts From Old School Fiction

Grandmaster Flash gives an interview of the ages as he gives Chuck Creekmur the difference between fact and revisionism.

(AllHipHop Features) Grandmaster Flash has been a staple and icon in Hip-Hop for a long, long time. Now, AllHipHop's Chuck Creekmur talks to the original OG - original geek of Hip-Hop - in an indepth conversation that spans The Bronx, Hip-Hop's early days as well as the complicated, fragmented relationship with fellow founders Afrika Bambaataa and Kool Herc.

Grandmaster. Flash: But as I was coming up, this became a major focal point and starting point for me. It's called 23 Park, right here on 166th Street and Tinton Avenue, which was really important to me and where I used to play, it's this placed called the Parky House right there. Your man calls it Park and Recreations. No, it's the fucking Parky House, man.

Two parks I used to play: 63 and Park, I would call it the mid-size park, and at 23 Park, which is probably the major place. I used to ask permission to run an extension cord out of the door of the Parky House, and we used to set up right here.

Chuck Creekmur: Okay.

Flash: And we used to play. So this was kind of my area for trying new music, like ... And you gotta understand, hip hop at that time was based on what the DJ was playing, and he who was the holder of the hottest break was the man at the time. So sometimes it was Herc, and sometimes it was Bam, and sometimes it was Flash. So, when I had Bob James "Take Me to the Mardi Gras," I was the man. When Herc had "Apache," he was the man. And when Bam had "Trans-Europe Express" and "Indiscreet" and all these things, it was like he was the man. This thing called the Bronx, man, is where it all started.

Chuck Creekmur: What would you say your experience was like? Paint the picture for us. How many people were out here with you? 500, 200, 20?

Flash: I'd say somewhere around 1,000 people was here. G. We had some of the most dopest break dancers. We had some of the most incredible people that did that dance called "The Hustle." You know? We had the most amazing graffiti artists because you got to understand, during this time period, talking to the beat of music did not exist yet. Not yet. I hadn't perfected the quick mix theory yet.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: Where the body of music was a bed for a human being to speak on. I was still in the perfecting aspect of it during this period of time. For me, this was a testing ground for a pop break, a rock break, a jazz break, a blues break, a funk break, an R&B break, a disco break, an alternative break, a Caribbean break. This was testing period.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: While the Godfather was smashing it on the West Side of the Bronx, little Flash was over her doing a little something with my little wack ass system. You know, so pretty much.

Chuck Creekmur: In August (2017) Google paid homage to what was largely considered to be the birthdate of hip hop.

Flash: Right.

Chuck Creekmur: You responded in your way.

Flash: Sure.

Chuck Creekmur: With your open letter to Kool Herc.

Flash: Yes.

Chuck Creekmur: I had a lot of questions before your open letter, and I have questions after your open letter.

Flash: Sure.

Chuck Creekmur: So, let's talk about the open letter. What prompted you to do that?

Flash: I think what happened was when I was asked to be a part of it, I applauded the fact that finally this platform as huge as Google wants to take this era and time that a lot of people don't know about, and they're going to send it out to billions of people.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: I was really wonderful about that. But what I wanted to make really clear is there's technical aspect, and there's advance in time and places, people, and things that need to be addressed during that period of time ...

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: That I really wanted to address, and I wanted to make it clearer how things took place, and how it was done.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: I come from a place where I'm always respectful. There's Grandmaster Flash the performer, but then there's Joseph Saddler, the scientist. I wanted to make it absolutely clear that we need to make it clear how this thing broke down from a microscopic perspective, where a lot of times things are done in just a huge, brilliant picture, and it's like, "Whoa. Wow."

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: But then that tiny part of the painting right there wasn't looked at.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: So, if we're going to look at it from a painting's perspective, we need to know what the reds represent, and what the blues represent, and what the turquoises represent, and what the yellows represent, so I was more or less going into the colors they're depicting. Okay, this yellow is why this blue came into it that made it green.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: Because yellow and blue make green. Where the yellows were big during this announcement, and the blues were big during this background announcement. Nobody said, "Okay, so green." Green wasn't depicted. So, I had to express that there was someone thinking about this, and these yellows and these blues were experimented on, and they made green.

Chuck Creekmur: Okay.

Flash: So, when you're looking at green, let's look at yellow and blue. Oh ... I look at Herc as an individual who took bastard music, music that main media didn't care for, and brought that to the forefront. I look at Bam has having the most, deepest collection than the two of us together of this bastard music that the world didn't want. I look at myself as coming up with a delivery system, how to deliver it. This is where I'm talking about the different colors that needed to be depicted. That's where Joseph Saddler comes in.

When I talk about Einstein, and the Theory of Relativity is when I'm watching heads on the floor, I am absolutely making sure that what I'm playing, while the female and males heads is going up down, whether I'm playing pop or rock, as I go to the next song the heads are still going up and down. Then I talked about Benjamin Banneker. When I want you to stop because he is the inventor of the traffic light.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: When I want you to stop, I want you to stop at the same time. This is where my area is, where Herc was more or less into the major crowds, but I called the Law of Disarray, where things are not totally in line.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: Not making it no more, or no less than what I did, but just basically microscopically managing how the music was distributed to the heads in front of us.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: Who's playing the major role? But at the same time, we played this music that mainstream America didn't give a fuck about. Herc did it first. We took breaks from pop, rock, jazz, blues, funk, disco, R&B, alternative, Caribbean, and once we found that piece, and I figured out a way to connect this according to the Theory of Relativity, which is matching it. This is hip hop for me.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: You understand what I'm saying? And when I wanted you to stop is when I'm using Benjamin Banneker. This is how Joseph Saddler thinks. I think like Erik von Braun, with the creator of the jet engine. The jet engine hasn't changed in 40 plus years. When you look at a plane, and I'm on planes all the time, it's still a gigantic fan that sucks in air, and the air that blows out the other end propels the engine. The Quick Mix Theory hasn't changed in almost 40 years. It's bigger, it's faster, and then some kids do it in a way that I woudn't fathom knowing how to do, but it's the same way. So, this is how Joseph Saddler thinks.

2017 is what I call the cyclical year of the birth of hip hop. It's because 2017 there are more young people, more kids that want to know what the 70s was doing than ever. So, we were talking about the 80s, and how they get credit, it's just that the 80s was the cake finished. The 70s was the bakers at the time. So, now the 70s for me is so, "How was the cake made?" It's the flour, the water, the eggs, the vanilla, the secret ingredients. Now, with the interest of the 70s, it's really important that we as hip hoppers ...

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: Whether here in the Bronx right now, or in Japan, or in Australia, like people need to know where this thing truly started. You need to know Kool Herc is, you need to know who Afrika Bambaataa is, you need to know who Grandmaster Flash is, and all out prodigies that come after. It's really important.

Chuck Creekmur: Absolutely. You made the distinction between looping versus repeating. And that's a major distinction for people that know hip hop.

Flash: I'm not trying to school the scholars like you. I'm trying to microscopically school the layman's that might look at that and say, "I don't see the difference." So, if we were to quantify the professionals like yourself and myself, let's just say they're 30,000. There's seven billion laymen. These are the people I need you to say, "Look at these moving pictures and tell me if you see the difference."

This is how we can tell the difference between "Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll" by Vaughan Mason and Good Times. You put the two together, the notes are playing exactly, almost the same, but it's two different records. .

You play "Mary Jane" by Rick James, and then you play "Keep Risin' to the Top" by Keni Burke, they sound almost the same, but they come from the minds of two different people.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: These are the laymen that you really got to be careful because long after god takes me, I want these little kids to understand where this important thing came from. These three people.

Chuck Creekmur: Okay. Now, in the video, another little distinction you said, and this is not to focus on anything traumatic.

Flash: Right, right.

Chuck Creekmur: But you did say it, "There's only two of us left."

Flash: Right.

Chuck Creekmur: You know what I'm talking about?

Flash: Yeah.

Chuck Creekmur: What made you say that?

Flash: You know, as human beings we make mistakes. I'm getting a little teary eyed right now, and we do things that are not really right when it comes to people. Bam is accused of doing some things that are really horrific. Extremely horrific ... I feel for the families that it happened to. I really, really, really, really, really feel for the families that this happened to, but he is one of the people that's responsible for this.

Like this is why I said ... Me and Herc, yo man, we don't speak too much anymore. As a matter of fact, we don't speak at all, and it's sad. It's because we should be speaking. When I talk to journalists, I will always give them one/third the story. Because I haven't been sitting down and had a coffee with Herc. In decades!

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: Haven't sat down with Bam and talked over a coffee or a tea.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: In decades.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: I so badly want to do that. When journalists ask me, how does this work? Or how does that, that, that? I'd rather give three/thirds, which equals a whole for every journalist that I speak to. I can only give my history.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: The other two parts is his story.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah. Right.

Flash: So, it makes it still to some degree incomplete. So, a horrific thing happened, so I say to Herc, it's only two of us now, and I haven't seen Bam in a long period of time.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: But bad things that took place are really horrific bad things, but ... He is a third of the story.

Chuck Creekmur: But you still said, "Two left."

Flash: It's two left with just me and Herc.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: I'd love to be sitting down at a table ...

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah, yeah.

Flash: Like this.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: And saying, "Herc, tell me who you are. Introduce yourself to me." Because now this story, this period of time is so intensely interesting to so many people in the world.

Chuck Creekmur: Absolutely.

Flash: So, now I want to know, "I'll tell you who Joseph Saddler is, you tell me who Clive Campbell is."

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: Then let's go into how we became who we are.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: When I was doing this, I was just in this for the moment. There was no plan like, "Yo, this technical thing that you're going to do, and it's going to become the thing that every DJ does." I wasn't thinking that way.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: I heard music a certain way, and I'm like, "It's not taking place, let me use Joseph Saddler, the geek, to figure this out." This is all that I can say.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah, but why aren't you and Herc talking? I mean, there's no beef, right? I mean, there's no ...

Flash: I don't know. I don't know why we're not talking. I don't know. It's sad.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: Because sooner or later god will come calling.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: Then it will be one. Then god will come calling again, then it will be none. The way that a lot of media does today, yesterday's not important.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: They move onto the next thing.

Chuck Creekmur: Absolutely.

Flash: So, I think for me, I looked at a lot of documentaries in this past year-and-a-half, and they can not be complete because you're not hearing it from here, from Joseph Saddler.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: If Joseph Saddler, and Clive Campbell, and Bam, whose real name I don't really, really know, was sitting here talking then you would hear an authentically, incredible, powerful, powerful, powerful, accurate story from the three people that physically did it. Until that point happens, all the documentaries will be inaccurate in one way or another.

Chuck Creekmur: I would love to sit down with Kool Herc, but it's been difficult.

Flash: Okay.

Chuck Creekmur: It's been a challenge.

Flash: Maybe before I leave planet Earth, this can happen. So, if there's ... Like there's this slang term they use now, "The Big Three."

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For basketball.

Flash: LeBron, and the people with the Golden State Warriors. Then there was Boston. If that's the case, what does that make us?

Chuck Creekmur: The Big Three. Let me ask you this, are people jealous of Grandmaster Flash? I'll just tell you my opinion is, I think they are.

Flash: What do you mean?

Chuck Creekmur: Okay, you want me to tell you what I know?

Flash: Yeah.

Chuck Creekmur: I know that a lot of us see you, you're on tour all year, you're in control of your brand, you have multi layers to your success and your career right at this point, and then honestly a lot of others are not in as such a good position.

Flash: Right.

Chuck Creekmur: Ultimately, that breeds envy. You've never felt that at all?

Flash: Like I told you earlier in the interview, it's critically important that I go around the world and tell these people where this thing comes from. Now since I'm only one person, and I can only be in one place in one time, a lot of times people don't see me, but when I find out about certain events, I make it a point to go to them. When I walk into a room and I see some of my old friends, it's powerful love.

Chuck Creekmur: Right, okay.

Flash: It powerful, powerful love. Like I just came from doing an event that was in honor of DJs that passed away in the Bronx area, at Sal's. Sal who used to own Disco Fever has a club called Club Evil. I was just there.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: Got all the love. It's incredibly ... It was incredible. This is what I say, I personally feel whether you are in music, machinery, medicine, or whatever it is that you do, it is your own personal responsibility to be up on the times, and make yourself visible to people because it's all a people business.

Chuck Creekmur: Yes.

Flash: It's extremely important. I've had some real rough times.

Chuck Creekmur: Yes.

Flash: I've been fucked over. I've had some people that were near and dear to me that I raised fuck me over. I was on the ground at the lowest of my low. I went through a period of time where I was sniffing cocaine, smoking it, drinking, walked away from my turntables, almost lost my life, not once, but twice because of the overdose of cocaine. I've been through some real fucked up times. I watched my mother, my father, and my grandmother all die at the same time, in the same month.

Chuck Creekmur: Wow.

Flash: As I passed out this particular time from cocaine, I went into somewhat of a coma like. I had this intense conversation with god, and I begged if you could allow me to wake up one more time with the fucking over that I had, if you just allow me to wake up this one time, I will drop cocaine, I will forgive the people and the fellas that used to roll with me for fucking me over, and allow me to rebuild my career. The first person he got me with, and this was an 18 year walk, the first person they got me with was Blue who started doing bookings for me.

Chuck Creekmur: Okay.

Flash: There was this other person by the name of Greg Cannon. Greg Cannon was this white guy who done this interesting thing for a job. He says, "Flash, although there are these confusion on whose Grandmaster, and whose not, I'm going to introduce you to this new thing that's happening, but here's the key, you have to tell people what you're thinking. You have to tell people how you're feeling. You almost got to tell people what kind of cereal you ate this morning. You got to kind of ask people when you stubbed your toe."

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: I'm like, "F*ck you, Greg. I'm not doing it. I'm a real private person."

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: "I'm not telling people sh*t." He said, "Flash, if you do this they will know the difference of Joseph Saddler/Grandmaster Flash, and the people that used to roll with you."

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: "You will now become your own person." I'm like, "Greg, fuck you. I'm not doing it." He says, "Flash, please." Eventually he wore me down. He did this work for the Army, and this place where they used to sell electronics downtown called J&R Music World.

Flash: He said, "It's called the internet." I says, "It's what?" He says, "Flash, just listen to me before you curse me out again." He says, "There's these places where you could put sentences on how you're feeling today, and what you're dealing, and I'm going to build this virtual house for you called a website." I'm like, "What?"

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: "A what?" He says, "In this house, there's going to be pictures of you, and things, and stories, and this and that, that, that, and I promise you if you feed this house ... "

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: "And you feed this thing called the internet, people will find out who Joseph Saddler is."

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: To this day, I kiss the ground that he walks on. Because when I was flat on my face and coked out of my mind, and lost everything that I loved, I had to figure out how I was going to do this.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: So, my sister, Penny, and Greg Cannon, and a woman I tell you that I loved that lived three blocks from here. Her name was Paula Jeffrey. These three people figured out a way for me to get up, and I'm getting a little teary eyed right now, and do what you did before these people joined you. "People will accept you."

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: "But you have to keep feeding the machine. You got to keep putting things in this place called a website. You have to start putting these things, verbiage of what you did today. You trip and you was on the swings today, and you fell off them."

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: "A fly flew in your mouth, and you had to spit it out. You have to tell people these things." I'm like, "Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay," and I did this for the past 18 years. I've separated myself back to the place I was when I was alone before anybody joined me, and now I do this around the planet. God is wonderful.

Today I have a team, I run a business called Grandmaster Flash Enterprises, and like you said, the layers of people, I have 10 people. Two attorneys that protect my trademark.

I have an online specialist. I have my person, my PR, who's Melissa, who is with me today. I have technicians that are in my recording studio. I also own a video studio. I have all these people around me that are connected in the way that I think that allow me to do what I do.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: Because I feel in my heart that I'm still needed.

Chuck Creekmur: You are.

Flash: Where I was in some situations where people said, "What you do don't matter."

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: "And you are not needed."

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: I am doing Madison Square Garden as a DJ September 12th. Two days later, I fly to Brazil, and I'm playing in front of 20,000 people waiting for me, and I'm headlining.

Chuck Creekmur: Right.

Flash: Me, my two turntables, mixer, and a microphone. I have to tell you, Chuck, I come from a school of people that have the same knowledge that I have, and under all the adversity that I had, god put the right people with me and said, "I'm going to allow you to live again. Get up." I call it the slow walk to the big tent. The reason why I call it the slow walk to the big tent is when I do these festivals, at first, they would put me in the little tent.

I'd look and I'm like, "Who's playing in that tent?" So, here's five years later, now I play in the big tent. I play in the big tent. I'm playing "Mardi Gras," "Apache," "Johnny the Fox," "I Can't Stop," I'm playing breaks in the big tent in front of 20,000 people.

I'm taking what I did right here, and I'm bringing it over there.

Flash: God is absolutely wonderful.

Chuck Creekmur: That's beautiful.

Flash: For me, I disagree with you saying that people are jealous of me because I'm taking what we all collectively did, and I'm playing with the big boys.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah.

Flash: With this little music that comes from this little town called the South Bronx.

Chuck Creekmur: Yeah. Well, I salute you, my brother. You're a true king.

Flash: Thank you.

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