New York in the '70s was an amazing place to grow up, especially if you were into music. I was heavily into the punk scene, but because I rode the J train every day through Bushwick, East New York, and pre-hipster Williamsburg, I also heard the emerging sounds of rap. (This was before the MTA’s ban on playing radios or boomboxes on the subway.) Then, in the sweltering summer of 1979, I shared an apartment in the Bronx with members of the Fordham University basketball team and got to hear a lot of the earliest real records of what would come to be known as hip-hop. That’s when I first started hearing about Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. It was already a lot more sophisticated than the stuff I’d heard a few years earlier – although I couldn’t have told you why or how.
Now I know why and how: Grandmaster Flash wasn’t necessarily the man who turned the 2-turntables-and-a-mixer setup into a musical instrument, but he was that instrument’s first virtuoso. And now, he and the Furious Five are in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame as progenitors of what has become the world’s dominant musical force.
What do you think Grandmaster Flash’s legacy is? The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame induction was sort of controversial, with some claiming rap is not rock – do you agree?