Grandmaster Flash Has A New Message And It’s Aimed At Kool Herc & Afrika Bambaataa (Video)
Earlier this month, Hip-Hop celebrated its 44th birthday. Just like holidays for some families and groups of friends, it was not without some drama. Fans may have missed it, but some legendary shots appeared to be thrown—by one of Hip-Hop’s pioneers towards another one of its founding figureheads.
The issue appears to stem from Google‘s August 11 and 12 “doodle” one of the coolest components of Hip-Hop culture to ever hit the Internet. Fab 5 Freddy, Prince Paul, Cey Adams, and others were instrumental to a tribute to the culture that turned the world’s largest search engine into turntables, a cross-fader, and a milk-crate of legendary 1970s break-beats. The story of Hip-Hop’s earliest parties was told (including that of DJ Kool Herc), but somebody not mentioned was Grandmaster Flash.
Days later, Flash uploaded an “open letter” video to Kool Herc. In this week’s TBD episode, Justin “The Company Man” Hunte takes a deeper dive into Flash’s video, and his latest “Message”: “Flash really appreciated Google for making the doodle. He thought it was dope. He apparently thought it was also a perfect time to call out Kool Herc for not clearing up a crucial piece of Rap history,” Hunte says—with footage of the doodle for those who may have missed it.
TBD examines some of Flash’s points in his letter. According to the former Sugar Hill Records star, he innovated some of the aspects of Hip-Hop music that are often credited to Herc. “Flash pins [the technique of] repeating on Herc. [He] says this right here is Herc’s technique. Just moving and placing the needle not even touching the record [but just] sliding the fader. He calls it the law of disarray. He makes it look crap-tastic,” narrates Hunte. “Later in the joint, Flash goes on to explain how he created looping. He’s the first in Hip-Hop to start marking up the record with a crayon, putting stickers on it [and] touching [it] like he’s doing here. There’s no end or beginning, no starts or stops…who knew 44-year-old DJ beef could be so well produced.” TBD analyzes, “So far Herc hasn’t responded to the call-out. Whatever side of this debate, Flash is fighting for his legacy [and] fighting to keep his history from being revised.”
In his video, Flash namelessly addresses Afrika Bambaataa too—often credited as the third part of Hip-Hop’s holy pioneer DJ trinity. In 2015, Bambaataa, KRS-One, Crazy Legs and others appeared to assert the Universal Zulu Nation founder’s overlooked role in Hip-Hop’s inception. In early 2016, multiple public allegations changed that conversation abruptly. “[Afrika] Bambaataa was celebrated as well until allegations exploded that he’s a life-long child molester,” Justin details. “This happened last year. It’s an ugly, ugly story.”
Flash wants the story to be told as he sees it, and he’s fighting. He appears to suggest that Afrika Bambaataa is out. It’s just Flash and Herc, and now is the time—with both alive—to get this right. Hunte compares the event to recent America news: “We witnessed revisionism at the speed of a right click these past two weeks. No matter how many cameras in Charlottesville, it’s ‘many sides.’ No matter how many microphones it’s ‘I never said that.’ It’s like the spoofs are spoofing us.”
He later says, “Many sides are revising narratives. Many sides. And as we’re reminded of this week, Hip-Hop isn’t immune. Not every artist in the ‘Golden-Era’ was transcendent, not everyone dropped a classic, though we make it seem so. We’re always pointing at artists with ghostwriters as if ‘Rapper’s Delight’ doesn’t have a ghostwritten verse. And now, while celebrating the culture’s 44th birthday, pioneers are still barking about biting 44 years later, fighting for their legacies. These tropes are tagged all over the culture’s foundation, weaved within the fabric of our institutions. Are these things we can actually fix? Are these things that we are actually [above]? Is this what a slow moving coup looks like?”
#BonusBeat: A recent Last 7 reaction to Hip-Hop’s birthday and Charlottesville:
This published August 16.