Interview: Grandmaster Flash

This was the most painful interview I’ve ever done, if it isn’t obvious…


If you are a fan of hip-hop, then you have Grandmaster Flash to thank. He is one of the art form’s earliest exponents, and the first hip-hop artist in history to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

On the night of his performance at this year’s Fuji Rock Festival, he couldn’t wait to get away from me. Bad luck, bad timing and the wrong questions made this an unfortunate interview, with the Grandmaster angry enough to harangue me on stage a few hours later. “The Japan Times says you don’t know who I am,” he bellowed to the crowd, “So let’s tell them: WHO AM I?”

We all knew who he is. Born Joseph Saddler, he, Afrika Bambaataa and a few others sowed the seeds of hip-hop in the Bronx borough of New York City in the late 1970s. Moreover, Grandmaster Flash single-handedly created most of hip-hop’s fundamental equipment and techniques. When DJs simply saw the turntable as a vehicle for playing records, he learned “to play the turntable as an instrument,” laying the foundation for one of the biggest music genres on the planet.

Hip-hop was the soundtrack to my youth. I listened to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five at picnics and pool parties and my boombox blasted Whodini, Run DMC, Public Enemy and other artists he spawned. Now, 25 years later, I have dozens of questions for Grandmaster Flash — but fate wouldn’t allow it. What went wrong?

Read the full interview at The Japan Times Online.

And a special Q&A that ran the week before I convinced my editors that I still could make a piece of this disaster.

About Jason A Jenkins

Writer, father and informavore, Jason likes working in, around and between Tokyo's creative forces. He is an avid fan of live music, carry-on luggage, people-watching and Taiwanese high-mountain oolong tea.
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