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Joseph Saddler (born January 1, 1958 in Bridgetown, Barbadosmarker) better known as Grandmaster Flash, is an Americanmarker hip hop musician and DJ; one of the pioneers of hip-hop DJing, cutting, and mixing.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker in 2007, becoming the first hip hop/rap artists to be so honored.

Grandmaster Flash appears in the video game DJ Hero as a playable character along with original mixes created for the game.


Saddler's family migrated to the United States from the West Indies, and he grew up in the Bronxmarker, New Yorkmarker. He attended Samuel Gompers High School, a public vocational school, where he learned how to repair electronic equipment. Saddler's parents played an important role in his interest in music. His parents came from Barbados and his father was a big fan of Caribbean and black American records. As a child, Saddler was fascinated by his father's record collection. In an interview, he reflected: "My father was a very heavy record collector. He still thinks that he has the stronger collection. I used to open his closets and just watch all the records he had. I used to get into trouble for touching his records, but I'd go right back and bother them." Saddler's early interest in DJing came from this fascination with his father's record collection as well as his mother's desire for him to educate himself in electronics. After high school, he became involved in the earliest New York DJ scene, attending parties set up by early luminaries.

He is also a nephew to the late Former Feather Weight Champion of the World Sandy Saddler.

Saddler currently lives in the Morrisania section of the South Bronx.


Grandmaster Flash carefully studied the DJing styles and techniques of his forebears, particularly Pete Jones, Kool Herc, and Grandmaster Flowers. As a teenager, he began experimenting with DJ gear in his bedroom, eventually developing and mastering three innovations that are still considered standard DJing techniques today.

  • Backspin Technique ("Quick-Mix Theory"): Early New York party DJs came to understand that short drum breaks were popular with party audiences. Aiming to isolate these breaks and extend them for longer durations, Grandmaster Flash learned that by using duplicate copies of the same record, he could play the break on one record while searching for the same fragment of music on the other (using his headphones). When the break finished on one turntable, he used his mixer to switch quickly to the other turntable, where the same beat was queued up and ready to play. Using the backspin technique, the same short phrase of music could be looped indefinitely.
  • Punch Phrasing ("Clock Theory"): This technique involved isolating very short segments of music, typically horn hits, and rhythmically punching them over the sustained beat using the mixer.
  • Scratching: Although the invention of record scratching is generally credited to Grand Wizard Theodore, Grandmaster Flash perfected the technique and brought it to new audiences. Scratching, along with punch phrasing, exhibited a unique performative aspect of party DJing: instead of passively spinning records, he actively manipulated them to create new music.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Grandmaster Flash played parties and worked with rappers such as Kurtis Blow and Lovebug Starski. In the mid 1970s, he formed his own group. The original lineup consisted of Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), Melle Mel (Melvin Glover) and Kid(d) Creole (Nathaniel Glover), and the ensemble went by the name "Grandmaster Flash & the 3 MCs" (Melle Mel was the first rapper ever to call himself an "MC") . Two other rappers briefly joined, but they were replaced more permanently by Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams, previously in the Funky Four) and Scorpio (Eddie Morris, a.k.a Mr. Ness) to make Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Quickly gaining recognition for their skillful raps, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five pioneered MCing and freestyle battles. Some of the staple phrases in MCing have their origins in the early shows and recordings of the group. In 1977, the new group began performing regularly at Disco Fever in the Bronx, one of the first times a hip-hop group was given a weekly gig at a well-known venue. In fact, it is claimed that Cowboy created the term "Hip hop" while teasing a friend who had just joined the US Army by scat singing the words "hip/hop/hip/hop" in a way that mimicked the rhythmic cadence of marching soldiers.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were signed to Bobby Robinson's Enjoy Records and in 1979 released their first single, "Superrappin'." The following year they signed to Sugar Hill Records and began touring and releasing numerous singles, gaining a gold disc for "Freedom." The seminal "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel", released in 1981, is an 7-minute solo showcase of Grandmaster Flash's virtuosic turntable skills, combining elements of Blondie's "Rapture," Michael Viner's Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache," Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," Chic's "Good Times," and the group's own "Freedom." It is also the first documented appearance of record scratching on a record, as well as the first recording to be composed purely of other records. That year, the group opened for The Clash and were poorly received by an audience unaccustomed to the new style. The group's most significant hit was "The Message" (1982), which was produced by in-house Sugar Hill producer Clifton "Jiggs" Chase and featured session musician Duke Bootee. Unlike earlier rap tunes, "The Message" featured a grim narrative about inner city violence, drugs, and poverty. Critics praised the song's social awareness, calling the chorus "a slow chant seething with desperation and fury." "The Message" went platinum in less than a month. Other than Melle Mel, however, no members of the group actually appear in the song. Rahiem lip-synced Duke Bootee's vocal in the music video. The same year, Grandmaster Flash appeared in the movie "Wild Style" and sued Sugar Hill over the non-payment of royalties. Tensions mounted as "The Message" gained in popularity, eventually leading to a rupture between Melle Mel and Grandmaster Flash. Soon the group disintegrated entirely. Grandmaster Flash, Kid Creole, and Rahiem left Sugar Hill, signed with Elektra Records, and continued on as simply "Grandmaster Flash" while Melle Mel and the others continued on as "Grandmaster Melle Mel & the Furious Five."

Although frequently credited on the records, Grandmaster Flash doesn't actually appear on "The Message," "Freedom," or many of the other Furious Five songs. Although Grandmaster Flash provided the central element of the group's sound when performing live (in addition to giving the group its name), there was little room for his turntablism in early singles driven by the grooves of live session musicians. Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five reformed in 1987 for a charity concert, and in 1988 they released a new album. The group reunited again in 1994, although Cowboy died in 1989.

Today, Grandmaster Flash is the owner of a clothing line, "G.Phyre." In 2008 he released a memoir, The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats. He hosts a weekly show on Sirius Satellite Radio (Friday Night Fire with Grandmaster Flash) and was presented with the BET "I Am Hip Hop Icon" award in 2006.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were the first hip-hop/rap group inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on March 12, 2007 by Jay-Z.In 2008, he remixed the single "Into the Galaxy" by the Australian group, Midnight Juggernauts.

It has been said that "his pioneering mixing skills transformed the turntable into a true 'instrument', and his ability to get a crowd moving has made his DJ sets legendary."


Urban Music Awards
  • 2009, Lifetime Achievement Award
Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker
  • 2007, Inductee
BET Hip Hop Awards
  • 2006, I Am Hip Hop Icon Award



Album information
The Message
Greatest Messages
They Said It Couldn't Be Done
  • 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
  • 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"
  • 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
  • Released: 1988
  • Chart positions: #189 US
  • Last RIAA certification: Gold
  • Singles: "Gold", "Magic Carpet Ride"
Salsoul Jam 2000
  • Released: 1997
  • Chart positions: Did Not Chart
  • Last RIAA certification:
  • Singles: "Spring Rain"
Flash is Back
The Official Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash
  • Released: January 29, 2002
  • Chart positions: Did Not Chart
  • Last RIAA certification:
  • Singles:
Essential Mix: Classic Edition
Mixing Bullets and Firing Joints
Grandmaster Flash Mixes Salsoul
The Bridge - Concept Of A Culture
  • 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


  • If U Wanna Party (feat. Carl Murray) - (2000) Jam! (JAM 1002-8)


  3. Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1994), 35.
  4. Grandmaster Flash, quoted in Steven Harvey, "Spin Art," in New York Rocker (January 1982).
  5. Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal, That's the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 2004).
  7. Emmett Price, Hip Hop Culture (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2006), 25.
  8. Zachary Wallmark, "Grandmaster Flash," in Musicians and Composers of the 20th Century (Pasadena: Salem Press, 2008), 531-533.
  10. JET, (April, 2007), 36-37.
  11. Jeff Chang, Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (New York: Picador, 2005), 155.
  12. Vince Aletti, "Furious," Village Voice (July 20, 1982), 64.
  13. Zachary Wallmark, "Grandmaster Flash," in Musicians and Composers of the 20th Century (Pasadena: Salem Press, 2008), 531-533.
  15. Grandmaster Flash and David Ritz, The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats (New York: Doubleday, 2008).

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