Soft Cover, English, Glue Binding, 44 Pages, 2002, Robert Jelinkek/Der Konterfei
Hip-hop was never a musical movement, but rather an expression of youth culture. Its adaptability, the inventiveness of its protagonists, and its continuing relevance have revealed its true potential over the course of the last 40 years.
One of its pioneers was Grandmaster Flash. Along with Afrika Bambaataa and DJ Kool Herc, he was one of the founding fathers of hip-hop. Grandmaster Flash was the first to recognize the creative potential of the record player. He pioneered cutting and scratching, techniques that are part of every DJ's musical vocabulary today. Released in 1982, “The Message” would prove to be Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's most enduring as well as most thought-provoking song. With the immense cultural impact of “The Message” at the latest, flamboyant story-telling rappers had become the stars of the genre and DJs had been pushed to the background. Several years had to pass before vinyl virtuosi from other musical genres re-established the turntable as a serious musical instrument in its own right and within popular culture. Yet vinyl still functions as a link between generations, especially in an age where stadium-filling DJs can mime for the crowd while playing entire prerecorded sets from their iPhones. And with all the technology now available to musicians, one sometimes yearns for simpler times, when a hit had to be produced and disseminated by actually manipulating and distributing physical media, instead of merely pushing keys on a computer or buttons on a touchscreen. The ease and convenience of the latter approach, while to be welcomed in many respects, has also led to a dearth of inventiveness in much of contemporary music. Grandmaster Flash describes his own approach like this: “Before I'm a DJ, I'm a scientist.”