Chances are, if you're listened to the radio today, nine out of 10 songs you heard would never have existed if it weren't for artists like Grandmaster Flash. One of the forefathers of hip-hop — which has gone on to influence pop, rock, and seemingly every other genre of music — The Grandmaster's real life and legacy is celebrated in The Get Down, Netflix's exploration into the late '70s music scene in the Bronx. Grandmaster Flash himself made a huge splash in music as a member of the hip-hop movement, but some watching The Get Down may begin to wonder what else Grandmaster Flash has done. The quick answer: A lot.
While he's featured as a character in The Get Down, Grandmaster Flash is also an associate producer and advisor for the series, according to Deadline. To best represent the feeling and music of the era, Vulture reported that director Baz Luhrmann collaborated with Grandmaster Flash to ensure that the show was not only accurate, but believable. The DJ told Vulture that "[Luhrmann] didn’t want typical scoring in scenes where things happen — he wanted a jam in there." Grandmaster Flash proved to be the perfect consultant, as he's been matching songs to parties, rhymes, and other songs for most of his life. Here's a quick look at some of Grandmaster Flash's essential contributions to music.
Grandmaster Flash's first single alongside the Furious Five MC's that rapped over his music live — reminiscent of The Get Down's Fantastic Four plus One rapping over Shaolin Fantastic — the song "Freedom" features Flash flipping elements from the song "Get Up And Dance" by the band Freedom. One of the earliest hip-hop records, this track solidified Grandmaster Flash as the master of any party that needed a fun jam.
"The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheel Of Steel"
One of Grandmaster Flash's only singles as a solo artist, "The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheel Of Steel" is the closest you can get to hearing Grandmaster Flash DJ live in front of a crowd at a party. The song shows Flash manipulating breaks, or "get downs" from various popular songs including Chic's "Good Times," Blondie's "Rapture," and Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust." It showcases many of the DJ techniques that Flash developed, including cutting, phasing, and back-spinning.
Rolling Stone called this the most important hip-hop song of all time, and it showed that hip-hop wasn't just party music. Until "The Message," hip-hop was primarily seen as music for dancing and Grandmaster Flash was seen as the King of all parties. However, after this number dropped, Flash and the Furious Five took turned the party into the political, delivering a scathing condemnation of the living quality up in impoverished urban neighborhoods. "The Message" inspired acts like N.W.A., Public Enemy, and Rage Against The Machine to speak out against serious issues using rap music.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was the first hip-hop act inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, according to Complex, further proving that their impact on the music world is widely recognized. Grandmaster Flash's revolutionary techniques changed not just how music sounded, but how music could be made and what people said with their songs. The Get Down is just the latest of a long line of important projects that Flash has had his hand in, but even without the success of The Get Down, his name will surely live on when people look back at the most important figures in music history.
Image: David Lee/Netflix