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Grandmaster Flash Biography


Home > Music > G > Grandmaster Flash > Biography


Birth Name: Joseph Saddler
Born: 1958/01/01
Birth Place: South Bronx, New York
Years Active: 1970–present
Genres: Hip Hop, Old School Hip Hop, Funk


Joseph Saddler was born January 1, 1958 in Bridgetown, Barbados, and is better known by his stage name Grandmaster Flash. He is a hip-hop recording artist and DJ and one of the pioneers of hip-hop DJing, cutting and mixing. His family left the Caribbean for the Bronx in New York City when he was a child. He spent hours with his father's record collection and dreamed of a career in music. When Flash graduated high school he became involved in the New York DJ scene, honing his skills on the turntable.

Grandmaster Flash was influenced by DJs that had come before him, such as Pete Jones, Kool Herc, and Grandmaster Flowers. As a teen, Flash began to experiment with DJing techniques, eventually developing three innovations that have become standards in DJing today: Backspin technique, Punch phrasing and Scratching.

Grandmaster Flash got his start DJing at parties and collaborating with rappers such as Kurtis Blow and Lovebug Starski. As the 1970s unfolded, Flash decided to form his own group, which consisted of Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), Melle Mel (Melvin Glover) and Kid Creole (AKA Kidd Creole/Nathaniel Glover). The four piece adopted the name Grandmaster Flash & the 3 MCs. Rappers, Rahiem (aka Guy Todd Williams), and Scorpio (aka Eddie Morris or Mr. Ness) joined the group to become Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The group gained instant recognition among their peers and in the burgeoning hip-hop/rap world for their unique style, skillful raps, MCing and freestyle battles.

In 1977 the group secured a regular gig at Disco Fever in the Bronx. 1979 saw Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five sign with Enjoy Records and release their first single, “Superrappin'.” The success of the single led to a record deal with Sugar Hill Records a year later. The group began touring and put out their debut album, “The Message,” in 1982 to positive reviews. The album peaked at #8 on Billboards’ R&B chart.

Other than Melle Mel, however, no members of the group actually appeared on “The Message.” The same year, Grandmaster Flash 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.”

1987 saw a reunion attempt, when the original line-up of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five came together for a charity event and released their second album, “On The Strength” in 1988. The album failed to amass the same success as their debut album. The group disbanded permanently afterwards.

Both incarnations of The Furious Five went on to achieve moderate, stable success over the years. All members of the original lineup continued to work in music in varying aspects as record producers, mixers, collaborators with other artists, and as solo artists. Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, becoming the first hip-hop/rap artists to be inducted.