THE ADVENTURES OF GRANDMASTER FLASH
An Interview With JayQuan
JayQuan : Peace , its an honor.....I'm not gonna ask you about the single pole double throw switch , or Pete Dj Jones . I'm gonna try to ask some things that I never heard you answer : How did you actually hook up with Mean Gene & Grandwizard Theodore (The L Brothers) ?
Grandmaster Flash : Well , after I had already taken 3 - 4 years to create the D.J. art form which I call the quick mix theory , which included cutting , back-spinning etc...I was a searching scientist . I would drag things in from backyards, abandoned cars - electrical items like speakers , thrown out stereo equipment - because I was in search of something. I got to an age when my family was really pissed about it . I decided to make a move , I took my equipment and I met a gentleman named Gene Livingston . I lived on 138th St and Cypress Ave. he lived 168th & Boston Rd . In meeting Mean Gene he was known as the block bully - you really didn't wanna piss him off .
He was willing to be my partner . The majority of the equipment was his and I added mine. I got comfortable with my equipment staying there . His mother Mrs Mary Livingston was a sweetheart , she treated me like I was one of her children. I practiced at his house and honed my craft . Mean Gene had the back room of his mothers apartment . She had one of those old school apartments that was really big . Genes room was way in the back and you had to go through the living room to get there . When I would go through the living room there was this little kid in the living room playing around with his mothers stereo . I noticed he was able to find the beginning of the break on a record...he would do this with one turntable .
He would pick the needle up when the break was about to end - he would pick the needle up and drop it in the precise spot where the break began . I was so amazed by this !! I couldn't do that . I had to come up with the clock theory , which is bringing the record back mathematically x amount of revolutions to arrive at the top of the break , by a mark on the record . He was able to do this by picking up the needle and dropping it right on the groove . I found this so amazing !! I told Gene that his brother was doing what I wished I could do. I was trying to show Gene this new found way of Djing..I called it the needle drop. I asked if we could incorporate his brother into the group , because at this time we wanted to do any and everything to get noticed. The person who was the overlord and had all the recognition by himself was Kool Herc. He was the man to shoot for .
I thought that since the few people that I was showing this to couldn't do it , not only would it be a relief to me , but a great gimmick because he was so young and short for his age. Gene said " Flash if I catch you with my little brother on the set , its gonna be me & you". I was like fine...this was Mean Gene Livingston the neighborhood bully - you didn't want to get into any shit with him . I respected his wishes for a minute , but as soon as he left the neighborhood ; I would get his brother , and take a milk crate and turn it upside down and I had him stand on. I told him to do what he did on his moms stereo. We kept it secret for a long time . After awhile I had to tell Gene that his brother had the technique down and I took him to 63 park with me . People found him so amazing . He actually looked better than me doing it because he was so little . It got Gene pretty upset and me & him couldn't perform in the same group so I had to leave . That's when I formed my own group.
JQ : What are your 3 favorite Break beats of all time ?
GMF : Apache , Star Wars and hmmm this is hard.....Mardis Gras (The Bells) by Bob James .
JQ : What is your relationship to EZ Mike & Disco Bee ?
GMF : Whoa!! Good questions !! .....EZ Mike is my childhood buddy . I have been knowing him for most of my life . After this style of Djing became popular , he was one of the few people who caught onto it , but he wasn't interested , and he went astray . He led the other life , and it got him in some trouble - we were disconnected for ten or twelve years ; and we just reconnected this year . Mike is the one in all the pictures with us. He is on the Message album cover with us . He has a clean head and is very focused now . Disco Bee is in Greensborough , but whenever I have gigs where I need his experience I call him out . He has a family and lives down South but he still rolls with me . They both do....they were both my assistants .
JQ : When the group split EZ Mike went with Mel's faction right ?
GMF : Yes , at that time things were rough on Mike , and I think that Mel made him an offer to basically be me . I left because I was fed up with the whole situation . There were still shows and money to be made , but I didn't want to do it anymore. The closest thing to me on the wheels was Mike , because Disco Bee didn't really have the dexterity . So they coerced Mike into going on the road with them . I didn't get mad at him because he had to make a livin' .
JQ : What's your favorite GMF & F5 release on the Sugar Hill label ?
GMF : Freedom
JQ : Did you realize that " Adventures On The Wheels " was making an impact outside of New York ?
GMF : In America nobody cared. The only person who ever gave the record a chance was Frankie Crocker . Nobody here really understood it. When it was released in Europe , Germany & Japan and we went there, it was like " oh God he is here ". I was a hero to so many people that it scared me . I expected this reaction in America , but I didn't get it.
JQ : Did you get any flack from the label about releasing that type of record?
GMF : No, she (Sylvia) encouraged it . I approached her many times about it . I just would drop it in her ear " Sylvia can I make a cut record ?" After awhile we were coming off tour and she flew me & Mel in and said lets do this record . She told me to pick the records that I wanted to use and we did it .
JQ : Did you do it in one take ?
GMF : Nah, it took 3 takes . The first was just getting familiar with moving from one turntable to the next - the dexterity . The second time was getting even more familiar , and the third time I just locked it in .
JQ : Was the Bozo Meko version of "Flash To The Beat" authorized by you ?
GMF : No, just someone bootlegged it from a party.
JQ : What about " We Rap More Mellow " ?
GMF : Well Furious and I got into a real bad disagreement and split for awhile . Terry Lewis had been after the guys to record for awhile. I wasn't really pleased with him . When we split he got to the guys . They made the record , but they couldn't use the real name , so they used that name (Younger Generation).
JQ : Scorpio told me , & I quote " its good being a part of our group , but sometimes I think GMF & F5 are some of the stupidest motherfuckers in the world . Mel & Flash cant get along , and that's why we aren't out here getting this money like Rolling Stones , Kiss & Aerosmith . Mel & Flash hold grudges for 15 years - that's why we aren't out there now" . Is that accurate?
GMF : Its true . I think what crushed me is Mel was my golden child in my formula , and when he sided with Sylvia for just a couple of seconds it crushed me . When I put this formula together he wasn't a center -he was a point guard . He was such an important factor in the formula , I cant imagine what she could have said to him that would make him not see the same vision . When we stopped looking at the same vision it all fell apart . Someone else was able to whisper in his ear and it crushed me . When we were fully focused we were unstoppable . When we all stopped looking at the same prize , I said this is really over .
JQ : Do you feel that if you had been a strong unit in 82-83 , that you could have prevented some of Run Dmc & the next school from emerging as powerful as they did?
GMF : I think that the ball was dropped , so the timing was perfect . They didn't really take advantage of anything - the ball didn't bounce anymore . If you were watching the Bulls play ball , and all of a sudden Pippen & Jordan don't get along anymore , and the ball just stops bouncing - someone else is gonna pick it up and go with it . So the ball was dropped by Jordan & Pippen so to speak .
I want you to put this in your interview- the beatbox is a manually operated drumbox that I used to play while I was Djing . It was a machine made in England by Vox.It had a bass drum key , snare , hi hats and hand claps . I used to play this like a typewriter almost. The phrase beat box was coined by me , but it didn't reach the masses . Well it went to sleep and reemerged with people doing it with their mouths. So the human beatbox is these guys emulating something that I created - I just want people to know that . My neighbor was a drummer who used it to keep his fingers nimble . Whenever he couldn't set up his drums he used this . He lived in the projects - 149th & Jackson Ave . I begged him to sell it to me , he sold it to me for $125.00 .
JQ : Where did the "B Team" replacement guys come from after the split ?
GMF : Lavon & Broadway were good friends with Rahiem . He & Creole were comfortable with these guys . They were pretty good , but they were never my template . It was ok, a way to keep the name alive . Of course the original F5 is untouchable . Once I discovered the disarray I was in at Sugar Hill , I had acquired friends at record labels . Once we legally got out , I met Bob Krasnow - the big cheese at Elektra. I talked to him , and explained my situation . I learned how to sign a deal the industry way , which was a little different from the way we did it previously . The records we did were ok , but they wanted the original group . I told Bob that it wouldn't be cheap , and it would be hard to do .
When I talked to them (Furious) they were happy about it - they were with it . They said we just need a few things - I got what they needed . Then I had a real good relationship with a car dealer in Long Island . Rahiem wanted a BMW , Scorp wanted a Benz and so did Mel. Creole wanted a Benz and Cowboy didn't want a car . Cowboy rode shotgun with Scorp or Mel . Once the deal was made with Elektra we went to Long Island , put the order in , and we drove out of there with 2 BMWs & 3 Mercedes . We drove from Long Island to Ny - we drove through the Bronx following each other through our old neighborhood like we are back !!! It was almost like an advertisement . But it was my deal , and too many people were messing with the structure of it . I could have saved the deal because Bob was my friend . But I would tell Bob its red , and then here comes someone saying its green - and Bobs all confused - it just got messier and messier.
JQ : Is there any relationship with you and any Furious members ?
GMF : I see Rahiem sometimes , we hug - I don't see Creole , Mel is on the West coast. I saw Scorp about a year and a half ago - he is in Atlanta . That's where its at . In my heart Im missing Cowboy too much. He was the reason that my D.J. invention was able to explode . He was the one who believed . When I created this DJ art form I tried to mix and talk at the same time . My theory was if I can run these breaks one behind the other on time ; the parks gonna go crazy . The park was like a seminar - everybody just watched. I cried for like a week - then I tried to talk myself and it didn't work . Then many tried and failed - but Cowboy had this ringmaster voice , and he had these Simon says tactics - call & response . It was a great diversionary tactic because people stopped watching me. It gave me a chance to finally exercise my science . He kinda saved my life . Him and Theodore reassured me that I had something . Its like how do you replace Cowboy? I just couldn't do that again - I love & I miss him so much . He was the first , like my first born . Its like dad missing his kids still . So what Scorp said in essence is that early on we were pretty stupid not to get together . But after so many years passed as human beings you have to make a living - we have children , and you believe in your craft . You push on and don't wait for anybody to give you anything. By the grace of God I have been pretty fortunate . I just wish that my second in command had continued to believe in me - that's Mele Mel .
JQ : Yeah it hurt me when you guys broke up. And its sad that when people mention GMF&F5 they just know the Message , which wasn't even a group effort . There was so much more before the Message.
GMF : That record was the demise of my formula . The price was too high to pay for that record . It was the beginning of the end . I fought Sylvia and I cried & cried , and that's when I got into drugs to escape reality. A stranger came in and divided and conquered basically . When I lost the love & belief of Mel there was no way it could properly survive. We couldn't relate , couldn't sit in the same dressing room. When we toured we didn't strategize & talk like we used to - that's what it took to put that group together. Me & Mel used to consult each other . Then came the ugly court battle & she stuck Grandmaster on Mel & the pain continued. This is how I feed my children ; as great as Mel is he don't have to put Grandmaster on his name for the sake of a record company that don't like me . It hurt both of us and confused the public . People wanted to book Grandmaster Flash , but is it the DJ ,or the guy with the long hair , or the guy with the muscles?
As told to Jayquan on 06/11/02 ©2002 JayQuan Dot Com
*thanks to Pete Dj Jones*