KEXP Documentaries: Masters of Turntablism – Grandmaster Flash

Grandmaster Flash

Each week the KEXP Documentary team brings you a musical subject in the time it takes to play just one song. This past week, we ran a vintage feature from our Masters of Turntablism series. This series has been used in classrooms to teach middle school and high school students. It was also featured in the Frye Museum’s Dario Robleto exhibit last summer.

Masters of Turntablism covers the start of hip-hop with portraits of its three fathers: Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. Herc was the man who put two turntables together and used both records to extend the songs. Bam brought in a wide variety of styles (world music, funk, jazz and more) and created a culture around the double turntables, with MCs, dancers, graffiti, clothing and an anti-gang stance that was not to be messed with.

But Grandmaster Flash was the first real turntablist. The one who morphed the sound of the records by putting his hands on the vinyl and changing the shape of the sound waves. He was also an electronics wiz, creating the first real cueing system for DJs and inventing key moves.

Listen to the documentary now:

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In this exclusive KEXP Documentary, Grandmaster Flash tells the story of how he’d sneak into his father’s closet of records and try not to get caught. He also tells about using the turntable as an instrument, and the techniques he invented that became the basis for the multi-million dollar industry called “hip hop”.

KEXP Documentaries are produced by Michele Myers. Masters of Turntablism assistants are Kate Shantry and Jacob Bennett. You can find all our KEXP Docs series like: Punk Evolution, The Heart of Soul, American Sabor, Pop Goes Electronic, Death Drugs and Rock n Roll and more in the on-demand section of kexp.org.

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