Monday, April 29, 2013

Grandmaster Flash, the Fastest DJ Alive

This blog is not known for its hip-hop commentary.

(Once, however, I did write about hip-hop. An entry in What’s the Difference? is the difference between hip-hop and rap.)

Even though I’m not exactly a GOAT, I was fascinated to learn of a certain connection between hip-hop culture and comic books thanks to the 4/8/13 New York magazine, its third annual “yesteryear” issue. (In that same issue, I learned of a connection between Bill Finger and Colin Powell.)

This recollection by graffiti artist Fab 5 Freddy caught my attention:

I was into the whole comic-book concept. … And the whole comic-book concept of adapting this alternative persona was a big inspiration on the development of hip-hop culture. Case in point: Since I’m the fastest D.J., I’m going to call myself Grandmaster Flash. You’d create this alternative urban superhero persona who could do all the cool things that you fantasize about doing—graffiti or rap or break-dancing. It inspired a lot of New York City kids. It made me a graffiti artist.

Did you catch that? According to FFF, Grandmaster Flash is named after the superhero the Flash! It’s not even in GF
s Wikipedia entry!

The idea that comic books could inspire someone to become a graffiti artist hadn’t occurred to me before. But it sure makes sense. Both comics and graffiti have an urban sensibility, bright colors, and a history of being forbidden. And both had to work hard to be taken seriously as an art form. (Of course, I’m not condoning illegal graffiti.)

I can’t name a single Grandmaster Flash album or single, but I love the guy anyway.


Dan Trudeau said...

He invented record scratching, created the social message hip hop song, and was the first hip hop artist inducted to the Rock and Roll hall of fame. Chuck D of Public Enemy has spoken several times about the influence of comics on his group too. It goes to show the wide influence they've had over our culture.

Richard said...

That quote from NY Magazine was a good one. On the topic of hip hop acts being comics fans, Ed Piskor's rather amazing Hip Hop Family Tree strip currently serialized at Boing Boing frequently touches on this longstanding association between the two realms. By the way, that strip is highly recommended to all for its sheer comics artistry, rap enthusiast or otherwise.