Grandmaster Flash Called Out Kool Herc? ‘Who Is the Creator of This Thing…’
Earlier this month, Google celebrated hip-hop's birth with a "doodle" celebrating the origins of the culture that featured two turntables and a crate of classic records for fans to scratch. The doodle gave props to DJ Kool Herc, who pioneered the break. Herc's DJing at a house party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx on August 11, 1972, is considered the birth of hip-hop.
But another pioneering deejay seemed to take exception to the gesture--and to the standard history. A few days after the doodle, the legendary Grandmaster Flash published a video called “A Letter to Kool Herc From Grandmaster Flash." He gives props to DJ Kool Herc and explains the DJs impact--and the impact of others before explaining his position.
“I’ve been asked, ‘Describe Kool Herc,’ [I say], ‘Wonderful,'” Flash says. “The first DJ to publicly play grooves and breaks … had the most incredible sound system, and this echo chamber gave him like the voice of God. But then there’s a technical aspect in this world of DJs. There’s possibly where I have questions. Godfather, I went online to see if there were any performances of your hands doing what you do. Since I could not find it, this is what I remember — especially going to see you in Cedar Park, westside of the Bronx, Sedgwick. Now there is [the] question: who is the creator of this thing from a layman’s perspective — looping?”
“Here’s my definition of what I call ‘looping’: [I am the] first DJ to put his hands on the record and use the record as a controller as well as his sound source,” Flash explains. “I was very much hated when I came up with this system. I gotta tell ya, Herc—it was so hard. I was tryin’ to find a job doin’ this. And nobody would hire me."
Flash goes on to explain how his approach revolutionized turntablism in a way that had more of a lasting impact on the artform.
“I was known for making the record dirty, I was known for rubbing the record back and forth and destroying the record,” says Flash. “I was known for disrespecting [the record] by putting a mark on it with the crayon. The only person who truly understood what it was, what I was doin’, was my first prodigy … his name was Grand Wizard Theodore … You see Herc, with this style, it spawned all these techniques behind it, like the cut, and the rub, and the scratch, and the scribble, and the transform, and the orbit, and the [crab-scratch], and the flares. All this done with this technique.”
He adds, “I just to make it clear: the art of this technical thing, Herc, it’s me.”
You can watch Flash's video above and check out his salute to hip-hop's birthday on his IG page.