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avoiding the wack s***

Grandmaster Flash was without doubt one of the leading figures in early hip hop. last week, he came to offer a master class and to give a talk on turntablism at the berklee performance center what strikes me most about the talk is the extent to which hip hop, although certainly rooted in african american performance styles, was more of an innovation than many of those who write about hip hop let on. according to grandmaster flash, djs of the sound systems prior to the discovery of using two albums to cue repeatedly back to break beats were very fastidious with their vinyl. they lifted the needle carefully, wiped the albums with chamois cloth, and never, ever placed their hands on the album. i'm not sure whether the never touch rule was as widespread elsewhere, but it seems that at least in the bronx, vinyl was too precious to get dirty. the result, as grandmaster flash remembers, was that djs could not cue to break beats quickly enough--either they would go into the "wack part," or the beat would become "disarrayed." people would lose their groove on the slight blip in the beat. grandmaster flash would change djing by placing his hand on the record and marking the vinyl the narrative above is pretty well known, as is his description of stealing electricity to hold block parties. what is more interesting for my current hip hop projects is his description of early mcs. during the block parties, he would invite anyone who could "talk" over the beat to come forward, sort of a toasting open mic. as grandmaster flash describes it, very few people could actually rap over the beat, suggesting that rather than being borrowed directly from the dozens or double dutch rhymes, hip hop actually rendered speech problematic; that is, african american speech became the focus of several new aesthetic problems produced in hip hop practices. if that's the case, some of the problems of taiwanese hip hop are not exclusively taiwanese questions it all goes back to language and the sonic archive more inspirationally, grandmaster flash relates that he never thought of becoming a world figure--that was something beyond what he could think in the 1970s. rather, he began just working with his turntables in his bedroom and thought, it would be great if i could throw a party in my building. from the building, he moved to the block; the block to the borough. it was all about love--and hating the wack shit
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