As a New York City teen, the biggest one of two major musical regrets that I harbor to this day, is not having gotten a closer to hip hop’s nascent flashpoint. The nooks and crannies of the Bronx where it was all going down were essentially deemed to dangerous for me and my siblings. There was no dodging the graffiti, the break dancing or the attendant finery (sweatshirts with elaborate iron-on lettering for instance…) but attending those outdoor events that became that music’s crucible was something ill-advised. We settled instead for the two mile trek to the 12-inch record store where we would mill around the racks penniless listening to the latest releases until we shown the door.
A lot of the vibe of that era does trot back though while reading The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats (http://tinyurl.com/ctpnpf) – the DJ’s legend’s memoir ghosted with David Ritz. It’s a semi-slim volume reading more like a collection of interview transcripts than a full fledged autobiography, but the frank accounting of Flash’s life from foster home to household fame is engaging for the verite of it’s voice and the musical details it unearths.
Until I saw the book staring back at me from the local library shelf, I’d forgotten that I’d recently heard an interview with Flash on Teryy Gross’s Fresh Air program on NPR (http://tinyurl.com/cwm5qw) that was as candid as these 245 pages. For those who uselessly quibble over Flash’s inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and there are many…), this quick read may shift some sentiments.
I finally got to see the Grandmaster perform here in Athens a few years back and was amazed at how instantly…er…legendary he seemed once he got spinning. It’s unlikely, but I hope he shifts tons of copies.