Fab 5 Freddy’s Latest Cultural Coup? ‘The Archive of the Future’


“When he was hopscotching between segregated poles of 1970s and ’80s New York — the uptown of Grandmaster Flash and the Rock Steady Crew; the downtown of Andy Warhol and Blondie — brokering the kind of cultural exchange that would pave the way for hip-hop’s eventual takeover, Fred Brathwaite, better known as Fab 5 Freddy, never kept a consistent diary. Instead, decades before social media, he documented the events of his daily life on film, deploying either a compact point-and-shoot camera or a Hi8 camcorder that he always kept at the ready. … As a sought-after graffiti artist, music video director, film producer and the original host and creative force behind ‘Yo! MTV Raps,’ Fab 5 Freddy’s lens produced a panorama of future cultural landmarks of New York and beyond, revealing an era when hierarchies of race, class and taste in art were beginning to scramble. His personal photographs and videos, and the narratives they tell, comprise much of a career-spanning archive that was recently acquired by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, part of the New York Public Library. …”
NY Times

The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash and the Wheels of Steel (1981)


“As digital sampling becomes more and more pervasive as a recording technique, the belief that anything is possible in a studio nowadays is also on the rise. But in 1981 ‘The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash and the Wheels of Steel’ took the cut-and-paste-sound approach used covertly on many records today (when they’re not abusing Auto-Tune) and the scavenging of other songs as its very subject. The number asks: How smart can you steal? How slick can you mix? This technical apex of one of rap’s leading disc-spinners is tremendously influential; many of today’s dance-music and rock productions are unimaginable without it. Flash started as a South Bronx dance-hall disc jockey whose trademark was taking his favorite rock and rap songs and repeating their hottest elements for heightened effect. Although credited to the full vocal group he supported, ‘Wheels of Steel’ was a solo shot by Flash designed to show off the wizardry that knocked ’em out live. After a stuttering intro, Flash lets Blondie’s ‘Rapture,’ Chic’s ‘Good Times,’ and Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust,’ as well as snippets from earlier Flash/Five singles glide in and slam out of the unwavering beat. These songs of different tempos all fit without being forced. Spoken sections, boasts, and song apexes are finely woven into an amazingly seamless whole. Before the serrated-edged righteousness of ‘The Message’ and ‘White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)’ turned attention to rapper and writer Melle Mel, the group was a showcase for Flash. This is why.”
boingboing
W – “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash and the Wheels of Steel”
Genius (Audio)
YouTube: Grandmaster Flash – The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel (original mix)

Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five – New York New York (1982)


“Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five are a hip hop group composed of New Yorkers who live in the Bronx. They originally started in 1976 and released their single New York New York in 1989. The group broke down the stereotypes of New York and showed it as what it truly was in their song. It was not the bright and spectacular city where dreams came true but instead, it is filled with despair and poverty. The song begins with tambourines which builds up tension and follows with the other electrified instruments. The mix of electric hip hop and their rap follows the story of their own lives. They discuss the hardships that they have faced as well as the daily routine that many follow. For example, the group describes how one man is going to commit suicide and people do not show any concern because it happens often. The reason for suicide is because he has become unemployed, could not pay off his mortgage and now has nothing. During 1898, there were many crimes going on in the city as well as a struggle to survive. Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five depict the difficulties and the disparity in wealth between the classes. …”
The Arts In New York City
W – New York New York (Grandmaster Flash song)
Genius (Audio)
YouTube: New York New York (Live), New York New York 7:08