Unlike most of the models I know, I haven’t felt the urge to BaRF in quite some time. But I’m going to give credit where credit is due. Never before have a reviewed an artist with such an important past. Does that mean that this article will be longer winded than normal? Probably not, because I don’t love the artist that much. Let’s talk about Joseph Saddler; also known as the man, myth, and legend, Grandmaster Flash.
I truly fear for your claim of hip hop love if you don’t know who he is. I’ll give you the cliff notes before I get into the review. You see, this man is part of the reason the words ‘hip hop’ even exist without being juxtaposition. His stage name is probably more familiar to you linked as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The group was one of the pioneers of everything we know as rapping and hip hop. Released in 1982, the song The Message (on their album by the same name) still reigns as one of the influential hip hop songs of all time. Its been sampled and covered literally dozens of times by hip hop heavyweights such as Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Coolio, Immortal Technique, and hell…even Mickey Avalon.
Throughout the 90’s , Flash was primarily unheard from in the greater spotlight of the hip hop community. Aside from greatest hits and remix/cover albums by other artists, he hadn’t released a studio album since 1988’s On the Strength, until now. Late February marked the return of the Brooklyn based DJ, with the release of his 11th studio album, The Bridge-Concept of a Culture (but I’ll refer to it as simply The Bridge). Let’s BaRF shall we?
While the beats are pretty damn good, I think the reason that The Bridge didn’t score a 10/10 was because in my heart, I wanted to hear some old school sounding beats. I know that’s unrealistic of me to ask, as he clearly is responding to a sign of the times. But when you are one of the people who started a legacy, you shouldn’t have to cater to everything else that’s out there. He could have made 80’s beats and done just as well, if not better on the charts.
Track 2, Shine All Day, features Q-Tip, and it feels like the beat was written for him; a playful beat that fits the mold of the artist that it rests with.
Tribute to the Breakdancer, the 9th track, was a little bit more of what I was looking for. As the title suggests, it’s a song that pays homage to the breakdancers of the past, with a beautiful beat to dress it up with. It’s even got the classic bongos steady thumpin’ in the background! What’s not to love?
I was immediately reminded of Method Man’s cover of You’re All I Need to Get By with this beat. As the 13th track on the album, I Got Sumthin’ to Say brings out the hip hop club in me. The catchy-ass saxophone in the background got me getting’ funky in the confines of my dungeon/room.
Another song that I’m sure was specifically written for the artist was track 5, Bounce Back. The song is attached to the leader of the Flipmode Squad himself, Busta Rhymes. The Morse code sound in the background was a welcome addition to true make the combination complete. I felt I was listening to old Bussa Buss.
Honestly, I wasn’t really too keen on the lyrics of The Bridge. But keep in mind that this isn’t a make or break factor for this album. Grandmaster Flash is a DJ, and a damn good one, so I can’t really be upset at what the MC’s did on the album.
The only songs that really were notable for me were Track 5, Bounce Back, with Busta Rhymes because his rhyme style has always fascinated me. It wasn’t so much of what he was saying, but more of how he said it.
Two songs later, Track 7, What If? asks us just that. The song is with the legendary KRS One. He asks us various questions about what would happen if hip hop didn’t exist. Honestly, it was a legitimate question to venture into. If I knew you all weren’t so lazy, I’d create a discussion thread on what you think would happen. Me personally? Well most of my white friends would have no rhythm…and some still never will, regardless of what happens (you know who you are).
KRS One, Big Daddy Kane, and Grandmaster Caz alone are responsible for this score. Why? Because all three are hip hop legends who seldom appear on their own individual albums, let alone all together. Over 50 years of hip hop experience is contained within these three. Sure it’s got Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dogg, but the huge list of randoms on the album do more damage than good.
In a wider perspective, I feel like overall this album was more of a thank you by Grandmaster Flash to all the people who have supported him over the years. I don’t think he plans on making a triumphant return to the game. Perhaps also he is showing us that he can keep up with the whippersnappers of this hip hop generation. If that is the case, then I welcome it with open arms.
If you actually care about the history of hip hop, then this is one for the collection, if only to compare and contrast in the structure of hip hops many generations. Also, so compare how the messages of the 80’s hip hop movement apply in current events.
First we had break beats, now we have autotune. What’s next on the hip hop horizon? I have strong feelings that Grandmaster Flash has an idea, but for now we will accept his explanation on the concept of a culture.
Until next time my friends.