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The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats [Format Kindle]

Grandmaster Flash , David Ritz

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New York City.

The Bronx, in particular.

Throgs Neck, to be even more specific.

2730 Dewey Avenue, to be exact.

December 31, 1960.

A few minutes before midnight. At midnight I'd be three—a new year's baby.

Born on the one.

Born right on the beat.

I heard the beat. Should have been asleep but the beats from my folks' house party had me wide awake.

Felt those beats all over me. Coming through the walls. Riding up the legs of my bed. The rhythms, the grooves, the get-down party in the next room where the lights were low and the folks were dancing.

Let me in there.

Let me in the party.

I peeked 'round the corner. I recognized a funky old organ jam but man, I wanted James Brown. James Brown had that jam where he screamed, "No, no, no, no, no…" and I wanted to scream, wanted to jump in the middle of the action.

Like magic, my jam dropped. James started doing his thing and I started to get all crazy inside. Like I didn't ever want the beats to end.

I already knew house parties were for grown-ups. My dad, whose street name was Bra--made sure all us kids were down with the rules. The man had lots of rules. But right then, the crazy feeling inside me made up its own rules.

So I crept out the bedroom that I shared with my baby sister Lilly. The hallway was dark but I could see the lights in the living room. Red and orange and blue. Could smell it too--swirling sweet and heavy in the air.

The beats that make the party.

Could almost see those beats. Could almost paint 'em, they were so clear. At the end of the hall, to the left, in the living room was the party. Everyone was vibing on James Brown, feet stomping, voices humming.

Pumping up the beats, building 'em up, keeping 'em strong.

So deep and so strong I had to get in there.

Had to be a part of it.

Suddenly I was there. Living room in front of me with the lights down low and smoke hanging from the ceiling. Family and friends, grinding and freaking, moving and grooving.

Every one of 'em in step with the beat.

When I saw what that smooth and solid beat could do, I was sold.

That's the memory.
The beat.
The beat that would become the heartbeat of my life.


Flash's universal DJ rule number one:
Don't stop the beat.

I was six and couldn't get enough of that beat.

The music would change whenever Dad went to the record store. Coming home with the new Sam and Dave, Stan Kenton and Ella Fitzgerald. Throwing 'em on the phonograph and calling up the party people. Late at night, the beat was always there in the living room. Which meant I was too.

'Butsy crawlin' out the crib.'

'Hey look, Butsy dancin' in his jammies.'

'Ain't he cute?'

. That was my nickname. Or Nonny. Doin' that crazy little bug-out dance that kids do. That was me. Had to dance. Had to let it out. So I'd crawl up out the crib to get to the party people.

My older sisters Violet and Carmetta were cool, but they weren't into the scene. The girls got tired of late nights, loud noises and cops coming around on complaints.

Police made you turn the music down. Turn it down or turn it off. Either way, it meant the party was over. Just that fast, everything stopped. But, man, you can't stop the beat.

The source of the beat fascinated me like nothing else:

The record player!

The spin!

The thing that goes round and round! That thing was the secret to the beats!

Party or not, I would drag a chair over to the record player, climb up and stare at it for hours.

How did this thing work?

Someone would hit the reject button. The arm would go up and the music would stop. The next record would drop and the beats would start all over again.


Don't remember the first time I touched a record player but I remember the first time I got caught. Wasn't a party night, just a Tuesday evening.

One of the Saddler rules was no children in the living room unless Mom and Dad were present. But the stereo was in that room. So I was too.

I'd defy the rules, and sit there for hours listening to my father's records.



Monk, Mingus and Miles.

Basie and Ellington.

Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

Don't know which sent me higher--the music or the mystery of how it played. I could hear the beats and feel the vibrations, but where did they come from? How did those funky sounds come out of the grooves on the disc? Through the needle? Down into the cabinet? How'd those paper cones behind the cloth speakers go thump? How did all those different sounds come out of there?

So I just sat for hours. Lost in the music, staring at the machine. Staring at the little red 'ON' switch like it was a piece of candy, all lit up. Whatever made it glow was glowing inside me.

Wanted to control it. Manipulate it. Make it do what I said.

If I only knew how it worked!

Which was when my arm got pulled back. Hard. So hard it almost came out of my shoulder.

I forgot. It was already six o' clock. I'd lost track of time. My father was home. He yanked me right out of the chair with one hand and hit me across my face with the other. Before my feet even touched the ground.

"What I tell you about coming in here?"


"What I tell you about messin' with my stuff?"


When Dad saw me in the living room, it was enough for him to put a whuppin' on my butt and put my hand to the radiator.

"That'll teach you about messin' with my stuff!"

What really set him off was me messin' with his records. It wasn't the first time I'd been in trouble, but this was different. This really twisted his cap. This was personal, and the beating was bad. Mommy got in the middle of it—she always did—and shielded me from the blows. But there was only so much she could stop.

I avoided the hospital, but not by much.

It was the first of many beatings. Yet for all my pain, I was only thinking two things: One, this phonograph equipment must be some special stuff for him to kick my ass like that. Two, don't ever stop the beat. So long as the music's playing, I'm safe.

Then came the beating of beatings.


I was almost seven. It was another Tuesday afternoon. It was cold out and the steam in the radiator was making the pipes rattle and hum. My hand was still sore from the last time Dad had put it there, but my fingers were tapping out a rhythm with the pipes that had me fiending for beats.

Violet was out with her boyfriend. Carmetta and my oldest sister, Regina, who we called Penny, were in their rooms. Mom had taken Lilly to the doctor, and Dad was at work.

Home alone. Just me and the music.

Mom and my sisters knew I was messin' with his stuff and told me not to, but I couldn't be stopped. One time, Penny asked me why I kept on messing with those records, bad as Dad hurt me.

Couldn't say. It was something I just had to do.

So I kept on doing it. I was big enough to reach the knob to the hall closet but needed a chair for the high shelves. That's where Dad kept all the good stuff. I knew there were jams at the top. I'd heard Dad and my big sister Violet say there was a new James Brown hit, and I had to hear it.

But the top shelf was way up high. Even standing on my dad's dining room chair--the one with the arms on it--I had to get on my tippy-toes and then, sometimes, I could reach the records I wanted to play.

Still, I could see the spine of the album cover, half an inch from my fingers. Close enough, I could feel its groove like electricity. So I jumped, got a hold and pulled.

Got it!

But the record next to it fell to the floor and cracked in a hundred pieces. I looked down and saw it was Billy Eckstine's Jelly Jelly. JB might have survived the fall but Jelly Jelly was an old shellac 78. No way.

That's when I heard a key in the door. And one of the arms on the chair snapping. And me falling.

It was Dad.

Dad was a boxer, just like his brother Sandy. Sandy was especially bad; fact is, he was the featherweight champ of the world in 1950, retired with a hundred and three knockouts and later voted one of The Ring Magazine's fifty greatest punchers of all time. Fighting spirit ran in the family.

Dad was also a trackman. He'd come home early from his gig with the Penn Central Railroad and he was shouting, "Who's in my closet? Who's messing with my records?!" Soon as he saw me and his shattered record, he grabbed my neck, lifted me off the floor, dragged me out of the closet, then let me have it for real.

Dad knocked me clean across the hall with a slap from his hand, his skin rough as sandpaper. Next thing I remember was waking up. Mommy was screaming and Lilly was crying. There was blood all over the front of my shirt and ringing in my ears.

When Mommy came home and tried to stop Dad, he went at her with an iron skillet. Beat on her until he finally busted her head open. Both of 'em screaming so loud, a neighbor finally called the cops. The cops knew where we lived and by then my father knew the drill--he skipped out before they came, leaving them to deal with Mommy. Disappearing back out into the street life; back into the bars and boxing gyms he loved more than home.

Days later he'd show up, arms full of groceries, acting like everything was okay. But the violence would start up all over again just as soon as Mommy started yelling and screaming how he was layed up with other women. Lots of 'em.

She knew 'cause sometimes they came to our door, pregnant, and saying Dad was the daddy. Saying he was with her now. Asking when he'd be home. Nobody ever saw a f...

Revue de presse

“Grandmaster Flash not only transformed and revolutionized the music industry with his innovative turntable genius, he also opened the doors to power, and influenced the hopes and dreams of generations . . . and he did it with class. That's the message.” —MC Hammer, Billboard Diamond Award winner, 3-time Grammy Award winner

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1132 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 272 pages
  • Editeur : Crown Archetype (10 juin 2008)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B001AWZ1Q0
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°343.208 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 étoiles sur 5  12 commentaires
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 ..... 2 juillet 2008
Par Shbzz7 - Publié sur Amazon.com
It's a good book.

At times when I read this book it made me realize that it really isn't 100% about hip hop, but about a man's struggle. How everyone's life can go zig zag zig... forward, back and hopefully forward again.

It shed light on a few things for me: Like why Flash has such an articulate vernacular (read, nerdy sounding speech), whether all the rumors of him hitting rock bottom were true or not, & how he had an almost obsession w/ bettering Kool Herc, the originator of the Hip Hop style of dj-ing.

The book is made up of very concise chapters that are quick and easy to read. There are a couple of things that I liked about the writing style too. There is an ongoing theme of how Flash relates everything to two records spinning, from the wheels on his bike to watching clothes spin in a laundromat when he is flat out busted and broke. Also at times the end of one chapter would purposely blend into the next chapter. Pretty much like Flash quick mixing at a set. And from a visual perspective, sometimes when there is an ascension or de-escalation of ideas or thoughts in a paragraph, the placement of letters in this paragraph were made to mimic this theme to form a set of steps or the like.

In narrating his story Flash does skip or neglect to elaborate certain points quite often. I would have wanted to know a lil more of his dealings with Enjoy Records, how much he got from that "Flash Former" gadget, how successful he was after he split with Furious and then recorded w/ Electra, how he felt when he eventually went up against Kool Herc, etc., etc. etc.

I dunno, maybe this just didn't fit into the way the book was set up. Maybe it would have killed that rise-fall-rise human drama theme that the overall book is exhibiting. I dunno. Maybe the authors thought that the average Joe w/ no knowledge of the Boogie Down Bronx wouldn't care or know better anyway?

And yes there isn't really a significant amount of info about the early beginnings of hip hop. Perhaps the thinking is why retread that which can be found over and over again. The book "Yes, Yes, Yall" speaks encyclopedic volumes to that and is suitable for the layman and b-boy alike.

The good thing here is that we get the opportunity to learn about Flash's early early life. He candidly speaks on things I never heard mentioned in previous interviews w/ him, like his parents, sisters and schooling. Not to mention how, although a self admitted nerd, he spins thru females like they are records, sometimes quick cutting, sometimes back spinning, sometimes just riding the groove out. All these things go on to shape him later in life.

We learn about the young dj Flash before he was the Grand Master and how he always had to deal w/ the weight of being really skilled, but chained to a rag tag homemade sound system. One that the literal as well as musical "giant" of the time, Herc, would laugh at.

I too give Flash dap for admitting that he was flat out afraid of Sylvia Robinson, Queen of Sugar Hill Records. Flat out afraid of losing his crew, having the haunting feeling that he as a dj, and not the now all important mc, would be relegated to the back of the bus.

You feel for Flash when he comes to the realization that his place as a non-rhyming dj, at Sugar Hill Records, Sugar Hill Studios & the Sugar Hill mansion is no place. You feel for him when his very first mc, Cowboy, spits at him "It ain't about you no more Flash". And when childhood friend EZ Mike takes his place in a reinvented lineup, who can't help but see the correlation of Brutus thrusting the final dagger into the chest of Grand Master Caesar.

Like I mentioned earlier there may have been issues with editing & also trying to cram things into such a concise format. I can see a couple of errors w/ records not correlating with dates. And on the technical side, in one passage he mentions a device he made for himself to aid in mixing records, the peek-a-boo system, as if he had mentioned it earlier in the book when he had not. There are also slight grammatical & spelling errors here & there.

Also, Flash goes a hell of a long way to mention how he developed his mixing technique. He deals at length w/ that and I can only think someone who has never gotten behind 1200's or a pair of Thorens :) might be lulled to sleep by it. But of course this is exactly what defined a "kid named Flash"!

Also I see a lot of books and movies that use devices or techniques to make the style, flow or storyline of the book more cohesive. You yourself can sometimes right off the bat tell hat it has been made up, sometimes not. (Take for instance in the Movie "Malcolm X", The guy that teaches Malcolm the knowledge of self while he is incarcerated. That character was made by Spike Lee to tell the story more smoothly and didn't actually exist in the book or reality.)

Flash relates of a friend who helped him see the light, helped him get on track when he needed it, helped him sort the b.s. out when it was tuff. I really hope that this wasn't just a contrived literary device and someone that was really on the real. Because that is someone or something that we all need in our lives now and then :)
True dat.

At times when I read this book it made me realize that it really isn't 100% about hip hop, but about a man's struggle. How everyone's life can go zig zag zig... forward, back and hopefully forward again.

It's a good book.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Missing in action 16 juin 2008
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
I too bought the book when it came out, and finished it in three days.
I consider Grandmaster Flash to be the best DJ ever. I was a bit taken by some of the incorrect text, Flash writes about one night in 1975 when Pete Jones was spinning "I will survive" and "Lets Start the Dance" - both songs were released in 1978!. Also, too much on the Sylvia Robinson scenarioes, and absolutely nothing on the Elektra years, thats the reason I bought the book, as some of his finest work was during that period.
We all know the Sugar Hill story from other books. I wish I could be kinder, but as a b-boy and a music historian, I was left with a void.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Rise and Fall and Rebirth of Grandmaster Flash 12 juin 2008
Par A. Ross - Publié sur Amazon.com
Over the last five years or so, as hip hop culture has moved into its third decade, there have been more and more books published about its early days. Books like Yes Yes Y'All and Can't Stop Won't Stop have sought to trace the development of b-boying, DJing, MCing, and graffiti from their disparate origins in the early 1970s into the unified "street" culture and big business hip hop has become. This autobiography by one hip hop's pioneers traces the early years of this evolution through the personal story of someone who was there from the start.

In many respects, Flash's story (at least as he presents it), is a classic American rise and fall story. We meet him as a child with an abusive father with a killer record collection, who ditches the family and a mentally ill mother. Then through a succession of foster homes, the calm of The Greer School in upstate New York, and then back to the Bronx and Gompers VoTech High School. During these teen years, the slightly nerdy kid with a love of music and electronics manages to marry the two and more or less invent turntablism. Through hard work, innovative techniques, and the help of friends, he rises to local fame as a street and then club DJ. Then the perfidious Sugar Hill Records scoops him up, uses him up, and dumps him. Oh yeah, along the way he succumbs to the classic "rock star" pitfalls of not keeping his business affairs in good order, getting wrapped up in partying, women, and drugs. By the mid '80s, he's become an out of control cokehead who is rescued from ODing in a crack house by his older sister. Years pass as he lives on his sister's couch, with no income, struggling to put his life back together. Eventually, he finds some manner of spiritual peace, find closure with his father, and rebuilds his music career and rescues his reputation.

In many ways, Flash's story is predictably sad: the broken home, the signing of a record contract without understanding it, the allure of cash and flashy cars, the betrayal by friends, the coke, the dog-like behavior with women (he has children by five different women). And yet, there's a lot to like: from his confession that he tried b-boying and tried graffiti and failed at both before hitting on DJing as his ticket into hip-hop, his scavenging dumps for parts to build his own sound system, the combination of trial and error and inspiration it took to figure out how to cut beats and breaks and mix on the fly, the hours spent digging through record crates looking for obscure material, how "Big Bank Hank" stole the rhymes for "Rapper's Delight" from a friend, how Flash had nothing to do with the hits "The Message" or "White Lines," the crooked dealings of Sugar Hill Records (not to mention their silent mob-connected financier).

The book is probably at its most engaging, however, when describing the early days of hip-hop in the Bronx. The days of sound systems in parks and playgrounds, with street gangs in charge, and everybody out to have a good time. Flash's memories bring that all to life quite effectively and colorfully (as do many of the interviews in Yes, Yes, Y'all). One quibble I have with his account about these early days, is a failure to explain how what was happening on the street of the Bronx in the early '70s was replicating what had gone down in Jamaica ten years earlier. DJ Kool Herc, who figures prominently in Flash's account of the early years, lived in Jamaica until 1967, and the scene was exactly the same: competing street sound systems, with competing DJs who would take the labels off records so spies couldn't find out what they were playing, gangs, violence--all the same. Even MCing was preceded in Jamaica by "toasters" like King Stitt, U-Roy, Alcapone, and others, who would do rhymes over backing rhythm tracks. The line from '60s Jamaica to '70s Bronx is a pretty clear one, and it's a shame that Flash either never realized it, or chose not to mention it. (I've heard that a decent account of that Jamaican ancestry can be found in the early chapters Can't Stop, Won't Stop, although I haven't read it myself).

In the end, Flash's life is a quick read broken down into lots of bite-sized chapters. The writing isn't the best, and some of the stylistic tics are kind of clunky and cheesy, but it's definitely worth checking out if you're interested in the history of hip-hop, and turntablism in particular. Possibly worth checking out if you're interested in how urban subcultures rise and thrive.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Flash is one of my heros, and I bought this on its day of release 12 juin 2008
Par haroon - Publié sur Amazon.com
I just finished reading Flash's book. Let me start off by saying Flash has always been one of my heros, not just in Hip-hop -- but in a life. Out of all the Hip-Hop figures I would read about I felt like I had something in common with him. I grew up a nerdy kid who dabbled with computers and Radio Shack electronics sets. I remember fixing my portable tape player at the age of 4 or 5, because my dad wasn't home to open it up and place the belt back on the motor. Moreover, I was drawn into Hip-Hop because it was electronic -- because my Commodore 64 and records interested me as a child far more than the guitar, drum, or trumpet lessons I took did. The first time I heard Flash's "Adventures on the Wheels of Steel" as a DJ, I wanted to track down every record used in that set and recreate it; I took the records I already owned and tried to create answer records of some sort. The days, months, and years I spent in my bedroom dragging pieces of vinyl back and forth, fantasizing over turntables were made possible because of Flash.

Flash had the guts to try something new and abstract and put it out for the world to see. There was no worry of conventions. He took a risk that evolved an entire culture, music, and industry.

But back to the book, Flash goes in depth about his upbringing: his parents, his mentally ill mother, his sisters, and most importantly -- his father's record collection. He talks about digging through heaps of garbage to find wire so he could built a makeshift tube amplifier; salvaging speakers from stripped cars in South Bronx lots; perfecting cutting in a grungy basement. You get a feel for the grunge that gave birth to what Hip-Hop would come to be.

Flash details his experience with DJ Pete Jones, who encouraged him to keep doing his thing -- and even helped him get paying gigs downtown.

When you read Flash's story of Sylvia Robinson and Sugar Hill, you'll never listen to records like "The Message," "White LInes," or "New York, New York" the same again. And you'll also understand why many old school pioneers have a right to be bitter.

What's missing? Flash doesn't speak much about his post Sugar Hill endeavors on Elektra, that produced some noteworthy tunes in my opinion ("They Say It Couldn't Be Done" with "Larry's Dance Theme" for example), nor does it talk about some of his early production efforts (like the "Lyrics 2 to the Rythm" track featured on the "New Jack City" soundtrack). I'm also left a bit puzzled: who really invented 'scratching' Theodore or Flash?

I was glued to the book, then again he's one of my heros. I finished the 250 page read in less than a day.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 It's Worth a Read 16 mai 2012
Par Ashley LaMar - Publié sur Amazon.com
First things first I have to admit that although I had heard the name "Grandmaster Flash" I had absolutely no idea who he was, what his group was called, what songs he had released or why he was relevant to the world of rap / hip-hop music. It's not a genre of music I had any real exposure to until I met my husband. When I saw this book in the store I figured I'd give it a shot and see if I could learn a bit about the man who seemed to have inspired so many artists in the rap world.

I'll say I was extremely happy with this book. I enjoyed it so much more than I expected that I would. When Flash was talking about his young life with his parents, his sisters, and the Greer school my heart broke for that little boy. I enjoyed the tale he wove about how his life built around music, then women, then drugs. It was hard to read about the shady business, the collapse of his dreams but heartwarming again to read about his re-entry in to the music world.

All in all it was a great book. It was a personal tale and full of honesty and genuine emotion. I still don't listen to rap music and I still don't know a single technical thing about DJ'ing but I have developed a whole new respect for the genre and the music pioneers, like Flash, that made it all possible.
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