Grandmaster Flash reflects on 50 years of hip-hop


(NewsNation) — Hip-hop will celebrate its 50th birthday in August, and one of the most prolific acts in the music genre is in awe at how far its evolved.

Widely recognized as being born Aug. 11, 1973, hip-hop surpassed rock as the most popular genre in the United States in 2017. Often synonymous with rap, it has produced artists such as Run-DMC, KRS-One, Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre.

Joseph Saddler, better known by his stage game Grandmaster Flash, was also one of those artists. He innovated what’s known as quick-mix theory, and in 2007, he was the first hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Being able to get to this point and becoming inarguably the biggest music on planet Earth, it makes me nervous to even talk about it,” Flash said Thursday on NewsNation’s “CUOMO.” “But it’s a wonderful feeling.”

Saddler formed his own group in the 1970s. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five would go on to produce hits including “The Message,” which peaked at No. 4 on the R&B chart and No. 62 on the pop chart. It provided a social commentary, with lyrics describing the desperation of inner-city poverty.

Grandmaster Flash lamented that for all of hip-hop’s evolution, there exists a parallel culture of violence.

“With rap where it is right now, what really bothers me is children passing away. That could have been my child, and for me, I wish that the violence would cease,” he said. “I think it’s worldwide. It could be a Black family, a white family … and somehow, one way or another, we’ve got to find some way to stop this violence.”

Though more than eight months away, the 50th anniversary of the music genre will be celebrated all throughout 2023 in New York. Congress designated November as National Hip Hop Month last year, and Mayor Eric Adams marked the occasion Nov. 14 by announcing a partnership with a new museum that will host events throughout 2023 to mark the 50th anniversary.

Construction on the Universal Hip Hop Museum is slated to be complete next year, and the group will showcase some work in an exhibit that has opened across the street. The museum will be located in the Bronx, where hip-hop was born.

“It will be one of the most advanced, technology-driven museums in the history of New York City. It will be documenting, preserving and celebrating the story of 50 years of hip-hop history,” the museum’s executive director, Rocky Bucano, told CBS New York.

Grandmaster Flash is working on a new album, producing a new podcast and working with children to help them realize their dreams. Never in his wildest dreams, he said, did he think hip-hop would evolve into what it is today.

“Sometimes I just pinch and myself and say ‘wow,’ because you could invent something and take your life’s work and put it out there and the world could say ‘I don’t like that,’” Flash said. “When we were doing this in the ’70s, it was ‘What is that?’ That (notion) saved me, to the point where people wanted to know more and more about it. It’s wonderful.”

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