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Hip-hop legend Grandmaster Flash leads the Bronx in a session from the 1970s


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Grandmaster Flash began developing the turntable as an instrument while he was a youngster, performing at the now-famous Bronx block parties that gave rise to hip-hop and transformed music.

He returned home on Friday to celebrate the genre’s 50th anniversary with a performance that allowed New Yorkers born in the middle of the 20th century to relive their youth—and the history of hip-hop.

“This is a jam, not a concert,” someone said. Hundreds of supporters erupted in cheers as Flash, who is now in his 60s, shouted from the stage in Crotona Park in the South Bronx.

Flash threw it back to the early 1970s jams, ushering in the genre that has had a profound impact on music as well as fashion, dancing, and the culture at general. The audience moved while raising their hands in the air.

The neighborhood gatherings provided families and teenagers with a lifeline at a time of economic crisis that put a large portion of the borough in abject poverty.

Quentin Morgan, 54, arrived at the park on his bike to catch the event that is a part of a series of celebrations honoring the beginning of hip-hop. “It was the music that really resonated at the time in New York,” he said.

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He laughed and continued, “It was tough in New York — barely any laws. It was a different time period.

In 1982, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five produced “The Message,” which painted a gritty picture of urban life and introduced a significant amount of social consciousness to the genre.

The moment Flash invited MCs Melle Mel and Scorpio onstage to perform the classic song on Friday night, the crowd went wild.

That was followed by a savage entrance from MC Sha-Rock, who is regarded as the first female MC during the formative years of hip-hop.

KRS-One, who is also from the South Bronx, performed a freestyle to loud applause as Flash used now-standard methods that he invented more than fifty years ago to scratch, transform, and manipulate the record.

Coke La Rock, who on August 11, 1973, joined DJ Kool Herc at the event that many musicologists believe to be the official genesis of hip-hop, told AFP earlier in the evening while opening artists warmed up the crowd that hip-hop and the Bronx are one and the same.

The 68-year-old remarked, “I can’t see no division of it,” referring to the genre’s offshoots in America and even around the world as “my kids.”

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“They are all my children; if I am the product, they are the patent.”

‘Biggest music on world’

Backstage, Flash explained to AFP that the goal of Friday’s performance was to recreate the jams of his boyhood.

Moms told us to go outside and play, so that’s what it was, he explained. I never imagined it would be a part of the most popular music in the world.

As the city of New York designated August 4 to be “Grandmaster Flash Day,” organizers also distributed a message from the mayor.

“My Teenage Love,” Keisha Harmon referred to the Slick rap hit as she and her 27-year-old girlfriend arrived at the event.

She was born in the Bronx only a few months after the genre she grew up with and will turn 50 in October.

“I have chills, look, goosebumps,” she said to AFP.

“I’m a mother of seven and a grandmother of eight, and all the songs that are playing bring me back to No Kids.”

“Hey, DJ-such-and-such is in the park,” she said, “and we would have parties and sing, and it was just fun.” This is how she recalled how the hip-hop music of her youth spread via word of mouth.

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And this reminds me of that,” Harmon continued, pointing to the party-filled park on this muggy August night.

The event “shows our talent” as Bronx residents, she continued.

It demonstrates our contributions to the arts, said Harmon. The music genre “hip-hop has substance.”

“The artists were the storytellers.”

Throughout the evening, the audience chanted, “South South Bronx, South Bronx!” while performing the Boogie Down Productions song by KRS-One and DJ Scott La Rock.

Grandmaster Flash played the Bronx on Friday night for the first time in twenty years, according to city organizers.

He was joined by a group of breakdancers who stunned the audience with a throwdown, along with other early hip-hop figures.

Where are my old friends from school? Flash questioned the jubilant audience. I want to maintain the 1970s.

“Someone mention Bronx!”

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Tell the stories as they are as well as what is hidden in the stories in order to place the true cards on the table.


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