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Grandmaster Flash speaks at Crowder Hall to cap off Black History Month at UA

Simon Asher

Gandmaster Flash live mixes onstage in Crowder Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash hosted a lecture and deejay event at Crowder Hall on Feb. 28 to cap off Black History Month. Crowder Hall was packed with fans of all ages to watch the hip-hop legend perform and talk about his upbringing.

“It is Grandmaster Flash, plain and simple; that is the God right there,” said Tucson deejay Pike Romero. “He took scratching to the next level so it is legendary. You cannot miss this.”

Humanities administration events coordinator Samantha Taibi said the College of Humanities and the Africana Studies Program wanted to showcase the hip-hop minor and bring the community together.

“Having a legend like Grandmaster Flash come was really exciting for the department and college,” Taibi said.

While colleges throughout America, such as Cornell University, have implemented classes about hip-hop, no school had dedicated a minor to the topic until 2013. That year, UA became the first school in America to implement hip-hop studies as a concentration for a minor.

Known for making the song “The Message,” Grandmaster Flash has received numerous accolades throughout his career, including a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2007.

“The first time I ever heard ‘The Message,’ it was exciting to hear that style and beat at that time,” said Department of History assistant professor Tyina Steptoe. “It was something that sounded good, but it was actually talking about something social and things occurring in communities.”

“The Message” has a focus on poverty and social commentary, and many of these issues remain relevant today.

“From the first few lyrics of ‘broken glass everywhere, people pissin’ on the stairs,’ it is still like that,” Romero said. “People still live that way and times have obviously changed, but it is still relevant to today’s culture.”

Grandmaster Flash was welcomed to the stage with a round of applause and a standing ovation before lecturing the crowd about his come-up.

RELATED: Event explores healing power of music

At the time Flash was getting into deejaying, deejays were doing their breakdowns in a different manner than how Flash believes they should be.

“How I listened to music was different than how you listened to music and it was different from someone else,” Flash said in the lecture.

Another deejaying technique that Flash did from other deejays at the time was touching the records as they spin. Touching records negatively impacted his ability to find a job as a deejay while growing up.

“They said I ruined records by going back and forth and counterclockwise while deejaying,” Flash said. “’You are my man, but I cannot let you get on’ is what my friends working as deejays told me.”

After speaking about how he came into hip hop, Flash showed off his deejay skills for a few minutes. The crowd nodded their heads and clapped their hands as he mixed together popular songs. From “California Love” and “N.Y. State of Mind” to “Hypnotize” and “Walk This Way,” crowd members erupted upon recognizing which samples Flash was using.

Flash then played another vinyl, but proceeded to stop playing and to tell the crowd that they should slow the vinyl down. Upon doing that, the vinyl was revealed to be “All About the Benjamins” by P. Diddy.

After Flash finished performing, local deejays DJ Herm, DJ Bonus and DJ Jam-Is-On were invited to the stage to perform after winning a deejay competition at Club Congress on Feb. 9. After each deejay finished, Flash offered praise and a few tips on how to improve, including a tip for helping their audience find love.

“We could be responsible for someone finding their wife,” Flash said. “Homeboy’s got sweetie in his hand and you have to make sure it stays locked when deejaying.”

RELATED: Finalists advance in UA deejay competition

Deejaying still may help producers get recognized today.

“I think deejaying is still important because it is an art form,” Steptoe said. “Even though we are into producers now, I think a lot of producers now started as deejays, so it is an important step.”

Flash and other deejays and rappers contributed to the hip-hop industry.

“There is DJ Jazzy Jeff and Grand Wizard Theodore in terms of deejay, and KRS-One is big in terms of MC,” Romero said. “Just that era of hip hop is so pivotal and monumental, because it shaped a lot of my life, others’ lives and molded hip-hop into what it is today.”

Before ending his lecture, Flash answered a few questions from the crowd, including how he felt about the current state of hip hop. While one audience member yelled that hip hop was wack at the moment, Flash disagreed with that notion.

“Something that is loved by so many people will change,” Flash said. “This thing has grown so huge that it has allowed me to go anywhere.”

Follow Ivan Leonard on Twitter.

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