Caribbean Roots: Grand Master Flash

Go Lean Commentary

Welcome to June!

It’s Caribbean-American Heritage Month.

… unanimously adopted by the House of Representatives on June 27, 2005 in House Congressional Resolution 71, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, recognizing the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the United States.[14]

LONDON – 1985: DJ Grandmaster Flash aka Joseph Saddler of the rap group “Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five” performs onstage at Wembley Arena in 1985 in London, England. (Photo by David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

It is also Black Music Month.

… initiated … by President Jimmy Carter who, on June 7, 1979, decreed that June would be the month of black music.

In 2009, the commemoration was given its current name by President Barack Obama.[1] In his 2016 proclamation, Obama noted that African-American music and musicians have helped the country “to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all. “[2]

This commentary is a fusion between these 2 observances.

Most emphatically, Caribbean-American Diaspora has contributed greatly to the Great American Songbook, even for Hip-Hop music. We are referring to one of the original heroes of this all-American musical genre: Joseph Saddler aka Grand Master Flash. Yes, he was born and raised in Barbados and emigrated to the New York metropolitan area at a young age.

Original hero? We are not the only one to conclude this; (plus, see the references in the Appendices below):

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, becoming the first hip hop act to be honored.[1]

VIDEO – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five accept and perform Rock Hall Inductions 2007 –

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Published on Sep 23, 2011 –
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five accept and perform Rock Hall Inductions 2007

  • Category: Music

Unfortunately, despite our Caribbean being the greatest address on the planet, a report relates that …

“The [Caribbean] region has exported more of its people than any other region of the world since the abolition of slavery in 1834.[3] While the largest Caribbean immigrant sources to the U.S. are Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Haiti, U.S. citizen migrants also come from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Wow, we got “it” bad, societal abandonment that is!

Imagine if we did a better job of holding on to our citizens. Imagine the world-class contributions and artistic productions. They would have done all that they have done here – maybe even more and better. Talent always finds a way to “break thru”; see photo here:

This theme – the Caribbean heritage of so many movers-and-shakers – aligns with previous commentaries from the movement behind the 2013 book Go Lean…Caribbean; see a sample list here: Caribbean Roots: Presidential Candidate – Kamala Harris Caribbean Roots: Bruno Mars … and the Power of Endurance Caribbean Roots: Al Roker – ‘Climate Change’ Defender Caribbean Roots: John Carlos – The Man. The Moment. The Movement Caribbean Roots: Cast of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Caribbean Roots: Esther Rolle of ‘Good Times’ Caribbean Roots: E. R. Braithwaite, Author of ‘To Sir, With Love’ – RIP Caribbean Roots: Sammy Davis, Jr. Caribbean Roots: Pan-African Leader – Marcus Garvey Caribbean Roots: Fashion Great – Oscar De La Renta – RIP

The Go Lean movement recognizes the Caribbean Roots and artistic contributions of artists like Joseph Saddler aka Grand Master Flash, even in non-traditional art forms like Hip-Hop.  (This makes up the sound track of this writer’s life).

Truth be told, Hip-Hop is now the Number One consumed music genre in the US. Caribbean contributions are hereby acknowledged!

CU Blog - Rock-n-Roll Dethroned by Hip-Hop - Photo 1

Yes, there is power to music; it can urge people to act … and feel … and move. Music can even “soothe the savage beast”.

Yes we can … impact our homeland and impact the world. With music, we can both reach people’s hearts and make them dance. This is one more way to forge change in society! This is why the promotion of music is vital in our quest to elevate Caribbean life and culture. This is one way that we can make our homeland a better place to live, work and play. 🙂

About the Book
The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), for the elevation of Caribbean society – for all member-states. This CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion and create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to ensure public safety and protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines, including a separation-of-powers between the member-states and CU federal agencies.

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to reboot, reform and transform the societal engines of Caribbean society.

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Who We Are
The movement behind the Go Lean book – a non-partisan, apolitical, religiously-neutral Community Development Foundation chartered for the purpose of empowering and re-booting economic engines – stresses that reforming and transforming the Caribbean societal engines must be a regional pursuit. This was an early motivation for the roadmap, as pronounced in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 12 – 14):

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xxiv. Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

xxxii. Whereas the cultural arts and music of the region are germane to the quality of Caribbean life, and the international appreciation of Caribbean life, the Federation must implement the support systems to teach, encourage, incentivize, monetize and promote the related industries for arts and music in domestic and foreign markets. These endeavors will make the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play.

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.  


Appendix A – Joseph Saddler aka Grandmaster Flash

Joseph Saddler’s family emigrated to the United States from Barbados, in the Caribbean. He grew up in the Bronx in New York City where he attended Samuel Gompers High School, a public vocational school. There, he learned how to repair electronic equipment.[2] Saddler’s parents played an important role in his interest in music. His parents came from Barbados and his father was a big fan of Caribbean and African American records.[3]

As a child, Saddler was fascinated by his father’s record collection. In an interview, he reflected: “My father was a very heavy record collector. He still thinks that he has the strongest collection. I used to open his closets and just watch all the records he had. I used to get into trouble for touching his records, but I’d go right back and bother them.”[3] Saddler’s early interest in DJing came from this fascination with his father’s record collection as well as his mother’s desire for him to educate himself in electronics.[4] After high school, he became involved in the earliest New York DJ scene, attending parties set up by early luminaries, like DJ Kool Herc.

Source: Retrieved June 4, 2019 from:


Appendix B – Induction: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five  –  2007  |  Category: Performers


  • Joseph “Grandmaster Flash” Saddler
  • Melvin “Mele Mel” Glover
  • Nathaniel “The Kidd Creole” Glover Jr.
  • Eddie “Scorpio aka Mr. Ness” Morris
  • Keith “Keef Cowboy” Wiggins
  • Guy “Rahiem” Williams

Put simply, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were innovators. Sonically, their new techniques and equipment expanded the sound of hip-hop. Lyrically, their masterpiece “The Message” [see Appendix C below] exposed the dirty underside of a landscape known for partying—and no one saw it coming.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five fomented the musical revolution known as hip-hop.

Theirs was a pioneering union between one DJ and five rapping MCs. Grandmaster Flash (born Joseph Saddler) not only devised various techniques but also designed turntable and mixing equipment. Formed in the South Bronx, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were one of the first rap posses, responsible for such masterpieces as “The Message,” “Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” and “White Lines.” The combination of Grandmaster Flash’s turntable mastery and the Furious Five’s raps, which ranged from socially conscious to frivolously fun, made for a series of 12-inch records that forever altered the musical landscape.

Flash, along with DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa, pioneered the art of break-beat deejaying—the process of remixing and thereby creating a new piece of music by playing vinyl records and turntables as if they were musical instruments. Disco-era deejays like Pete “DJ” Jones, an early influence on Grandmaster Flash, spun records so that people could dance. Turntablists took it a step further by scratching and cutting records, focusing on “breaks”—what Flash described as “the short, climactic parts of the records that really grabbed me”—as a way of heightening musical excitement and creating something new.

Flash’s days as a deejay date back to 1974, when he and other deejays who were too young to get into discos began playing at house parties and block parties in their South Bronx neighborhoods. Flash worked briefly with Kurtis Blow, but Cowboy became the first MC to officially join Grandmaster Flash in what would become the Furious Five. Cowboy’s rousing exhortations, including now-familiar calls to party, like “Throw your hands in the air and wave ‘em like you just don’t care!” became essential ingredients of the hip-hop experience.

Grandmaster’s squadron of MCs expanded to include Kidd Creole, Mele Mel, Mr. Ness (a.k.a. Scorpio) and Rahiem, in that order. Mele Mel, one of the most phonetically and rhythmically precise rappers in the genre—and the authoritatively deep voice who delivered the anti-cocaine rap “White Lines”—recalled the early days of hip-hop: “Disco was for adults, and they wouldn’t let the kids in. That forced us to go out on the streets and make our own entertainment.”

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five issued their first record, “Superrappin’,” on the Enjoy label in 1979. They then signed to Sylvia Robinson’s New Jersey-based Sugarhill label, where they made the R&B charts with a 12-inch single called “Freedom,” which ran for more than eight minutes. Various combinations of Grandmaster Flash, Mele Mel and the Furious Five placed ten records in the charts during a three-year span from 1980 to 1983. These included Grandmaster Flash’s dizzying turntable showcase, “Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,” and the group’s acknowledged masterpiece, “The Message.” The latter offered a series of unflinchingly honest and discomfiting observations about life in the ghetto, with lead rapper Mele Mel returning to the same weary conclusion: “It’s like a jungle sometime, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.”

As Rolling Stone observed, “’The Message’ was [the first record] to prove that rap could become the inner city’s voice, as well as its choice.” This slice of unvarnished social realism sold half a million copies in a month, topped numerous critics’ and magazines’ lists of best singles for 1982 and cemented Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s place in hip-hop’s vanguard. “I ask myself to this day, ‘Why do people want to hear this?’” Grandmaster Flash wondered of “The Message” in 1988. “But it’s the only lyric-pictorial record that could be called ‘How Urban America Lived.’”

In 1984, disagreements over business matters, including a lawsuit with Sugarhill, caused the group to split into two factions, and their commercial momentum was lost. However, they reunited in 1987 for a charity concert hosted by Paul Simon at Madison Square Garden in New York. The result was another album, On the Strength, released in 1988. On the Strength contained another example of Grandmaster Flash’s turntable genius (“This Is Where You Got It From”) and a history lesson for those who didn’t understand hip-hop’s roots and longevity (“Back in the Old Days of Hip-Hop”). In the ensuing years, Grandmaster Flash and Mele Mel have made records under their own names, and numerous anthologies have been released, including Grandmaster Flash, Mele Mel and the Furious Five: The Definitive Groove Collection.

Inductees: Melvin Glover a.k.a. Mele Mel (vocals; born May 15, 1961), Nathaniel Glover Jr. a.k.a. Kidd Creole (vocals; born February 19, 1960), Eddie Morris a.k.a. Mr. Ness/Scorpio (vocals; born October 12, 1960), Joseph Saddler a.k.a. Grandmaster Flash (turntables; born January 1, 1958), Keith Wiggins a.k.a. Cowboy (vocals; born September 20, 1960, died September 8, 1989), Guy Williams a.k.a. Rahiem (vocals; born February 13, 1963)

Source: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; posted September 23, 2011; retrieved June 4, 2019 from:
Appendix C VIDEO – Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message (Official Video) –

Sugarhill Records

Published on Aug 24, 2015 – 
Download The Message on iTunes –
Stream The Message on Spotify –
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