Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizzard Theodore, Grand Mixer DXT
Hollywood Guitar Center
March 6, 2014
Hip-hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizzard Theodore and Grand Mixer DXT became the first DJs honored on the hallowed pavement of the Hollywood Guitar Center's “RockWalk” yesterday. The three New York natives three flashed wide smiles as they came up to be honored one-by-one, before globbing their hands in fresh cement.
Joining some 300 musicians who've already left their literal marks on the Sunset Strip, they were introduced by a slew of hip-hip and R&B icons, including Biz Markie, DJ Qbert, Herbie Hancock and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
“These three are the Mount Rushmore of DJs,” said DJ Jazzy Jeff, the MC for the event. “These guys are our three forefathers. This is just so very much due.”
Families, fans and a mass of journalists with their cameras crowded into the Guitar Center's showroom. The first to speak was Grand Wizzard Theodore, tthe inventor of the scratch, the master of the needle drop. He was modest, his speech was short.
Grandmaster Flash, who invented the hip-hop concept of a continuous mix using record breakdowns from two different LPs, took the podium after a stirring introduction by Biz Markie. The DJ described coming up on the streets of the Bronx, as well as “waiting for the click” of the front door when his father left the house, before raiding his records.
“I'd get beat and get beat and get beat,” he recalled. “And then I'd wait and I'd hear that click… and I'd head to the living room, get into that closet, open those records and run to the stereo.”
Flash spun at house parties and for a hodgepodge of rappers before starting Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in the late 1970s. In 2007 they were the first rap artists ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, introduced by Jay-Z.
Flash's innovations weren't luck, he noted.
“This was science. This was math. And now, this is the universal way people play music today.”
The idea that turntables, electronic music, and spinning, are how kids are making music permeated all three of the DJs' speeches. It's a good point, and one that's not often given a lot of lip service.
Flash went on to describe a young boy sitting on a milk crate, listening to him spin – that young boy was Grandwizzard Theodore. DXT described lying on an abandoned car, pledging to play for a master he saw on Don Kirshner's rock concert. That master was Herbie Hancock, who introduced DXT.
“All this,” said DXT, gesturing to himself and the other two honorees, “is part of a very, very long journey travelling almost 45 years.”
Grand Mixer DXT is credited as the first true “turntablist.” Few tracks highlight that so well as his famous scratching on the Herbie Hancock single “Rockit.”
“He was playing turntables like drums, like jazz drums,” recalled Hancock. “He wasn't a DJ… he was an innovator.”
With six speakers, the event ran so long that the Q&A was nixed in favor of a few photo ops. The crowd then shuffled over into the next room, where DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith were to be honored with a plaque for the 25th anniversary of “Parents Just Don't Understand” winning a Grammy, the first rap album to do so.
Jazzy Jeff was there with a handshake and a smile – but Smith was MIA, presumably at home celebrating his Razzie win for After Earth.