One of hip-hop's founding fathers, Grandmaster Flash, will release his first full-length album in more than two decades this February, with "The Bridge: Concept of a Culture." But a sneak preview of some tracks shows Flash perhaps trying to be a little too inclusive in his aim to pay tribute to global musical influences on the genre he helped to pioneer.
A new Grandmaster Flash album is a dangerous proposition. The last time Flash made a splash in the hip-hop world, he was bringing its first heavyweight political anthem, “The Message,” to the world at large.
That was more than two decades ago. I was 1 year old and definitely not into hip-hop just yet.
Flash’s last major-label recording was a 1988 release on the Elektra label. So listening to his promo preview from the forthcoming "The Bridge: Concept of a Culture," I’m not very sure what to expect.
I mean, this is the man who pioneered “cutting,” which Grand Wizard Theodore eventually developed into modern-day scratching, so the expectations are, unfortunately, probably higher than they should be.
Drawing on the breakdancing culture that was coming into its own at the same time as Flash, many of the 10 songs on the preview are uptempo, including the obvious “Tribute to the Breakdancer,” which nabs a bongo line from one of Flash’s original inspirations, the Incredible Bongo Band.
DJ “Let Me Clear My Throat” Kool and DJ Demo make appearances on “Here Comes My DJ,” and Flash’s stature alone is enough to attract guest spots from Q-Tip, Snoop Dogg and even the long-lost (no pun intended) Mr. Cheeks.
As one of hip-hop’s original party-starters, Flash is at his best crafting danceworthy tracks like the one-note-synth of “Bounce Back” and the slightly Middle-Eastern-sounding “Those Chix.” But it’s a little strange listening to his take on hardcore rap (“Bronx Bombers,” which pairs a weird, swooping vocal sample with a MIDI horn loop).
KRS-One drops by to envision a world without hip-hop on the futuristic head-nodder “What If,” but by and large, the promo is underwhelming.
"Wherever I travel as a DJ, I see the incredible power of this artform," Flash said in an interview about the new record.
"I am constantly amazed by it. That's the line that runs through the album - we speak many languages and come from many cultures but, wherever I go in the world, there is one universal culture of hip hop.”
Maybe the February full-length release of "The Bridge" will show otherwise, but it seems as though one of hip-hop’s founding fathers is perhaps trying to be a bit too inclusive.