The Pop Song Pantheon, Vol. 11
"The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel" by Grandmaster Flash (1981)
I know. You expected that if any song made it from this artist it would be 1982's "The Message," for its influential position as hip-hop's first socially conscious megahit, right? Well, "The Message" is grand, but it's really an MC showcase, and not indicative of the real reasons that Flash is so important to the history of American popular music. It's too easy for us to forget, in these technologically advanced computer-dependent times, perhaps, that sampling and looping used to depend less on a mouse and a cursor than on manual dexterity and turntable innovation, and damned if I can't think of anyone who ever topped Flash in either category. This record--especially in its 12-inch single, rather than album, version--is but a modest document of Flash's greatness on two decks, as he effortlessly brings together a vast array of musical texts, including some of Flash and The Furious Five's own music. It is effectively encyclopedic, whimsical, self-referential, genius. Imagine T.S. Eliot with two record players if Ol' Possum could backspin and crossfade.