As a hip hop pioneer, how do you react when people say that rap is dead?
It doesn't make sense when people say that. I think that anything that is loved by so many different races and people will always change. How it was constructed in the early '70s and '80s is not necessarily how it is constructed in the 2000s. Anything that's loved by so many people will change. It won't be how we did it, because we did it the way we seen it in our era.
Ice T recently came out against Soulja Boy, claiming he killed hip hop. Where do you stand on that debate?
As far as Soulja Boy's concerned, Soulja Boy is just the next interpretation [of hip hop], so why does he have to be bad? Why? I've never understood that. If it's a song that's loved by so many people, why do so few people [support it]? I personally feel that anybody who says that there's something wrong with Soulja Boy is afraid of change and change is imminent. If you cannot handle change then you ain't here right now.
Is your new book a cautionary tale for young hip hop artists?
It's not a hip hop bookâ€”it's a life story that entails hip hop. It chronicles how I came up with this science that every DJ in the world uses. I go into going into business for the first time and not knowing better. I signed a deal with Sugar Hill Records that I totally got nothing for and made major records, major sales. I touch on how I survived sniffing then eventually smoking cocaine. I had a real bad cocaine habit. The book is about how I survived the whole thing. I wrote the book to help people. I wrote the book for people that don't have normal families. I wrote the book for people that don't have normal jobs. I wrote the book for people who don't have the best careers. I wrote the book for people who go through life's normal tribulations and how you can possibly survive. So it's actually a book for everybody.
You write a lot about the volatile relationship you had with your father.
My father, to put it in short, used to beat me until I was unconscious because I touched his records, but every time he would beat me I would go back to them as soon as he turned his back. He burnt my hands on a radiator once, but I still went back [to his records].
Was your success as a DJ an act of defiance towards your father?
I don't know if it was in defiance. He taught me to respect music. He was my major influence and my second influence was Kool Herc, the godfather of hip hop. The combination of the two inspired me to create this science where you touch the vinyl and move it in a back and forward motion and spin it in a counter clockwise motion.
When you recorded "The Messageâ€â€”
"The Messageâ€ was a nightmare, but you got to read the book. I'm going to let you fill in the blanks. I'll just tell you this. "The Messageâ€ was a nightmare. When you read the section you'll find out why. "The Messageâ€ wasn't a happy time for me. It wasn't a happy time for Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. It was a gift and a curse, but you got to read the book.
Good sales pitch. If you could only DJ in one place for the rest of your life, where would it be?
Probably where I first invented the DJ scienceâ€”my bedroom on Fox Street in the Bronx in the late 70s. That'd probably be the place. My bedroom at my mom's house.
So you're still that same kid playing block parties in The Bronx?
Yeah. I'm a big kid, man. I'm a big fucking kid.
The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash is available now