Foster Kid Turned Hip Hop Scientist

“I look at myself as a scientist,” Flash says after a long day of working on the upcoming Netflix Series The Get Down. He elaborates, “I started doing studies on Nicola Tesla, George Westinghouse and George Ohms.” He shares how at Samuel Gompers High School in the Bronx he learned about push pull circuits, AC/DC, diodes, resisters and capacitors.


Before there was Grandmaster Flash, there was Joseph Saddler. Joseph knew that he’d get beat for playing with his dad’s records, but did it anyway. By the time he was sent into the foster care system, due to his mother’s illness, his father had already left.

When asked, “How many foster homes were you in?” he responds, “There were a few, I was kind of running away from it. I wouldn’t stay. Any chance that I had to leave, I would.” This challenging environment set the tone for scientific discovery and the desire to run with it.

Finding the materials wasn’t easy either, as Flash remembers, “I gathered as much electric equipment as possible. I’d go to backyards and junk yards where people threw away stuff and bring it into the home and try to diagnose it.” In order to fund his project he mentions, “I got a delivery boy job. I used to deliver packages, getting money together to get turntables and equipment that I had to jerry-rig. Things that were sold at that time were used for other purposes.”

Young Flash worked with thrown away electronic machinery including turntables, stereos, speakers and mixers, rebuilding them to suit what he was seeing in his mind. His contribution played a major roll in what is now known as Turntablism. In the 70s Flash manually extended the drum solos by using duplicate copies of Vinyl from the 60s and 70s including the genres of Pop, Rock, Jazz, Blues, Funk, Disco, R+B, Latin and Alternative. By placing his fingertips on the vinyl, moving it back forth and counterclockwise he doubled the purpose of the record and became what we know today as the Controller of Sound. From this point forward individuals known as MCs can now rhyme over a clean bed of manually extended music on time to the beat with no interruption. This is the birth of what is now known as Rap.

Additionally, Flash had a manually operated drum machine in the 70s that he played with his fingertips that he called “The Beat Box”.  

As Flash puts it, “Being a scientist, you try things that most people won’t try. I look at Hip Hop as a science. It’s a science and it’s math. It’s how I am able to do what I am able to do in the different parts of the world. The equation to that is joy.

From foster care to world tours, Flash gives the following advice, “There is no such thing as quit. There is no such thing as believing you can not do it.”