Grandmaster Flash’s ex-girlfriends helped him build the basis for what ultimately led him to become a hip-hop pioneer -- his record collection.
“I’m not proud of this -- well -- a lot of my collection came from dating women,” Flash said during an interview at the Bryant Park Corporation's headquarters in midtown earlier this month. The DJ who rose to fame in the Bronx in the ‘70s headlined Bryant Park’s Barefoot Ball on Wednesday.
The artist said he’d been interested in vinyl since he was “just a tot” playing with his father’s off-limits record player when he went off to work. In his teens, he decided it was time to get his hands on his own records to continue exploring with sound and music. That’s where his exes come in.
“If I went to dinner at a person’s house, if I dated somebody and they wanted me to meet their parents, I would say Mrs. -- let’s just say the last name was Williams -- ‘Mrs. Williams, would you happen to have any old records lying around that you don’t want or need?’” Flash recalled. “And they would say, ‘Boy, go on in that closet right there. There’s a whole bunch of them. I don’t know. We don’t even want that junk.’”
What Flash’s exes’ families saw as “junk,” he literally saw as treasure.
“I’d go in there and,” Flash said, pausing to gasp as if a pile of records appeared in front of him. “I’d say, ‘Can I go get a shopping cart? I'll be right back.’ I would take them home and I’d sit there and listen to every cut.”
In that record collection? A wide range from pop to rock to jazz to funk including English band The Stiffs, Bob James and Incredible Bongo Band.
The artist, of course, also shopped for tracks at local record stores. Disc-o-mat and Downstairs Records, formerly found in midtown, were two of Flash’s go-to spots.