The Hammerstei n Ballroom hosted the Urban Music Awards on Friday, July 17th. The ceremony recognized those such as producer Swizz Beats and singer/songwriter Bobby Valentino, who are currently achieving in urban music. Living legends such as the master of the turntables, Grandmaster Flash, and MC/producer KRS-One, where honored for their contribution to urban music’s growth. I had the pleasure of getting a moment with Grandmaster Flash, KRS-One, and Swizz Beats to not only talk about the direction of hip hop, but also to discuss Michael Jackson’s legacy. Click here for a list of winners.
Concert Junkie: How does it feel to be honored as a living legend of hip hop?
Grandmaster Flash: When you are one of the architects of something and it germinates and spreads, you see what it does. You can only help to feel joy. Because a lot time people take their life worth and put it into something and then they serve it to the public and the public might say, “No, we don’t like that.” So for the world to accept what I did with turn tables, I just can’t even explain how it feels. Last week I played Paris to Austria and from Austria to Serbia. In Serbia they did something real sneaky, they said “Flash, this is a festival. We want you to go on last. I said ‘ok, cool.’ They said, “oh, we didn’t tell you, there will be 33,000 people by the time you go on.” So to have 33,000 people, when you ask for a “Hooo!” and the “Hooo!” comes back to you 33,000 times and hands in the air and people screaming, it just shows you the international power and influence of Hip Hop over 36 years. It’s just wonderful..
CJ: What influence do you think Michael Jackson had on Hip Hop?
GF: Oh my God! Some of his beats! His beats! I’m not even going to talk on his beats because that’s no secret! Overall, Michael Jackson undisputedly is the only artist that has had major influence over people, in his span of time.. There’s not even a close second person to him with the impact that Michael Jackson has had. The way I found out [about Michael Jackson’s passing] was really strange. I was in the studio and my 9 year old called me and she said “daddy, I’m watching the news and they said that Michael Jackson died.” I screamed on her and said “That’s not nice to say.” She said “No…” I ran out the studio and got to a TV and then cried for 2 hours. I could not handle it. I could not figure it out. He was getting ready to make a comeback. And I just played the same arena, the O2 Arena, the week before he was going to come there. Can you believe it? It doesn’t make sense. It’s Michael.
CJ: Who do you think holds the future of Hip Hop?
GF: He’s probably in his bedroom right now doing some craziness on the turntable and he is probably a hot MC. Who knows, because as [Hip Hop] continues to progressively progress, there’s always something new and hot that’s coming. Hip Hop changes it’s spot so many times. Sometimes it’s subject matter, sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s both.. I don’t know, but I’ve seen all the empires come up and come down. I’m just glad to be here and be apart of [hip hop].
Concert Junkie: H ow does it feel to be on the Rock The Bells Tour and being around some major artists in Hip Hop?
KRS-One: It’s sweet. It’s good. It’s nice. It is wonderful. But I always see what we can do better. So I guess every year it should get better and better and better, because I’m really looking at it not just from a performance point-of-view, but from a Hip Hop point-of-view. This is a Hip Hop Tour, how should a Hip Hop tour actually look? And I’m just looking at this year.
CJ: Who are some of your favorite artists to watch perform on the Rock the Bells Tour?
KO: Talib Kweli. Talib Kweli all day! Slaughterhouse. Nas does… really Nas with Damien [Marley] puts on a really good show. That something to stay and watch.
CJ: What is your favorite song to perform, that the crowd goes crazy for?
KO: It’s according to who’s there. We just had Busta Rhymes with us in Detroit and they got real savage. It’s just like when Damien puts on Welcome to Jam Rock the crowd goes wild. It’s the vibe. Chicago has it’s own vibe, Detroit has it’s own vibe, New York has it’s own vibe, Toronto has it’s own vibe.
CJ: What do you think is Michael Jackson’s influence on Hip Hop?
KO: Michael Jackson’s influence on Hip Hop, I would say, is in two areas. When he did the moonwalk on Motown 25. That was Hip Hop! Then when he hired Teddy Reily to make is come back [with the Dangerous] album. That was Hip Hop! Rest in peace, Mike.
CJ: Tell us about your new book, The Gospel of Hip Hop.
KO: It’s preserving Hip Hop. We teach it now. So we have The Gospel of Hip Hop coming out because the idea of preserving Hip Hop has less to do with, let’s say preserving Grandmaster Flash’s turntable, but we have to preserve Grandmaster Flash. More importantly, what is the Grandmaster Flash Legacy? Is it his records? Or is it his kids? So the idea is to approach Hip Hop culturally, which leads us to approach it spiritually. Then when we get to Hip Hop spiritually, we start to discover all kinds of things about our culture that points to not only our own divinity, but also what the universe may have in store for Hip Hop.
CJ: I grew up listening to Boogie Down Productions and KRS-One. You are defiantly a major influence on my love for hip hop music. Any new music coming from you that we can be on the look out for?
KO: Me and Buckshot have a new album coming out. Coming out in September called Survivor Skills. Big up to K’Naan, who threw down on it. Mary J. gave us a chorus, big up to Mary. It goes on and on. Excellent album, I had a great time working with Buckshot.. I’ve been doing my MC thing. A lot of little projects, I like to spread my voice around.
CJ: What new Hip Hop artist would you like to pass your torch to?
KO: I’d pass it to Soulja Boy. (CJ: Why, Soulja Boy?) Because he needs it.. Most people think when you pass the torch, you pass it to those who are worthy. Wrong. You pass the torch to the ones who need it. A torch can either be used as a beacon of light or as a weapon. [Soulja Boy] needs that balance. The torch is heat. He’s got a little too much ice around the neck, don’t cha think? Let’s bring a little heat back. The torch represents knowledge.
Concert Junkie: You have worked with so many people. As far as the new artists coming up, who are some that you would love to work with or are working with now?
Swizz Beats: I’m working with the Drakes, I’m working with that next generation of Hip Hop, of course. You know, I like to work with anybody who wants to elevate the music to the next level. I’m with inspiring all greatness with music.
CJ: What to records influenced you the most out of all music?
SB: I can’t do that. I listen to way too much music, but I would say Fela Kuti and KRS-One, because the range is that deep.
CJ: How did Michael Jackson influence your career?
SB: Oh man! On a dance level, on a production level, on a sound level, and as my personal friend as well, on a friendship level, and on a father level. He was a great father and I witnessed that. He inspired me to be even a better father to my kids. Rest in Peace to Michael.
Dana Bingham for JohnSimonDaily.com
Images by Christian Fernandez