Grandmaster Flash The Bridge - Concept Of A Culture Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Hardcore hip-hop fans owe it to themselves to at least hear this record once.

Lou Thomas 2009

Grandmaster Flash is usually most often associated with rap classics White Lines and The Message, but the man born as Joseph Saddler had little to do with their writing or recording.

Instead, it is the hip-hop pioneers staggering turntable skills, as evinced on The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel that have cemented his place in B-Boy hearts and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Bridge: Concept Of A Culture is Flash's first new material since 1988 and as the title suggests is an attempt by the DJ and producer to bridge the many genres, cultures and eras hip-hop has borrowed from, influenced and been a part of.

If this sounds like an extremely exciting and worthy idea, the execution is slightly underwhelming, if undeniably bolstered by some of the genre's A-list stars.

Snoop Dogg turns up to spit some smart and typically mischievous rhymes on the sultry Swagger, Busta Rhymes gets dirty and manic with his trademark hyperspeed flow on Bounce Back and A Tribe Called Quest and solo hero Q-Tip retains his effortless cool on the relaxed and sunny Shine All Day.

Elsewhere, the mark is missed in some curiously old-fashioned ways. What If?, featuring the estimable talents of KRS-One, imagines a world without hip-hop and claims ''It's not about salary it's all about reality''. As with rock musicians, surely it's naïve to say that all rappers are in it for the love? Album closer Oh Man, meanwhile, is more 90s sounding than 2 Unlimited.

Flash's ignorance of rap's more recent developments is perhaps the worst thing about The Bridge. It is unquestionably a decent album and is brilliant in parts, particularly in its ambitious use of Senegalese, Japanese, Spanish and Swedish MCs on We Speak Hip Hop. Yet the acknowledgement of new skills from the likes of Cool Kids, Outkast or even Timbaland is sorely missed.

Hardcore hip-hop fans owe it to themselves to at least hear this record once, but those in need a more progressive mix of rap collaborators and sounds should seek NASA’s recent The Spirit Of Apollo instead.

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