“What If” – Review Of Grandmaster Flash’s The Bridge

03.13.09 9 years ago 16 Comments

Hip-Hop started out in the park… and Grandmaster Flash has pretty been there since the beginning. Playing a big part in the creation of deejaying as we know it, his contributions to Hip-Hop as a culture are undeniable. Few people with his perspective still remain a prominent figure in an art form that cannibalizes their old. So if anyone was qualified to break Hip-Hop down to it’s lowest denominator, Flash would be on the short list. On his latest LP, The Bridge (Concept Of A Culture), he takes a stab at doing just that. Sadly, much like the culture itself, a lack of direction has this compilation adding nothing new to the discussion. Flash assembled a motley crew of legends and upstarts together which all but guaranteed a choppy showcase before the play button is pushed.

Things start off well enough as Q-Tip puts forth a valiant showing on “Shine All Day,” where he spits a thinly veiled ode to Hip-Hop. Jumz and Kel Spencer keeps the concept moving along just fine, but lines like “Hey Flash, I think she likes me/I wouldn’t mind making her my wifey/maybe take her out to sight-see/South Bronx where the streets are ivory/remind her where she came from…” are competent to say the least, but done in a fashion akin to Copperfield revealing his tricks. Along with emceeing, deejaying (“Here Comes My DJ”) and breakdancing (“Tribute To The Breakdancer”) are acknowledged; however graffiti artists are noticeably left out. Perhaps Flash doesn’t like them too much, but it’s hard to imagine it not being mentioned at all when the culture as a whole is being looked at. “We Speak Hip-Hop” is an aural train wreck as rappers from Sweden, France, Spain, Japan, and America all hop on a track together, spitting in their native tongues. Hip-Hop is definitely an international art form, but a couple of omissions would’ve spread the universal message all the same.

KRS-One pops up on “What If” as he takes a second to ponder a world without Hip-Hop. He curiously states that Country would be our generation’s mode of expression, despite the fact that both Disco and R&B were what was in place before Hip-Hop. Ultimately, the continuous name drops will have you wishing The Game did this song. On “Grown & Sexy,” in what could pass for “Lights, Camera, Action Pt. 2,” Mr. Cheeks ends up sounding like the creepy old man trying to holler at the girl half his age in the club, while turning in a song that should’ve stayed a catchphrase. The same thing can be said for Red Café and Snoop Dogg’s “Swagger,” at this point the word has become so clichéd that no amount of radio friendliness can make this a palatable listening experience. However, both songs are great examples of how Hip-Hop is susceptible to monotony when these catchphrases become confused for movements (as well as dress codes for the club.)

The biggest problem with this album is that Grandmaster Flash pretty much lets everyone do whatever they want. Although in reality, he doesn’t have a say in the matter since his main function is a DJ. Unless someone needs cuts on a song, he can only offer his insight. So what we get are a lot of tracks that feature no name rappers and bargain bin beats which provides no continuity.

Listening becomes a chore and stumbling upon consecutive enjoyable songs is harder than finding a needle in the haystack. So even when a decent song pops up (i.e. “When I Get There”), the ensuing tracks will have give you instant amnesia. Grandmaster Flash may have some grand concept of what Hip-Hop is as a culture and musical art form, but based on this album, it’s still a mystery to everyone but him as he failed to convey his perceptions through the music.

Previously Posted – The Flash Is Back…

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