Grandmaster Flash is considered one of Hip Hop’s earliest pioneers due largely to his groundbreaking mixing skills. With the “Furious Five” behind him, the legendary turntable master helped set the landscape for what the culture is today, and now he’s being honored for it.
On Thursday (June 1), the DJ (real name Joseph Saddler) served as the speaker for Lehman College’s 2023 Spring Commencement Ceremony alongside former New York State Rep. José Rivera. The two were also bestowed with honorary degrees.
Rivera took home a doctoral degree in Humane Letters, whereas Grandmaster Flash received his honorary doctorate in Music.
While Rivera offered a rousing speech about resilience, it was Grandmaster Flash’s moving words regarding his contribution to Hip Hop’s early roots — in conjunction with the genre celebrating its 50th anniversary this year — that really struck a chord.
He also credited the Bronx for making him who he is today. “We from the Bronx — we are starters, we are finishers, we are very, very important,” he said.
The DJ continued: “And I must tell you, young people, as you go out into the world, you will probably do what I did… [and] [make] mistakes. I cannot tell you how many mistakes I made before the technique finally came into fruition. I say to young people, as you leave here, you will scrape your knees, [that’s] guaranteed, but we Bronx people, we go hard.”
He added: “With today’s technology — computers, studios, engineers, social media, [and the] internet — you guys got a headstart on being the next geniuses. You have an incredible head start.”
“I can remember while touring, trying to tell the world, ‘the Bronx matters,'” he said. “This thing came from the Bronx. This thing is called Hip Hop. So I stand in front of you guys and women, [and say] you are the next geniuses. It’s up to you guys now. You are the future.”
Grandmaster Flash also noted that despite all the musical accolades he’d been awarded — including everything from Grammys to his entry into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame — this degree was the “most important” to him because he received it in his hometown.
Last May, he was also awarded another honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from Buffalo State College.