Grand Wizard Theodore Biography

One of early hip-hop's most skilled DJs, Grand Wizard Theodore is universally acknowledged as the inventor of the scratch. Grandmaster Flash pioneered many early turntable techniques, including "cutting" records (manually cueing up duplicate copies of the same record in order to play the same passage, cutting back and forth between them), but it was the young Theodore who built on Flash's work by taking the scratching sound made when the records were cued, and adding a rhythm that made the turntable into a percussion instrument the DJ could "play." Theodore is also credited with pioneering the needle drop, a technique where, instead of cueing up the record silently, the DJ simply drops the needle onto the exact start of the passage to be played. Grand Wizard Theodore was born Theodore Livingstone and grew up in the Bronx. His older brothers Gene and Claudio were an early hip-hop duo called the L-Brothers, and they frequently collaborated with Grandmaster Flash. Flash discovered that young Theodore (not even a teenager yet) had a natural affinity for the turntables, and when Flash spun records in public parks, he would sometimes set up a milk crate to let Theodore DJ. According to legend, Theodore invented scratching largely by accident, circa 1977 (when he was about 13 or 14); holed up in his bedroom playing records, Theodore had to pause to hear his mother scold him about the volume, and happened to move one of the records back and forth. He liked the sound and played with it often, developing the technique until it was ready for public performance. Flash picked up on it quickly, and Theodore in turn began copying Flash's acrobatic record-spinning tricks (using his elbows, feet, etc.). By the time the '80s rolled around, Grand Wizard Theodore was one of the top DJs in New York. He hooked up with a crew that was most often billed as Grand Wizard Theodore and the Fantastic 5 MCs, which released the cult classic single "Can I Get a Soul Clap" in 1980 on the Tuff City label. The group never recorded a proper album, but they did appear in the 1983 old school hip-hop film Wild Style (which later became a cult classic); they recorded several songs on the soundtrack and appeared in an MC battle sequence with their chief rivals the Cold Crush Brothers. While Grand Wizard Theodore never received the same wide acclaim as Grandmaster Flash during his career, he was eventually rediscovered by hip-hop historians, which helped him land some international DJ gigs in the '90s. He also appeared at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 1999 hip-hop conference, and teaches advanced classes in the art of DJing. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi


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