If you ever wondered where the ‘Flash’ in Steve ‘Flash’ Juon comes from, this review is your answer. The most important record in my life, the one from which everything flows, is “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel.” Before I even knew that rap was a genre of music or hip-hop was a culture comprised of many artistic elements, I was gifted a tape called “Breakin'” and Flash’s track was song one on side A. I must have rewound the tape a thousand times mesmerized by the mix of different sounds, Flash’s turntable tricks, and the weird unidentifiable snippets of speech like the whole “what happened in between” discussion. I didn’t know what it was but I knew it was unlike anything I had ever heard before.
“You say one for the trouble, two for the time.” It still puts a smile on my face even now. I aspired to take a turntable and create the same sounds that Flash did, but I never came anywhere close at any point in my life. It wasn’t just a lack of proper turntables and mixing board that hindered my attempts. Let’s be honest — it was a severe lack of talent. There’s an old saying that goes something like “Those who can do and those who can’t teach.” My version would be “Those who can do and those who can’t spend the rest of their lives writing about it somewhere.” There you have it. “Flash” reflected my aspirations to be like my idol, and instead of letting that failure be an albatross around my neck, it became my pen name for writing about hip-hop. It’s hard to say it didn’t turn out exactly the way it should have.
I’m not sure the same can be said of “Ba-Dop-Boom-Bang.” Even though Flash is a hip-hop pioneer and musical legend who deserves to be in every Hall of Fame there is, this album would not be joining him there. The sound of this album was out of date in 1987, and 35 years have not improved the beats or the rhymes one bit. The latter is not his fault of course. Flash is a producer and a turntablist, not the emcee that cold rocks the party. The blame for the corny bars on songs like “All Wrapped Up” falls largely on the same friends Flash had dating back to the Furious Five days — Kidd Creole and Rahiem. They are joined by Mr. Broadway and La Von, but notably not by Cowboy or Melle Mel, the only men who could have saved this mess.
“Big Black Caddy” might be the least subtle euphemism for a penis in the history of rap music. The unnamed female protagonist isn’t even trying to hide it when she says “You can park your Cadillac in my greasy garage.” Okay I stand corrected — that’s even less subtle. If it was a little more over the top it might actually be funny as a parody rap, but the boring and simplistic drum track would still be the same. That simplistic sound reigns supreme throughout the whole record. “U Know What Time It Is” is completely out of step for the time it’s from. Flash attempts to save it with a scratch here and there but he even when he’s praised as “a double edged razor – the boy is nice” nothing he does seems fresh by ’87 standards.
The fact the cover of this album looks like the silhouette of a guitar and not a turntable says it all. Still the only hope this album has is found on the instrumentals “Ain’t We Funkin’ Now” and its “reprise” simply by virtue of the lack of rapping. It’s still not Flash showing off the best he was capable of on the ones and twos though. If I said it felt like he was phoning it in this entire album I’d defy him or anyone involved to prove me wrong. The whole thing seems conceived as a way to fulfill a contractual obligation to Elektra as opposed to an album you’d drop singles from or go on tour with.
In fact I honestly don’t believe any singles were released from it. A quick glance at Flash’s discography of 12″ records jumps right over this album from 1984 to ’88 with no stops in between. Frankly I’m glad because there are some things here that should have never surfaced again, including a “fag in drag” bar that was cringe worthy even in ’87. No one involved in this album should be proud of what they did, no song on here merits more than a second glance, and my idol and namesake completely let me down. A lot of people have assumed the moniker came from the other Flash and for “Ba-Dop-Boom-Bang” I’ll assume the same. I don’t want to be associated with Grandmaster Flash on this one and I’m willing to bet he doesn’t either.