Meet Ardsley's Aston George Taylor, Jr.—AKA, Hot 97’s DJ Funkmaster Flex
The continued success of Funkmaster Flex, a hip-hop icon for the last quarter-century, is a study in staying on top despite an increasingly fickle cultural consciousness.
But what else, besides versatility and agility, has kept him relevant in today’s era of seemingly indecipherable online “cool”—when artless, user-generated memes unpredictably explode with likes and millenials with flaky tastes reign? Asked his advice for professionals from any field on how to achieve that modern-day impact, Flex shares an anecdote about his recent search for a landscaper. He came across one company with a Facebook page; another just had a phone number.
“I thought the site looked great, the Facebook was active, and I didn’t feel like he was going to be more expensive,” says Flex. “I just feel like I like what he was doing in comparison to a guy that just had a phone number and came to my house and showed me his booklet with pictures.” In short: Let your passion come through in the digital space.
While Flex’s passions range from his neighborhood (“I love where I live,” he says of the Rivertowns) to his kids (who go to Ardsley schools) to the classic muscle cars he collects and builds for friends like Danica Patrick (a ’67 Camaro), the music industry remains where his heart is. Asked about the current state of hip-hop, Flex offered no long, drawn-out sermon about how rap’s art and poetry has been lost in a sea of party music: He feels that hip-hop simply means different things to different people.
The genre has become more varied since he started—he’s been making a living examining and influencing it since his first job at Kiss-FM nearly 30 years ago. That doesn’t mean he’s willing to live in the past, though: “I’m not big on the cutesy dance records,” he says. “I play them, people like them in the club. My job is to look at the landscape and give you the music that matters.”
In Flex We Trust covers the other things his audience says matter: sports, tech, cars, sneakers, and girls. With that same characteristic passion, Flex recalls flipping through the Source and Vibe in years past, neatly summing up the site as his “2014 version of a magazine.” It goes to show—when it comes to keeping up with what’s “hot,” it pays to be flexible.