Did you know: Grandmaster Flash had nothing to do with "The Message"

Nah Son
Nah Son Guests, Members, Writer, Content Producer Posts: 9,367 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited February 2015 in The Reason
(As I mentioned in another thread I'm writing a book on hip hop and doing a lot of research about the history of the movement. I thought I'd share some of the topics I'm reading and writing about like the last one about Grandmaster Caz and Rappers Delight. I might make a lil series out of this)

I remember as a child I was thinking Grandmaster Flash was the dude rapping with Melle Mel on this joint. And after I realized he didnt rap I always thought he mustve produced the beat but that wasnt the case neither.

The song was written and composed by a producer workin at Sugar Hill Records and when he brought it to the label, they just added Melle Mel and slapped the name Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five on the single because they were very big at the time.

Jiggs Chase, co-producer:
One night, I was over at [rapper] Ed Fletcher's house and I said: "We need to write something." He was lying on the couch smoking a joint with one leg over the edge, and he said: "Don't push me, 'cos I'm close to the edge, I'm trying not to lose my head." And I said: "Oh my goodness – whoa!" We knew he'd just come up with the hook for a song.

I knew we had something. I knew it would make some noise. But I didn't know it would be quite so big. Ed was talking about what was happening out there. Rap was music for boasting and bragging, but he took it in another direction. He took a chance – and it broke the mould. The Message got hip-hop taken seriously. There were always lots of rap groups, but they couldn't get record deals. The Message also helped hip-hop get a white audience. In Europe, we had more of a white audience than a black one.

The song went up the charts and, since then, the cheques have gotten bigger, because people keep using it. It was used in Happy Feet, P Diddy used it, and Ice Cube. I'm still getting paid.

Ed Fletcher (AKA Duke ? ), the dude who wrote the lyrics, made the beat and rapped two of the five verses:
The neighbourhood I was living in, the things I saw – it was like a jungle sometimes in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Even though we lived in a nice area, I'd sit in the living room and watch things happening across the street in the park. The lyrics were sort of cinematic: I tried to hold a message up to society.

Musically and lyrically, I wanted to do something different. A lot of thought went into it. I used to call it trance music – the melody has an asymmetric structure, but the bassline stays the same throughout. Usually, a song has one hook and verses, but "Don't push me, 'cos I'm close to the edge" is one hook and "It's like a jungle sometimes" is another. At the time, I was listening to Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, so I used a lot of electronic effects and percussion sounds.

The first inkling I had that it would be big was when we did the mix. Sylvia was into numerology, and The Message ran to seven minutes and 11 seconds, which she thought was lucky for some reason. "I have a feeling about this," she said. That night, she took it to Frankie Crocker, the main radio DJ in New York, and the next day it was on the air. Eleven days later, it went gold. Rolling Stone named it the No 1 hip-hop record of all time. I've always thought: "? , if I'd known what it was going to do, I'd have kept it for myself."

Sylvia Robinson, owner of Sugar Hill Records:
“My cousin brought this group to me and they was called Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and I thought, wow, what a fantastic name. So all the records went out under that name, but Flash actually had no input on anything, and I mean anything, that I recorded. He was a great DJ but that's all, you know.”

“After we had recorded Flash's album I said to Flash, 'I have a tune here that would make you bigger than anything.' I played it to him and we recited the raps to him. Thing is, after that he kept calling me aside and he would say, 'Mrs Rob', what would our fans think if we did a song like that? We do party songs.' He didn't even want to put it on the album. So I said to Melle Mel, I says, 'Well Mel, what do you think about it?' and he said, 'Well Mrs Rob', if you believe in it, I believe in you.'”

And finally, Grandmaster Flash himself:
"I hated the fact that it was advertised as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, because the only people on the record were Mel and Duke ? ." But the song, driven by its signature future-shock synth riff and grim lyrics about urban decay, became an instant sensation on New York's hip-hop radio. "It played all day, every day," Flash said. "It put us on a whole new level."

Short documentary where Flash, Mel and the producers talk about the record (starting at 3:05)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uhwem6DTbao

Official videoclip:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4o8TeqKhgY

Must be a really weird situation for Flash. His name is connected to one of the most famous rap songs ever but he didnt have anything to do with it. Same for the other dude, he wrote the song and even raps on it yet most people dont know who he is.

Flash doesnt get paid from it neither. Sugar Hill Records was shady with the contracts and royalties which is why six months after the release of the song Flash and the Furious Five broke up.

The "Rolling Stone" named "The Message" the best hip hop song ever and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were the first hip hop group to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Comments

  • lethal5
    lethal5 Members Posts: 1,889 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Flash was more known for the live element of their shows, but they used session players in their recordings/albums.
  • 5 Grand
    5 Grand Members Posts: 12,869 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Here's some more trivia about The Message. Melle Mel used that same verse on a song they recorded in 1979. It's called Superrappin and was one of the groups first recordings (their first recording is called We Rap More Mellow under the name The Younger Generation) Melle Mel kicks the A Child Is Born verse @ 9:55

    Superrappin - Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5
    https://youtube.com/watch?v=7L_YHWQMFu4

    But yeah if you listen to the tapes of the shows Grandmaster Flash was an incredible DJ and the concept of mixing records and rapping over them was a novel idea, but I can see why Sylvia Robinson had session musicians play the music instead of having the MCs rapping over a DJ. When it's all said and done the session musicians are what made it possible to present Hip Hop to the masses of people.
  • SneakDZA
    SneakDZA Members Posts: 11,223 ✭✭✭✭✭
    grandmaster flash really is a way better name than duke ? though.
  • 5 Grand
    5 Grand Members Posts: 12,869 ✭✭✭✭✭
    SneakDZA wrote: »
    grandmaster flash really is a way better name than duke ? though.

    Yeah, I remember thinking that was a terrible name when I was a kid.

    However, he had a solo LP and produced some classics.
  • 5 Grand
    5 Grand Members Posts: 12,869 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Here's a song Duke ? produced after The Message. Its the first single from his solo album


    Live Wire - Duke ?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZgjnHnFSBw
  • whoseworldisthis
    whoseworldisthis Members Posts: 1,010 ✭✭✭✭✭
    dope thread... kickin' some hiphop knowledge

    I always assumed Flash was involved in the production somehow because he was always doing little music interludes on their later albums (kid named Flash... k-k-k-k-k-k kid named Flash)

    I did know that Sugarhill ganked pretty well everyone associated with them out of their money...

    Sylvia Robinson was probably Baby and Diddy's mom... LOL
  • Lou Cypher
    Lou Cypher Members Posts: 52,521 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Awesome thing to learn.
  • 5 Grand
    5 Grand Members Posts: 12,869 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Here's another song Duke ? produced called Coast to Coast by Word of Mouth. I used to ? this song when I was younger. It came out around 1986 during the Run DMC era.


    Coast to Coast - Word of Mouth
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEaVPiv7jjY
  • whoseworldisthis
    whoseworldisthis Members Posts: 1,010 ✭✭✭✭✭
    nice... DMC champ DJ Cheese was a part of that record too if memory serves
  • 5 Grand
    5 Grand Members Posts: 12,869 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Jay Z Inducting Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame 2007

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-lYDn6XAVs


    Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 accept and perform at the Rock N Roll Hall of fame 2007

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tuPWXPd4nI
  • DarthRozay
    DarthRozay Members Posts: 20,570 ✭✭✭✭✭
    yo that's crazy. i've been bumpin a song with a melle mel verse on it for years and I aint een know it
  • water ur seeds
    water ur seeds Members Posts: 17,667 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2015
    @NahSon

    Dope threads brother keep them up, make sure you let us know when the books dropping... I wish we had more threads like these...

    Did Flash and F5 get any royalties (or should they have) as they still used their name for the song??? I wonder if Mel got paid they way he should have to...
  • water ur seeds
    water ur seeds Members Posts: 17,667 ✭✭✭✭✭
    This made me laugh Brain Eno's - 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' sound like a Cash Money tell all book haha
  • Nah Son
    Nah Son Guests, Members, Writer, Content Producer Posts: 9,367 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2015
    @NahSon

    Dope threads brother keep them up, make sure you let us know when the books dropping... I wish we had more threads like these...

    Did Flash and F5 get any royalties (or should they have) as they still used their name for the song??? I wonder if Mel got paid they way he should have to...

    Thanks fam I appreciate that

    I think the only one that got any royalties was Mel because he actually performed on the song. Read somewhere that the rest did get close to nothing from the label and only got paid for their live performances. Apparently on some nights they got paid in ? back then
  • water ur seeds
    water ur seeds Members Posts: 17,667 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Nah Son wrote: »
    @NahSon

    Dope threads brother keep them up, make sure you let us know when the books dropping... I wish we had more threads like these...

    Did Flash and F5 get any royalties (or should they have) as they still used their name for the song??? I wonder if Mel got paid they way he should have to...

    Thanks fam I appreciate that

    I think the only one that got any royalties was Mel because he actually performed on the song. Read somewhere that the rest did get close to nothing from the label and only got paid for their live performances. Apparently on some nights they got paid in ? back then

    Yeah its abit disappointing that the label robbed them, seems hip hop labels been taking the ? from day one...
  • SneakDZA
    SneakDZA Members Posts: 11,223 ✭✭✭✭✭
    5 Grand wrote: »
    Here's a song Duke ? produced after The Message. Its the first single from his solo album


    Live Wire - Duke ?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZgjnHnFSBw

    A guy named Duke ? and his first single was called Bust Me Out?

    I wonder why he never blew up.