Saturday, May 14, 2011


What was it, '81, '82? Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message" was all over the place. It was the first rap song that was really taken seriously. Up to that point only a couple songs even came close to crossing over to a mass audience. Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks" and the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" come to mind. But "The Message" had, er, a message; social commentary if you will, about hard times in the inner city, drugs and violence. The LP that followed, containing a different version of the song, was an eye opener. In a time when just about every non-rap person on the planet thought all rap music was the same, they got downright funky, on "She's Fresh," and they got a little out there, using a vocoder for the vocals on "Scorpio." Shortly after the LP, they would split, and the follow-up single, "White Lines (Don't Do It)," though credited to Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel, didn't have Flash on it at all.

Though Grandmaster Flash will probably be remembered for "The Message," he was an innovative DJ as well, one of the first to incorporate beat juggling and punch phrasing (descriptions of which can be found on his Wikipedia entry). This clip below, from "Wild Style," is most excellent, especially in an anthropological sense. It has footage of Flash manning the turntables. Keep in mind that this was when this sort of stuff was still in its embryonic state. There's also footage of Lee Quinones, arguably the most respected, and historically significant, figure in the early graffitti art movement, in action.

Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five - The Message mp3 at Earfarm
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five - She's Fresh mp3 at Dad's Records
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five - Scorpio mp3 at Dad's Records
Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel - White Lines (Don't Do It) mp3 at Rraurl
For reference:
Kurtis Blow - The Breaks mp3 at 8106
Sugarhill Gang - Rapper's Delight mp3 at JoCortez
Later Flash:
Grandmaster Flash with Snoop Dogg & Lynn Carter - Swagger mp3 at Rap Blog
Grandmaster Flash with DJ Scratch & Ludacris - Bounce Back mp3 at Rap Blog
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five - The Message at YouTube
Grandmaster Flash at Wikipedia
Lee Quinones at Wikipedia

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