the life of inner city African Americans living in ghettos across the nation. Before I dive into the how the song sparked an evolution in rap music, I want to provide a little background info on who Grandmaster Flash and his crew was. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were a hip hop group that originated in South Bronx, New York City in 1976. The group was made up of one DJ (Grandmaster Flash) and five rappers (Melle Mel, The Kidd Creole, Keith Cowboy, Mr. Ness/Scorpio, and Rahiem). Before they started professionally producing songs, they built their reputation and achieved local success by performing at parties and live shows during the mid-1970s. The group eventually signed with Sugar Hills Records after dropping their previous two labels (Enjoy! & Elektra). The Message (the song and their first album under Sugar Hill Records) were their first big mainstream successes. Although the group would eventually have a falling out, they would later be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, making them the first ever hip hop group to be inducted. The Message was produced by Clifton “Jiggs” Chase and Ed “Duke” Fletcher. The executive producer of the label, Sylvia Robinson, added Melle Mel’s rhymes from their previous song “Superrapin” (1979) to complete this work of art. This song was credited for introducing the harsh light of reality into a rap genre whose biggest concern at the moment was partying. The chorus opens up the song with some heavy lyrics saying “it’s like a jungle, sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under”, establishing a seriousness in the song that led to some verses that talked about real life experiences and struggles of living in New York City during the 80s as an African American. One could even go further and say that this song depicts life for inner-city African Americans across the country. The lyrics in this song gave light to events and experiences that were actually going on in New York City at the time, but could be related to past events that happened in different places. During the 1980s, the Bronx was the poster child for urban blight and crime infested streets. The neighborhoods were suffering from urban decay, lack of resources, crime, poor education and poverty because the powers that ran the city didn’t show any concern about what was going on. With the mindset to produce a “serious song to show what was happening in society,” Chase produced a poetic instrument that taught people across the world what life was like in the 80s ghetto. They even created a fitting video for this song, so people can have visual representation of what it looked like in the Bronx during that time and how the city was decaying. At the end of the song, they gave a skit of the group getting harassed and arrested by police officers, which was another issue they had to face just for being black men in the inner-city.
Rolling Stones named this song the Greatest Hip Hop Song of All-time in 2012. The magazine also said this song was the first track to tell, with hip-hop’s rhythmic vocal force, the truth about modern inner-city life in America. This gives a sense of how influential this song was to the
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- Spring '18
- Hip hop music, Grandmaster Flash, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Melle Mel, Grandmaster Melle Mel