The Message (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five song)

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"The Message"
Side A of the US 12-inch single
Single by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
from the album The Message
B-side"The Message" (instrumental)
ReleasedJuly 1, 1982
StudioSweet Mountain (Englewood, New Jersey)
LabelSugar Hill
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five singles chronology
"The Message"
"New York New York"
Music video
"The Message" on YouTube

"The Message" is a song by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. It was released as a single by Sugar Hill Records on July 1, 1982, and was later featured on the group's debut studio album of the same name.

"The Message" was an early prominent hip hop song to provide social commentary. The song's lyrics describe the stress of inner-city poverty. In the final verses a child born in the ghetto without prospects in life is lured away into a life of crime, for which he is jailed until he commits suicide in his cell.[3] The song ends with a brief skit in which the band members are arrested by white cops for no clear reason.[4]

"The Message" took rap music from the house parties of its origin to the social platforms later developed by groups like Public Enemy and KRS-One.[5] Melle Mel said in an interview with NPR: "Our group, like Flash and the Furious Five, we didn't actually want to do 'The Message' because we was used to doing party raps and boasting how good we are and all that."[6]

The song was first written in 1980 by Duke Bootee and Melle Mel, in response to the 1980 New York City transit strike, which is mentioned in the song's lyrics.[4] Melle Mel's verse, starting with the line "A child is born with no state of mind, blind to the ways of mankind" was taken from the early Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five track "Superrappin'" from 1979 on the Enjoy label.


Accolades and usage in media[edit]

The song was ranked as number 1 "Track of the Year" for 1982 by NME.[7]

Rolling Stone ranked "The Message" #51 in its List of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, (9 December 2004). It had the highest position for any 1980s release and was the highest ranking hip-hop song on the list. In 2012 it was named the greatest hip-hop song of all time.[8]

It was voted #3 on's Top 100 Rap Songs, after Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R." and The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight".[9]

In 2002, its first year of archival, it was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry,[10] the first hip hop recording ever to receive this honor.

"The Message" was number 5 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop.

"The Message" is number 1 on HipHopGoldenAge's Top 100 Hip Hop Songs of the 1980s".[11]

It was featured as in-game radio music for the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City[12] and on the video game Fuser.

"The Message" is described as "an instantly recognizable urban manifesto" by urban planning website Planetizen which included Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in their ranking of "100 Most Influential Urbanists, Past and Present".[13]

Music and structure[edit]

Dan Carins of The Sunday Times has described "The Message"'s musical innovation: "Where it was inarguably innovative, was in slowing the beat right down, and opening up space in the instrumentation—the music isn't so much hip-hop as noirish, nightmarish slow-funk, stifling and claustrophobic, with electro, dub and disco also jostling for room in the genre mix—and thereby letting the lyrics speak loud and clear". Not only does the song utilize an ingenious mix of musical genres to great effect, but it also allows the slow and pulsating beat to take a backseat to the stark and haunting lyrical content.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

In addition to being widely regarded as an all-time rap anthem, "The Message" has been credited by many critics as the song that catapulted emcees from the background to the forefront of hip hop. The focus was thus shifted from the grandmaster mixing and scratching to the thoughts and lyrics of the emcee. David Hickley wrote in 2004 that "The Message" also crystallized a critical shift within rap itself. It confirmed that emcees, or rappers, had vaulted past the deejays as the stars of the music".[15] In 2022, it was included in the list "The story of NME in 70 (mostly) seminal songs", at number 20: Mark Beaumont wrote that with this song, "the invigorating grooves of this early breakout rap hit laid the foundations for the [...] hip-hop wars to come".[16]


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1982–83) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[17] 21
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[18] 9
Dutch Singles Chart[19] 10
France (IFOP)[20] 87
New Zealand Singles Chart[21] 2
Swiss Singles Chart[22] 11
UK Singles Chart[23] 8
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[24] 62
U.S. Billboard Hot Black Singles[25] 4
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play[26] 12

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1983) Position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[17] 85

Uses in popular culture[edit]

The rhythm track has been sampled in various hip hop songs, including Sinbad's 1990 comedy song "Brain Damaged", the remix for the 1993 song "Check Yo Self" by Ice Cube,[27] the 1997 song "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" by Puff Daddy,[28] the 2011 song "Teen Pregnancy" by Blank Banshee, and the 2022 song "Players" by Coi Leray.[29]

On the DVD The Genesis Songbook, the band and producer Hugh Padgham revealed that the inspiration for Phill Collins' menacing laugh on their 1983 song Mama came from rap music pioneer Grandmaster Flash's song "The Message".

The refrain beginning with "Don't push me 'cuz I'm close to the edge" was referenced in the animated movie Happy Feet.

A line from the song was sampled in "Movement in Still Life" by BT, the title track from his 1999 album Movement in Still Life.[30]

In 2007, the 25th anniversary of "The Message", Melle Mel changed the spelling of his first name to Mele Mel and released "M3 - The New Message" as the first single to his first ever solo album, Muscles. 2007 was also the year that Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip-hop act ever to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[31]

A Swedish translation/adaptation of the song, "Budskapet", was released by Timbuktu in May 2013, following the riots in Husby and other suburbs of Stockholm.[32][33][34]

A reference to the lyrics was included in the song Cabinet Battle #1 from the 2015 musical Hamilton.[35]



  1. ^ "Electro Music Genre Overview - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  2. ^ Parker, Evelyn L. (2003). Trouble Don't Last Always: Emancipatory Hope Among African American Adolescents. Pilgrim Press. ISBN 9780829821031.
  3. ^ "50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  4. ^ a b Kreps, Daniel (2021-01-15). "Duke Bootee, Rapper and Co-Writer of Hip-Hop Classic 'The Message,' Dead at 69". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  5. ^ "Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five - The Message (Vinyl) at Discogs". July 1982. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
  6. ^ Gross, Terry. "The History of Hip-Hop". NPR.
  7. ^ "Albums and Tracks of the Year". NME. 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  8. ^ "The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time". 5 December 2012. Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  9. ^ "100 Greatest Rap Songs: 100-91". Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  10. ^ "The National Recording Registry 2002". 2011-05-13. Archived from the original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
  11. ^ "Top 100 Hip Hop Songs Of The 1980s". Retrieved 2019-05-15.
  12. ^ Adler, Matthew; Harvey, Angie; Tammaro, Richard. "Radio Stations and Songs - GTA: Vice City Guide". IGN. Retrieved 2023-09-13.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Cairns, Dan. "1982: Grandmaster Flash: The Message." Sunday Times: 25. Proquest Newsstand. 28 Sep 2008. Web. 1 Apr 2012.
  15. ^ Hinckley, David. "Message from the Bronx the History of Rap in the City." New York Daily News: 67. Proquest Newsstand. 07 Dec 2004. Web. 01 Apr 2012.
  16. ^ Beaumont, Mark (7 March 2022). "The Story of NME in 70 (mostly) Seminal Songs". NME. Archived from the original on 7 March 2022. Retrieved 7 March 2022.
  17. ^ a b "Kent Music Report – National Top 100 Singles for 1983". Kent Music Report. Retrieved 22 January 2023 – via
  18. ^ "Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five feat. Melle Mel & Duke Bootee – The Message" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  19. ^ "The Message (Netherlands)". MegaCharts. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  20. ^ "Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five dans les classements français". Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  21. ^ "The Message (New Zealand)". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  22. ^ "The Message (Switzerland)". Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  23. ^ "Official Charts - Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five". Retrieved 2016-04-07.
  24. ^ "Grandmaster Flash - Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-11-30.
  25. ^ "Grandmaster Flash - Hot Black Singles". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-11-30.
  26. ^ "Grandmaster Flash - Hot Dance Club Play". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-11-30.
  27. ^ Serrano, Shea (October 10, 2015). "Why Puff Daddy's 'Can't Nobody Hold Me Down' Was the Most Important Rap Song of 1997". The Muse. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
  28. ^ Wood, Mikael (October 5, 2010). "'You ever seen history?': Puff Daddy brings Bad Boy — and some famous friends — to the Forum". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
  29. ^ Ojii, Jada (November 30, 2022). "Coi Leray Shares Grandmaster Flash-Sampled "Players" Single". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved November 30, 2022.
  30. ^ Movement in Still Life (Liner Notes). BT. Pioneer Recordings. 1999.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  31. ^ "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum - Inductee List". Archived from the original on 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
  32. ^ "Timbuktu - Budskapet". YouTube. 2013-05-25. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  33. ^ "Budskapet | Timbuktu - Officiell hemsida". Archived from the original on 2013-06-08. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  34. ^ "Timbuktu rappar om Husby - HD". 2013-05-26. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  35. ^ "Aha-ha-ha ha!".
  36. ^ "Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message '95 (Die Fantastischen Vier Remix) (CD)". 1995. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  37. ^ ""The Message" - 1997 remix". 1997. Retrieved 2012-04-09.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]