The Message (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five song)

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"The Message"
Single by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five featuring Melle Mel and Duke Bootee
from the album The Message
B-side "The Message" (instrumental)
Released July 1, 1982
Recorded 1981
Length 7:10
Label Sugar Hill
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five chronology
"The Message"
"New York, New York"

"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 first studio album, The Message. "The Message" was the first prominent hip hop song to provide a lyrical social commentary. It took rap music from the house parties to the social platforms later developed by groups like Public Enemy, N.W.A, and Rage Against the Machine.[1] 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."[2]

The song was written and performed by Sugar Hill session musician Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher and Furious Five MC Melle Mel.[3][unreliable source?]

Uses in popular culture[edit]

The chorus verse was sampled in Sinbad's "Brain Damaged" for his 1990 comedy album of the same name.

"The Message" was included as in-game radio music for the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and the 2006 video game Scarface: The World Is Yours, an adaption of the 1983 film. It was also featured on DJ Hero 2.The signature synthesizer melody was also sampled and featured in multiple episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. For the MTV-produced compilation album Lit Riffs: The Soundtrack in 2004, the band Katsu supplied a stripped-down cover version of "The Message". The second and last verses of the song are sung by Mushroomhead in the song "Born of Desire" off their XX album. American singer-songwriter Willy Mason also covered this song for BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge on February 25, 2005. Canadian band Crystal Castles sampled parts of this song for their track titled "Magic Spells".

Genesis drummer and lead singer Phil Collins, along with Grammy Award winning producer Hugh Padgham, described in the 2001 release The Genesis Songbook how "The Message" helped shape the hook of the band's 1983 hit single "Mama". Padgham said that "At the time The Message was one of my favorite records". Collins thought "The laugh thing" was "Fantastic...what a great sound" and he experimented with it and incorporated it into the song. During live shows, his version, usually using their signature Vari-Lite technology, became a highlight of the performance. Collins quipped that "Rap has influenced Genesis".

In the 2006 computer animated film Happy Feet, Seymour raps the chorus line from this song to impress Miss Viola and other penguin students.

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 is 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.[4]

In 2010, Melle Mel and Scorpio appeared in an Australian commercial for the Kia Sportage in which they perform "The Message".

On November 30, 2011, Melle Mel, Scorpio, and Grandmaster Flash joined Common, Lupe Fiasco, and LL Cool J as they performed a tribute of this song at the 54th Grammy nominations.

A Swedish translation/adaption of the song, "Budskapet", was released by Timbuktu in May 2013, following the riots in Husby and other suburbs of Stockholm.[5][6][7]


Accolades and usage in media[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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".[8]

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,[9] the first hip hop recording ever to receive this honor.

"The Message" was number 5 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop. ranked "The Message" #1 on Top 10 Decade Defining Rap Songs of the 1980s,[10][11] and #1 on Top 10 Ultimate Decade Defining Rap Songs.[12][13]

It was used in a British Government commissioned public information film on road safety.[14]

The song has been used in adverts for clothing company Lacoste.

Music and structure[edit]

"The Message" has been reused and re-sampled in so many different ways that it would be easy to reduce its legacy to cliché. Music critic Dan Carins described it in a 2008 edition of The Sunday Times: "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.[15]

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. Thus, shifting the focus from the mixing and scratching of the grandmaster as the star, to the thoughts and lyrics of the emcee playing the star role. 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".[16]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1982–83) Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[17] 9
Dutch Singles Chart[18] 10
New Zealand Singles Chart[19] 2
Swiss Singles Chart[20] 11
UK Singles Chart[21] 8
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 62
U.S. Billboard Hot Black Singles 4
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 12




  1. ^ "Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five - The Message (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  2. ^ Gross, Terry "The History of Hip-Hop.[1]"
  3. ^ "Old School Feature – "The Message": A Classic That Almost Never Was". 2010-06-03. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  4. ^ "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum - Inductee List". Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  5. ^ Budskapet - Timbuktu, YouTube.
  6. ^ Budskapet, blog post by Timbuktu.
  7. ^ Timbuktu rappar om Husby, Helsingborgs Dagblad, May 26, 2013.
  8. ^ Top 100 Rap Songs.
  9. ^ "The National Recording Registry 2002". 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  10. ^ Top 10 Decade Defining Rap Songs of the 1980s
  11. ^ Top 10 Decade Defining Rap Songs of the 1980s
  12. ^ Top 10 Ultimate Decade Defining Rap Songs
  13. ^ Top 10 Ultimate Decade Defining Rap Songs
  14. ^ "Green Cross Code - Close To The Edge". 
  15. ^ Cairns, Dan. "1982: Grandmaster Flash: The Message." Sunday Times: 25. Proquest Newsstand. 28 Sep 2008. Web. 1 Apr 2012.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ " – Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five feat. Melle Mel & Duke Bootee – The Message" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  18. ^ "The Message (Netherlands)". MegaCharts. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  19. ^ "The Message (New Zealand)". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  20. ^ "The Message (Switzerland)". Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  21. ^ "Chart Stats - Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five". Archived from the original on 2013-01-02. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  22. ^ Richardson, Mark. "Editor in Chief". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 4, 2005. 
  23. ^ "The Message '95" (Die Fantastischen Vier Remix)
  24. ^ ""The Message" - 1997 remix". Retrieved 2012-04-09. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]