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Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was an American hip hop group formed in the South Bronx of New York City in 1979. Composed of Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, The Kidd Creole [not to be confused with disco recording artist Kid Creole and Coconuts frontman Kid Creole], Keith Cowboy, Mr. Ness/Scorpio and Rahiem, the group's use of turntablism, break-beat DJing, and conscious lyricism were significant in the early development of hip hop music.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five Promotional.jpg
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Background information
Also known asGrandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Emcee's, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, The Younger Generation, Grandmaster's Furious Five, Flash and the Five
OriginNew York, New York, U.S.
GenresHip hop, funk, electro
Years active1978–1982, 1987–1988
LabelsSugar Hill, Elektra
Associated actsGrandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five
Past membersGrandmaster Flash
Keith Cowboy
Melle Mel
The Kidd Creole
Mr. Ness/Scorpio

In the late 1970s, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five built their reputation—and achieved local success—by performing at parties and live shows. By 1980, the group had signed with Sugar Hill Records. Under Sugar Hill Records, the group rose to prominence in the early 1980s with their first hit "Freedom" (1980). It was not until the release of "The Message" (1982) and the album of the same name that they achieved mainstream success.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five would eventually break up into two separate groups due to differences until a brief reunion in 1987 led to the release of the original line-up's second album On the Strength. Afterward, they disbanded permanently. Today, the group's legacy continues as Grandmaster's Furious Five with only Melle Mel and Scorpio as remaining members.

The group are widely regarded as a highly influential hip hop act, as evidenced by their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. They were the first hip hop group ever to be inducted.[1]. Their biggest single and acknowledged masterpiece, "The Message" (1982) is often cited as one of the greatest hip hop songs of all time.


Formation and early years (1978–1979)Edit

Prior to the formation of the Furious Five, Grandmaster Flash worked with the "L Brothers" which consisted of "Mean Gene" Livingston, Claudio Livingston and Grand Wizzard Theodore.[2] Flash then recruited his friend Cowboy, Melle Mel and The Kidd Creole (Nathaniel Glover[3]). The trio called themselves the Three MC's who are the first emcee group as it relates to rap as we know it today. Cowboy, through his use of a "scat routine" (borrowed from a U.S. Army cadence) that the culture's early detractors used to label the music, thus the term "hip hoppers" (meant as an insult) was used by the disco set to describe the culture, later whittled down to hip hop.[4][5][6]

While using this "scat routine" at a party (at "The Black Door") for a friend who had just joined the U.S. Army, Cowboy began scat singing the words "hip/hop/hip/hop" in a way that mimicked the rhythmic cadence of the marching drill.[4][5] He then worked the "hip hop" cadence into part of his performance this evolved into the term "Hip Hop" that was later adopted by the industry.[4][5]

Melle Mel and The Kidd Creole were the first rappers to call themselves "MCs" (Masters of Ceremonies). The 3 emcees worked with Flash, who went on to bring in Mr. Ness/Scorpio (Eddie Morris) and Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams). After the formation of the Furious 5, Flash also worked with rapper Kurtis Blow doing parties in Queens. During the time Flash worked with Kurtis Blow, it was mainly due to internal disputes with the emcees, so for a short time prior to the formation of the Cold Crush Brothers in 1981, DJ Charlie Chase was the Furious 5's DJ.

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 were the number one rap group on the streets of New York City before rap music was embraced by the music industry and set the standard for all other emcee groups who came after them. The first single they released were "We Rap More Mellow" which was registered under the name "The Younger Generation". The name was decided by the producer who just thought it was a better name.[7]

They were locally popular, gaining recognition for their skillful raps and deejaying, but it was not until the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" proved that hip hop music could reach mainstream that they began recording. In 1979, they released their first single on Enjoy Records, "Superappin'". Afterwards, they switched to Sylvia Robinson's Sugar Hill Records after an agreement that they could perform over a current DJ favorite.[1][8][9]

Mainstream success and The Message (1980–1982)Edit

In 1980, the group had their Sugarhill Records debut with "Freedom", reaching #19 on the R&B chart and selling over 50,000 copies.[10] The follow-up "Birthday Party" went on to become a hit as well.[10] In 1981 Grandmaster Flash released "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel". This was a multi-deck live recording of one of Grandmaster Flash's routines featuring Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" and Chic's "Good Times". It also marked the first time that scratching & turntablism had been actually recorded on a record.

In 1982, the group released "The Message," which was produced by Clifton "Jiggs" Chase and Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher, the latter of whom wrote the song (Sylvia Robinson added Melle Mel's rhyme from an earlier song to complete the recording). It provided a political and social commentary and went on to become a driving force behind conscious hip-hop. The song peaked at #4 in the R&B chart and #62 in the pop chart, and established hip-hop's credibility in mainstream music. Other than Melle Mel, however, no members of the group (except for background vocals at the end) actually appear on the record.

Their debut album was also named The Message, and it went on to become a prominent achievement in the history of hip-hop.[1][8][9]

Breakup (1983–1986)Edit

In 1983, Grandmaster Flash, who never appeared on any of the group's studio recordings, sued Sugar Hill Records for $5 million in unpaid royalties. This resulted in the single "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" being credited to "Grandmaster & Melle Mel." The song reached #47 in Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Another lawsuit was filed over certain elements of the song being stolen from "Cavern" by Liquid Liquid, from which Sugar Hill Records would never recover.[11]

The royalties dispute split the group, and Melle Mel left, soon followed by Mr. Ness/Scorpio and Cowboy after "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" was a hit, where they formed Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five and released the album Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five in 1984. Meanwhile, Grandmaster Flash, The Kidd Creole, and Rahiem left for Elektra Records and included to the group three new members "The Lord LaVon" (Kevin L. Dukes – Phenomenal writer, Rapper and Bassist), Russell Wheeler (Rapper – "Mr. Broadway") and "Larry-Love" (Larry Parker – Dancer). They worked under the name "Grandmaster Flash" on They Said It Couldn't Be Done, The Source, and Ba-Dop-Boom-Bang. The additional members The Lord La Von, Larry Love and Mr. Broadway formed the "Furious Five" but they could not use the name as Sugar Hill Records owned the rights.

Grandmaster Flash and his new "Furious Five" had hits with their three albums, which made it to the top fifty of Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, whereas Melle Mel and his group fared better, most notably with the recording of "Beat Street Breakdown", which peaked at #8 in the R&B chart. During this period, Melle Mel gained higher success, appearing in Chaka Khan's "I Feel for You", which won the Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1985.[1][8][9]

Reunion and waning popularity (1987–1988)Edit

In 1987, the original lineup of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was reformed for a performance at a charity concert at Madison Square Garden. They soon reunited for their first studio album in nearly five years, recording On the Strength, which was released on April 1988. Reception of the album was lukewarm, and it failed to achieve the same levels of success as The Message. The group never enjoyed the same success as they did in the early 1980s and permanently broke up afterwards.[1][8][9]

Permanent disbandment and post-On the Strength (1989–present)Edit

Since disbanding, some members of the group have briefly worked together. Melle Mel, Scorpio and Cowboy released another album as Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five, Piano, in 1989. Keith "Cowboy" Wiggins died on September 8, 1989.[12]

In 1990, Grandmaster Flash produced Just-Ice's album Masterpiece. He went on to work as musical director for The Chris Rock Show, and later released The Official Adventures of Grandmaster Flash, Essential Mix: Classic Edition, and The Bridge – Concept Of A Culture. He has also received many accolades, including the DJ Vanguard Award from Bill Gates in 2004, RIAA's Lifetime Achievement Award at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 2005, and BET's I Am Hip-Hop Icon Award in 2006. His autobiography, The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats, was released in 2008.[13]

In 1985, Melle Mel met Quincy Jones at the Grammys, and they began to collaborate for Back on the Block. This led to Mel being featured in the song "Back on the Block", which won him the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1991. He would pick up an additional Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album in 2002 for his contributions in Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones. 1997 saw him sign onto Straight Game Records and releasing Right Now with Mr. Ness/Scorpio. The album also featured Rondo, for which he would form a group with him called Die Hard. They released an album entitled On Lock in 2002.[14]

On January 23, 2007, he changed his name to Grandmaster Melle Mel and released his first solo studio album, Muscles, The first single and music video was "M3 – The New Message". He has also released the children's book The Portal in the Park, which features a CD where children can read and rap along with him. This project featured a then-unknown Lady Gaga. She performs with Mel on the songs "World Family Tree" and "The Fountain Of Truth".[1][8][9]

When asked of a possible reunion in 2002, Melle Mel responded:

However, 2014 saw Melle Mel and Scorpio begin playing shows across the United States, UK and Europe as Grandmaster's Furious Five ft Melle [sic] and Scorpio, culminating in them writing and recording new music. Their first single 'Some Kind of Sorry' was released on May 27, 2016,[15] to coincide with a UK and European tour, which they are undertaking alongside The Sugarhill Gang.

On August 2, 2017, The Kidd Creole was arrested and charged with the murder of a New York city homeless man.[16][3][17]

Legacy and influenceEdit

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five are a well-respected group in the history of hip-hop music. They have been honored at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors in 2005 and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. displays in their historical archives the vinyl records and the turntable used by DJ Grandmaster Flash.[18]

They have influenced many musical acts[19] such as New Order,[20] The Cold Crush Brothers, Run-D.M.C., Whodini, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, KRS-One, EPMD, Stetsasonic, Doug E. Fresh, Salt-n-Pepa, Ultramagnetic MC's, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Eminem, Pharoahe Monch, Busta Rhymes, DJ Quik, Beastie Boys, Hieroglyphics, Too Short, Wu-Tang Clan, Digital Underground, Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., N.W.A, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris,[21] Heavy D, and The Roots, among many others. Ice Cube recorded a song titled "Check Yo Self" with Das EFX, the remix of which sampled the music of "The Message."



  1. ^ a b c d e f "Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five". Rolling Stone. 2009-07-07. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  2. ^ Hess, G. Icons of hip hop: an encyclopedia of the movement, music, and culture, Volume 1, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007
  3. ^ a b Haag, Matthew (2 August 2017). "Kidd Creole of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Is Charged With Murder". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c "Origins of Hip Hop with Busy Bee Starski".
  5. ^ a b c "Keith Cowboy – The Real Mc Coy". 2006-03-17. Archived from the original on 2006-03-17. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
  6. ^ "Afrika Bambaataa talks about the roots of Hip Hop".
  7. ^ "Revisiting the Furious Five's Unsung Classics With Rahiem & Kidd Creole". Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  8. ^ a b c d e Ed Roberts, Solomonic and Da Ewoks and TMGanalog (2009-07-07). "GRANDMASTER FLASH & THE FURIOUS FIVE". Retrieved 2009-07-07.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  9. ^ a b c d e Jason Ankeny (2009-07-07). "GRANDMASTER FLASH & THE FURIOUS FIVE". Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  10. ^ a b , Grandmaster Flash Biography, iTunes
  11. ^ "Grandmaster Flash". 2009-07-07. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  12. ^ Vibe, Dec 1994 – Jan 1995, p.73
  13. ^ Saddler, Joseph (2008). The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash. New York: Broadway Books. pp. Publishing Page. ISBN 978-0-7679-2475-7.
  14. ^ a b Hartsfeld, Jermaine (2002-02-15). "GRANDMASTER MELLE MEL INTERVIEW". Tha Foundation. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  15. ^ Jammerzine (Ryan Martin) (2016-04-04). "First Listen: Grandmaster's Furious 5 ft Mele Mel and Scorpio – Some Kind of Sorry". Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  16. ^ "Today in Entertainment: NBC orders Season 2 of 'Will & Grace' revival and reveals what's in store on 'This Is Us'" – via LA Times.
  17. ^ Long, Colleen (August 2, 2017). "Rapper Kidd Creole Stabbed Man He Thought Was Hitting On Him". Time. ISSN 0040-781X.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ "NMAH: Hip-Hop Won't Stop: The Beat, The Rhymes, The Life". 3 September 2006. Archived from the original on 3 September 2006.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  19. ^ "Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five – Biography, Albums, Streaming Links – AllMusic". AllMusic.
  20. ^ Hook, Peter (2011). The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1847391773.
  21. ^ "And I'm close to the edge, so your parents can come push me / I curse so much just to get on they nerves / I got kids actin' a fool from the traps to the 'burbs". Genius.

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