500 Greatest Songs of All Time
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, 'The Message'
Writers: Duke Bootee, Melle Mel
Producer: Sylvia Robinson
Released: May '82, Sugar Hill
7 weeks; No. 62
"The Message" was a breakthrough in hip-hop, taking the music from party anthems to street-level ghetto blues. It began as a poem by schoolteacher Bootee; Sugar Hill boss Robinson decided to make it a rap record with Melle Mel of the Furious Five. Said Flash in 1997, "I hated the fact that it was advertised as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, because the only people on the record were Mel and Duke Bootee." But the song, driven by its signature future-shock synth riff and grim lyrics about urban decay, became an instant sensation on New York's hip-hop radio. "It played all day, every day," Flash said. "It put us on a whole new level."
Appears on: The Best of Sugar Hill Records (Rhino)