|Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five|
|Also known as||Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 MC's
The Younger Generation Flash and the Five
|Origin||New York City, New York|
|Genre||Hip-hop, Funk Funk, Electro|
|Years active||1978–1982, 1987–1988|
|Associated acts||Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five|
|Members||Joseph "Grandmaster Flash" Saddler|
Melvin' Melle Mel' Glover
Nathaniel "Kidd Creole" Glover
Eddie "Mr. Ness/Scorpio" Morris
Robert Keith "Cowboy" Wiggins
Guy "Rahiem" WilliamsDJ E-Z Mike (1978-1982)
Kevin "Kevie Kev" Strong (1981)
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was a highly influential American hip-hop group formed in the South Bronx of New York City in 1978. Composed of one DJ (Grandmaster Flash) and five rappers (Melle Mel, Kidd Creole, Cowboy, Mr. Ness/Scorpio, and Rahiem), the group's groundbreaking use of turntablism, break-beat deejaying, and innovative rapping pioneered the art of hip-hop music.
The group rose to fame in the early 1980s with their first successful single "Freedom" and later on with their magnum opus "The Message"," which is often cited as among the best hip hop songs ever produced. However, in 1983, relations between Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel began straining and the group disbanded. A reunion occurred in 1987, and they released a new album, which received lukewarm reviews. Afterward, though, the sextet permanently broke up.
Grandmaster Flash initially worked as a DJ, and sometimes a rapper, with his partner "Mean Gene" Livingston and practiced with the latter's brother Theodore Livingston at house and block parties in his neighborhood of the South Bronx for three years. However, it wasn't until 1977 that he began collaborating with rappers, Kurtis Blow being among them. He then recruited his friend Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), and Kidd Creole (Nathanial Glover) and Melle Mel (Melvin Glover) soon followed. This particular trio called themselves the Three MC's and worked with Flash, who went on to bring in Mr. Ness/Scorpio (Eddie Morris) and Raheim (Guy Williams). Among the first singles they released were "We Rap More Mellow" and a live version of "Flash to the Beat," for which they performed under the names the Younger Generation and Flash and the Five, respectively.
They were locally popular, gaining recognition for their skillful raps and deejaying, but it wasn't until the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" proved that hip hop music could reach mainstream that they began recording. Their first single on Enjoy! Records was "Supperrappin'", released in 1979. Afterwards, they switched to Sylvia Robinson's Sugar Hill Records after she promised them they could perform over a current DJ favorite.
In 1980, the group had their Sugarhill Records debut with "Freedom," finally reaching #19 on the R&B chart and selling over 50,000 copies. The follow-up "Birthday Party" went on to become a hit as well. 1981 introduced Grandmaster Flash's influential "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel," a dizzying array of cutting and scratching that sampled from such songs as Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" and Chic's "Good Times." It also marked the first time that record scratching had been actually recorded on a record.
The group's most significant hit was "The Message" (1982), which was produced by Clifton "Jiggs" Chase and Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher, the latter of whom co-wrote the song alongside Melle Mel. It provided a political and social commentary and went on to become a driving force behind conscious hip-hop. Furthermore, the song peaked at #4 in the R&B chart and #62 in the pop chart, sold half a million copies in a month, and established hip-hop's credibility in mainstream music. Other than Melle Mel, however, no members of the group 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.
In 1983, Grandmaster Flash sued Sugar Hill Records for $5 million in royalties on grounds that even though he didn't appear in such successful singles as "The Message" and "New York, New York," Sugar Hill Records credited his name to bring in wider audiences, and he wasn't paid. This resulted in the single "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" being credited by "Grandmaster & Melle Mel." Nevertheless, the song was successful, reaching #47 in the Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Another lawsuit was brought up, though, when it was known that the famous bass line of the song, and other elements, was stolen from "Cavern" by Liquid Liquid, for which Sugar Hill Records would never recover from.
The former lawsuit 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, Kidd Creole, and Raheim left for Elektra Records and worked under the name "Grandmaster Flash" on They Said It Couldn't Be Done, The Source, and Ba-Dop-Boom-Bang. Additional members Lavon, Larry Love and Mr. Broadway made up a new "Furious Five" but they could not use the name as Sugar Hill Records owned it.
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.
1987 brought back the original lineup of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five when they performed for 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. The album failed to reach the success of The Message and received lukewarm reception. The group never really enjoyed the same success as they did in the early 1980s and permanently broke up afterwards.
Each member went down his own path, though some 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 due to his addiction to crack cocaine in September 8, 1989.
In 1990, Grandmaster Flash produced Just-Ice's album Masterpiece. He went on to work as musical director for The Chris Rock Show, which has since been canceled, and has 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 2007.
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. In January 23, 2007, he changed his name to Grandmaster Mele Mel and released his first solo studio album, Muscles, which failed to top charts. 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.