We live in an age where rap is commonplace, and its acceptance as a credible music genre is widespread. Jay-Z, Missy Elliot, Ludacris, Nelly, Eminem and Mary J. Blige, all hip-hop artists, have become household names. But this was not always the case. This year marks the first year that hip/hop and rap artists were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Despite its name, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been inducting non-rock and rollers since its inception in 1986. People from “the Godfather of Soul,” James Brown, to folk musician Bob Dylan are counted among the Hall of Fame’s many inductees. The Hall of Fame’s first inductees included Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. And this year, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five will join the list of venerable music inductees. Eligibility for an artist to be nominated for induction states that it must be 25 years after the release of his or her first recording.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were pioneers of the hip-hop style. The group consisted of Grandmaster Flash on the turntables and Cowboy, Kidd Creole, Melle Mel, Raheim and Mr. Ness/Scorpio as vocalists. All of the members were from the South Bronx, and began using innovative techniques that merged DJing with lyrics. Grandmaster Flash is also credited with designing turntables and mixing equipment. In 1979, the group released their first record, “Superrappin.” They enjoyed much success with following songs like “White Lines (Don’t Do It),” “Freedom,” “New York New York,” “Birthday Party” and most famously, “The Message.”
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s hit “The Message” is a social commentary about life in the ghetto. Their song proclaims, “don’t push me because I’m close to the edge, I’m trying not to lose my head; it’s like a jungle out there sometime, it makes me wonder how I keep from goin under.”
As Rolling Stone observed, “The Message” was [the first record] to prove that rap could become the inner city’s voice, as well as its choice.” This record sold half a million copies in a month, and topped many charts. It also solidified Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s place in hip-hop music.
“I ask myself to this day, ‘Why do people want to hear this?’” Grandmaster Flash wondered of “The Message” in 1988. “But it’s the only lyric-pictorial record that could be called ‘How Urban America Lived.’” As a result of the group’s ground-breaking work, songs like Tupac Shakur’s “Keep Ya Head Up” and Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life” also cropped up as social commentary in the form of raps and beats.
Melle Mel, of the Furious Five, said on the being inducted, “The fact that we’re in the Hall of Fame speaks volumes. People try to separate hip-hop music like it stands alone, but it really doesn’t. We’re in with all the great groups in the history of music. It further legitimizes hip-hop.”
The induction ceremony took place at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, NY on Monday, Mary 12, 2007. Other inductees included R.E.M, the Ronettes, Patti Smith and Van Halen.