|Released July 1, 1982|
|Format 12-inch single|
Genre Hip hop
|B-side "The Message" (Instrumental)|
"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. 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."
- Uses in popular culture
- Accolades and usage in media
- Music and structure
- Critical reception
The song was written and performed by Sugar Hill session musician Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher and Furious Five MC Melle Mel.
Uses in popular culture
The rhythm track was sampled in various hip-hop songs, including the remix for the 1993 song "Check Yo Self" by Ice Cube and the 1997 song "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" by Puff Daddy.
This song was featured in the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
The second and last verses of the "The Message" 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 was 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.
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.
The chorus is sampled in the hip-hop musical Hamilton by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as "Such a blunder, sometimes it makes me wonder why I even bring the thunder."
Accolades and usage in media
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.
It was voted #3 on About.com's Top 100 Rap Songs, after Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R." and The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight".
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, the first hip hop recording ever to receive this honor.
"The Message" was number 5 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop.
WatchMojo.com ranked "The Message" #1 on Top 10 Decade Defining Rap Songs of the 1980s, and #1 on Top 10 Ultimate Decade Defining Rap Songs.
It was used, with altered lyrics, in a 1983 British Government commissioned public information film on road safety.
The song has been used in adverts for clothing company Lacoste.
Music and structure
"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.
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".