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Hip-Hop Pioneers: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five


Hip-Hop Pioneers: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Grandmaster Flash

A Brief Profile of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five:

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were not only leaders of a new school, but a new era in American music. The crew formed in the late 70’s, fresh off the disco era, to play at local clubs and introduce New York City to a sound unlike any other. The group’s leader, Joseph “Grandmaster Flash” Saddler, came to the United States, the Bronx to be exact, from the Barbados. Flash’s fascination with his father’s extensive record collection and work with New York’s earliest known hip-hop DJs helped him become a pioneering DJ.

Group Members:

  • Melle Me
  • Kid Creole
  • Cowboy
  • Scorpio a.k.a. Mr. Ness
  • Rahiem

The First Hip-Hop Soldiers :

The world’s youngest hip-hop heads – from the 90’s babies to the new Millennials – can thank Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five for coining the phrases that have defined the culture as a whole. Lead rapper, Melvin “Melle Mel” Glover, is known as the first rapper to call himself an MC, originally meaning, mic controller. Fellow group member, Keith “Cowboy” Wiggins gave the whole sound its rather onomatopoeic name by scatting the words ‘hip-hop’ to imitate the tap of soldiers marching after a friend joined the army. Their words have withstood the test of time and become even more relevant in recent years.

The Sounds:

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released the seminal album The Message in 1982. “The Message” single was arguably the first rap song to detail the harsh realities of ghetto life – a sharp departure from the feel good party disco clubs from which the group emerged. Subsequent albums did not perform as strongly as a whole, but key singles such as “Superrappin’” kept new hip-hop lovers reaching for more.

The controversial track “White Lines (Don’t Do It),” also kept the group on the radar long after its release. The song was recorded after the split of the group and Flash supposedly did not contribute to its making. Also, some listeners questioned the actual meaning of the lyrics. It was hailed as hip-hop’s first anti-drug record in some circles and decried as a pro-cocaine party song in others. (Grandmaster Flash has admitted to drug use in interviews.) Either way the song is perceived, it is undoubtedly one of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s greatest hits and a solid hip-hop landmark.

Stylin’ and Profilin’:

In their years as a group, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five made the transition from the glam cowboy hats, boots and studded belts to the early b-boy style of Kangols and dukey rope chains. Their looks shined with the costumed revelry of a harder-edged P-Funk matched with a street sensibility that has influenced style icons from LL Cool J, to Kanye West and Andre 3000.


Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five hold the distinction of being the first hip-hop group ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Key Tracks:

  • "Superrappin’"
  • "The Message"
  • "White Lines (Don’t Do It)"
  • "Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel"
  • "Freedom"
  • "It's Nasty"
  • "Showdown (with the SugarHill Gang)"
  • "Beat Street Breakdown – Part 1"
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