The Message

Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher and Melle Mel, 1982

"The Message" was one of the first hip-hop songs to convey a message rather than merely serve as a vehicle for rappers' entertaining boasting. What are the messages of the song?

According to the song, what are some of the obstacles facing people in Duke Bootee's and Melle Mel's communities? Duke Bootee raps about "double-digit inflation." What is inflation? How does it disproportionately impact poor communities and people of color?

According to Melle Mel in verse five, how does growing up in the "ghetto" have an impact on one's view of the world?

The song's concluding skit addresses issues of crime and policing in Duke Bootee's and Melle Mel's community. How does the skit relate to the song's message about attempting to escape the "ghetto"?

"The Message" recorded by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five on Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, © 1993. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.


For more information on Grandmaster Flash, visit his official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source


The Message Grandmaster Flash
"The Message" single cover.

"The Message" was released on an album by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, but the recording does not include Flash and only features one member of the group, Melle Mel, who trades verses with Edwin "Duke Bootee" Fletcher.

In the early 1970s, Grandmaster Flash began to spin records for parties in the Bronx and greatly contributed to the development of hip-hop. He is best known for developing the process of stringing together—or mixing—short excerpts from multiple records. The preferred excerpts were of songs' breaks, or beat-driven, percussive excerpts in which melodies and chords are mostly absent. Such beats provided the foundation over which emcees rapped, and the technique of mixing quickly gave rise to more methods of recording manipulation, such as record scratching. The Furious Five, formed in 1976, were the rappers with whom Grandmaster Flash collaborated in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

"The Message" was first written by Edwin "Duke Bootee" Fletcher, who was a member of the house band for Sugar Hill Records, with whom Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were signed. Most members of the Furious Five declined to record the song, but Melle Mel agreed and added some of his own lyrics. Flash is not present on the recording because Sugar Hill preferred to use a house band rather than a DJ to provide the music in its rap recordings.

Many lyrics in early hip-hop were intended to be silly. Rather than convey a serious message, emcees boasted about their own greatness. (This can be observed, for example, in the verses traded by the members of the Sugar Hill Gang in "Rapper's Delight," the first commercially successful recorded hip-hop song.) But "The Message" is different. It voices the frustrations of a man who wants to leave "the ghetto" to make a better life for his family but does not have the money to do so. "The Message" inspired subsequent rappers to leave behind the boastful lyrics of early hip-hop and turn toward more socially conscious texts.



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