*During the early 80’s, if you weren’t listening to Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, you weren’t listening to hip music. This group, formed in New York’s South Bronx in 1978, ruled the airways with their use of turntablism, break-beat deejaying, and choreographed stage routines. They were considered a ‘force’ in the birth and early development of hip-hop music.
Which makes the recent revelation that former group members Melle Mel and Scorpio are now seeking legal action against former group front-runner, Grandmaster Flash.
In a recent interview, The Furious Five’s Scorpio blasted Grandmaster Flash and said the iconic deejay never contributed to any of the group’s music.
Not even the group’s 1982 mega hit, “The Message.”
And in a recent interview with AllHipHop, Melle Mel contributed his side of the story; elaborating on why he and Scorpio have teamed up and are now coming out against Grandmaster Flash.
Here are some excerpts of the interview.
“I mean it’s real simple, it’s just plain economics. When we started out and was in the ground Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, we all basically came up together, helped build that name.” Melle Mel said about the early days of the group. “… Flash was the first one to understand what branding was so he took that part and he set us all out. No matter what happens, if you say ‘Grandmaster Flash,’ you think of ‘Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five,’ but you never get to the ‘Furious Five’ part,” Mel goes on to explain. Adding, “With that, he does like 200 shows a year and me and [Scorpio] are lucky to do like 9 shows. But, we all based on the same group and the same music that Flash really never had a part in.”
Melle Mel says he did all of the “heavy lifting” as far as the songwriting went, but gets no credit today. He says while Grandmaster Flash was handling the branding side, he was the one who actually worked with artists like Quincy Jones , Chaka Khan and even Harry Belafonte, yet ‘Grandmaster Flash’ is the one everybody thinks about when the group’s name is mentioned.
And as far as the iconic Deejay is concerned, that’s just fine.
“If you look at ‘The Message’ video it ain’t like there is a DJ in the video. So, the average person would come out of to see the body of work that Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five did. The average person would come to the conclusion that I was Grandmaster Flash because I was the face of the group. Somehow, he’s holding that against me like I took something away from him, Melle Mel says.
I changed it to ‘Grandmaster Melle Mel’ because we’re trying to sell records. He still benefited from it. No matter what we did, it still came back to Grandmaster Flash.
When I see Grandmaster Flash, he looks at me like some kind of back-up dancer… Why would he [do] that? I bled for this dude. Our names are so intertwined, if I found a cure for cancer right now, the headline would say, ‘Grandmaster Flash Finds A Cure For Cancer.’
And he knows that.
Mel says this is the reason he and Scorpio chose to publicly separate themselves from their former group member; who he says they have not worked with in over 15 years.
“He won’t come out and publicly say that. So we coming with the new campaign and the new music. Let it be known, we don’t have anything to do with each other,” he continues.
As to whether legal action is necessary to accomplish this, Melle Mel says it is.
“Yeah, because we feel we should have the right to use the name ‘Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five,’ because that’s the only way we can get work,” he admits.
“Nobody’s gonna book ‘The Furious Fives,’ nobody’s gonna book ‘Grandmaster’s Furious Five,’ nobody’s gonna book ‘Grandmaster Melle Mel And The Furious Five.’ They are either gonna book ‘Grandmaster Flash’ or ‘Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five.’ Even if you take away the DJ, you still should be able to work under the name of the group.”
Melle Mel also went on to reiterate a comment made by Scorpio; who said that Grandmaster Flash has no interest in working with The Furious Five, despite not admitting that publicly.
“The reality of it is that Flash don’t work with the group,” Melle Mel says. “Like when we did the Grammy Hall of Fame. When they inducted ‘The Message’ in the Grammy Hall of Fame, they didn’t call Sugar Hill Records, they didn’t call me – they called Flash. And Flash was gonna induct the record in the Grammy Hall of Fame and they were gonna use LL [Cool J], Lupe Fiasco, Common and Rick Ross,” he argued.
“And the only reason we got on to do the record was because they had to call Joey [from Sugar Hill Records] to get the rights for the publishing. We were working with Joey at the time and he said they wouldn’t give them the rights unless we would be on the program to do ‘The Message.’ Other than that, he would have done ‘The Message’ with Common and them and that’s that. He don’t wanna work with us. And, at this point, I’m a grown man, I don’t necessarily wanna work with him either.”
Hear the record that was a phenomenon in 1982. Cue the lyric,
“Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge.
I’m tryin’ not to lose my head.
It’s like a jungle sometimes.
It makes me wonder
How I keep from goin’ under.
The song has been cited among the most influential hip hop songs.
Watch the video for “The Message” directly below. And visit AllHipHop to read the full interview with Melle Mel.