Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was a highly influential hip hop group composed of Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, Kid Creole, Cowboy, Scorpio (aka Mr. Ness) and Raheim. In 2007, they became the first rap group to ever be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Grandmaster Flash played illegal parties and also worked with rappers such as Kurtis Blow and Lovebug Starski. He formed his own group in the late 1970s, after promptings from Ray Chandler. The initial members were Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), Melle Mel (Melvin Glover) and Kidd Creole (Nathaniel Glover) making Grandmaster Flash & the 3 MCs (with Melle Mel being the first rapper ever to call himself an "MC"). Two other rappers briefly joined, but they were replaced more permanently by Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams, previously in the Funky Four) and Scorpio (Eddie Morris, also used the name Mr. Ness) to create Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Soon gaining recognition for their skilful raps, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five pioneered MCing, freestyle battles, and invented some of the staple phrases in MCing. The group performed at Disco Fever in the Bronx beginning in 1978. Cowboy created the term "Hip Hop" while teasing a friend who had just joined the US Army, by scat singing the words "hip/hop/hip/hop" in a way that mimicked the rhythmic cadence of marching soldiers. They kept the chant in their act, and they soon became known as "those hip-hoppers" by the disco acts who they often performed with.
Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five were signed to Bobby Robinson's Enjoy Records and in 1979 released the classic "Superrappin'". They later signed to Sugar Hill Records and released numerous singles, gaining a gold disc for "Freedom," and also toured. The classic "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel," released in 1981, was the best display of Flash's skills (combining elements of Blondie's "Rapture," Michael Viner's Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache," Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" and Chic's "Good Times." It also marked the first time that record scratching had been actually recorded on a record. The group's most significant hit was "The Message" (1982), which was produced by in-house Sugar Hill producer Clifton "Jiggs" Chase and featured session musician Duke Bootee. Other than Melle Mel, no members of the group actually appear on the record. It went platinum in less than a month.
In 1983, Flash appeared in the movie Wild Style and sued Sugar Hill over the non-payment of royalties. The group split between Flash and Mel before disintegrating entirely. Flash, Kid Creole and Rahiem signed to Elektra Records and continued on as simply "Grandmaster Flash" while Mel and the others continued on as "Grandmaster Melle Mel & the Furious Five." Grandmaster Flash's version of the group had a minor hit with "Sign Of The Times". Melle Mel's version of the group fared better, producing "Step Off", "Pump Me Up", "King of the Streets", "Jesse" (a highly political song which urged people to vote for then presidential candidate Jesse Jackson), "Vice" (released on the soundtrack to the TV show Miami Vice) and the mega-hit "White Lines (Don't Do It)" (the unofficial music video was directed by then unknown film student Spike Lee & starred Laurence Fishburne). The record was falsely credited to Grandmaster + Melle Mel by Sugarhill Records in order to increase sales by fooling the public into thinking Grandmaster Flash had participated on the record. During this period, Melle Mel gained higher success appearing in the movie Beat Street, with a powerful song based on the movie's title. He also became the first rap artist ever to win a Grammy award for "Record of the Year" after performing a memorable rap on Chaka Khan's smash hit song "I Feel for You" which introduced hip-hop to the mainstream R&B audience.
In 1988, after an almost 4 year layoff, Mel and Flash reunited and released the album On The Strength, but with up and coming new school artists such as Eric B. & Rakim, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, and Big Daddy Kane dominating the hip-hop market, the album failed miserably. Melle Mel performed with The King Dream Chorus and Holiday Crew on "King Holiday" aimed at having Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday declared a national holiday and also with Artists United Against Apartheid on the anti-apartheid song Sun City aimed at discouraging other artists from performing in South Africa until that government ended its policy of apartheid. Mel ended the decade by winning two more Grammy awards for his work on Quincy Jones "Back On The Block" & "Q - The Autobiography of Quincy Jones" albums.
In 1996, he contributed vocals to the U.S. edition of Cher's hit "One By One". Their version is only available on the maxi CD format.
In 1997, Melle Mel signed to Straight Game Records and released Right Now. This album featured Scorpio from the Furious Five, Rondo and Grandmaster Flash. The album barely sold at all in the USA and the UK even though it marked the return of one of hip hop's greatest.
In 2001, he released the song "On Lock" with Rondo on the soundtrack of the movie Blazin under the name Die Hard. Die Hard released an album of the same name in 2002 on 7PRecords.
In 2006, Mel released a children's book "The Portal In The Park", which comes with a bonus CD of his rapped narration. He also attended professional wrestling school and in a 2007 interview with allhiphop.com said that "I'm going to try to take some of John Cena's money and get with WWE and do my thing". Mel changed his name to "Mele Mel", and released his first ever solo album, Muscles on January 30, 2007. The first single and music video was "M3 - The New Message".