"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.” It is credited as the catalyst for the conscious Hip-Hop or political sub-genre of Hip-Hop music. It is a social narrative that details the struggles and difficulties due to living in poverty in the inner-city. In addition, it embodies the distress, anger, and sadness an individual experiences when confronting these inequalities. The description of various social and economic barriers followed by the mantra “don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge, I’m trying not to lose my head” exemplifies that it is not just the disparity in opportunity that is oppressive but also the emotional response that is debilitating. It is frequently referred to as the greatest record in hip hop history and was the first Hip-Hop record ever to be added to the United States' National Recording Registry of historic sound recordings.
Though not the first in the genre of rap to talk about the struggles and the frustrations of living in the ghetto, the song was unique in that it was set to a slower beat, refocusing the song on the lyrics over the music. The song was written and performed by Sugar Hill session musician Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher and Furious Five MC Melle Mel. Some of Mel's lyrics on "The Message" were taken directly from "Supperrappin'", a song he had recorded three years earlier. Flash and the other members of The Furious Five, although credited on the record, were uninterested in recording the song and are not found on the finished record. In the music video, Fletcher's verses are lip-synced by group member Rahiem.
Remixes appeared in 1995 and 1997.
The song's signature synthesizer riff has been sampled by popular rap artists such as Ice Cube on "Check Yo Self", Puff Daddy on "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" on No Way Out (1997),Ahmad on "Only If You Want It" and T-Roll on "BTV". The song's chorus of "Don't push me 'cuz I'm close to the edge" has become one of the most well known choruses in rap music history. Lyrics from the song have also been used (albeit with varying degrees of alteration) many times in hip hop songs by artists such as Andre Nickatina ("Jungle" and "The Stress Factor"), AZ("Doe or Die", "Sunshine"), Mos Def ("Close Edge"), Talib Kweli ("Broken Glass"), Snoop Dogg ("2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" and "Gangbangin 101"), Coolio ("County Line"), Mickey Avalon("Waiting to Die"), Spice 1 and 2Pac ("Jealous Got Me Strapped"), Eminem ("What's the Beat"), Dead Prez ("Psychology" and "Don't Hate My Grind"), Common ("Book of Life", "Chapter 13 (Rich Man vs. Poor Man)"), Jungle Brothers ("Straight out the Jungle"), Immortal Technique ("Obnoxious"), Atmosphere ("The Best Day"), Stiff Little Fingers (on Tinderbox), Seagram ("The Dark Roads"), and Tricky ("Vent"). In addition, it was sampled in the song "Magic Spells" by the Toronto based electronica duo Crystal Castles. BLACKstreet "Fix" on Another Level (1996). X-Raided (Fuccing Wit A Psycho). Usher uses the backbeat sampled on the remix of 2001's "U Remind Me" featuring Method Man and Blu Cantrell.
"The Message" was included as in game radio music for the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and the 2006 video game Scarface: The World Is Yours, an adaption of the 1983 film. The signature synthesizer melody was also sampled and featured in multiple episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 TV series). For the MTV-produced compilation album Lit Riffs: The Soundtrack in 2004, the band Katsu supplied a stripped-down cover version of "The Message". The second and last verses of the song 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 the 25th of February 2005.
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 is also the year thatGrandmaster 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".
Rolling Stone ranked "The Message" #51 in its List of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (the highest placing for any song released in the 1980s, and highest ranking hip-hop song on the list). It was later named the greatest hip-hop song of all time in 2012.
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.
It was used in a British Government commissioned public information film on road safety.
"The Message" was number 5 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop.
"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".