Most obituaries eulogizing Thursday's death of 75-year-old Sugar Hill Records co-founder Sylvia Robinson focus on the label's 1979 hit "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang. And with good reason. It was the first and biggest record released by the label she co-owned with husband Joe Robinson. It was also the first major rap record to electrify the nation and capitalize on an insulated trend still considered a passing fad by the industry at large.
But the story behind the recording and release of Sugar Hill's other significant single, "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, is equally compelling. Mainly because the record, largely considered the greatest rap song of all time, never would've come about if not for Sylvia Robinson's insistence and pressure. Though it wasn't widely known at the time, neither Flash nor four members of the Furious Five had any involvement in the creation of the song — which was kind of a revolutionary concept in the early 1980s, when the DJ was still the cornerstone of hip-hop.
Instead, the song was written and performed by a Sugar Hill studio musician named Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher and lone Furious Five member MC Melle Mel. In the video, Furious Five member Rahiem lip-synchs Duke Bootee's lyrics. Duke Bootee and Robinson are credited as producers of "The Message," a song so groundbreaking at the time because it was the first rap single to trade party-toasting for a political message. It's also perfectly illustrates how the power the DJ held in live performance would be usurped by the producer in recordings as the genre was commodified.
When I got the chance to interview Grandmaster Flash about it four years ago while he was promoting the release of his autobiography, "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash," he talked about how the success of "The Message" was the beginning of the end for Flash and the Furious Five, and also about how relentlessly Robinson stayed on them to do the song despite their hesitance:
Now, the record “The Message,” was a gift and a curse. Of course, whenever you heard Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, it was always five MCs on the record, and that’s the way we came up, it’s the way we got our respect, it’s the way we got our crowds and our people because you’d see one DJ and hear one DJ, and you would see and hear five MCs, whether it was on a tape or whether it was on a record. And when that project was on the slate to be done — ‘The Message,’ I’m talking about — she would ask us for a period of time about doing a record having to do with the real life things that happen in the ’hood. And we kind of ducked it for a minute.
UPDATE, Sept. 30: According to Live Nation, the rescheduled Black Star show, which was supposed to take place at the Tabernacle on Oct. 26, has also been canceled. No further information has been provided, but refunds are available at the point of purchase. Maybe Mos Def is boycotting the state of Georgia for executing Troy Davis. Here's what he had to say about it at a recent concert in Florida.
UPDATE: Live Nation just confirmed that the Black Star show has been rescheduled for 8 p.m., Wed., Oct. 26. Tickets for the original Sept. 28 show will be honored. New tickets: $32.50 in advance. $37 day of show. www.tabernacleatl.com.
Mos Def and Talib Kweli have canceled their appearance tonight at the Tabernacle. Late night tweets from the show's host, Dres tha Beatnik, announced the unfortunate news, and the show's Live Nation page confirms. No official word from Black Star concerning the cancellation.
This one’s for fans of the Stooges, the Ramones and the New York Dolls, and apparently the song's due out as a 7-inch via Big Nose Records sometime soon.
Balkans recently returned from a West Coast tour that featured a slightly different lineup as guitarist Brett Miller and drummer Stanley Vergilis opted out to stay in school. This on-the-spot video for the acoustic version of a new song, called “Slow Return,” recorded in Echo Park just north and west of downtown Los Angeles, appeared on Terror Eyes recently. In the background we see former White Light Forest Choir/Soft Powers drummer Danny Bailey (beating handfuls of brush), along with bassist Woody Shortridge (tapping sticks) and guitarist Henry Kaiser (just kind of hanging out). ... And no it's not that Henry Kaiser. There's no word from the band on how long-term these changes may be.
Apparently singer Frankie Broyles was suffering through a gnarly case of mononucleosis when the video was shot. Mono is no joke, and they had to bring him home early to recover.
Earlier this week Fader debuted the ultra-violent Ryan Winsor-directed “Let You Have It" video from Balkans’ Balkans. It’s spectacular, and if you’ve ever wanted to see these guys get taken out Mafia-style, check it out below.
Along with these passes you will be given the opportunity to introduce one of the bands. To win all you have to do is answer the following question:
What was the name of Yall So Stupid’s 1993 debut album for Dallas Austin and L.A. Reid’s Rowdy Records?
Be the first person to leave the correct answer in the comments section of this post and the tickets are yours.
Hot on the heels of Wilco's most recent album, The Whole Love, released just three days ago, Wilco played Cobb Energy Center last night to a near-packed venue. Nick Lowe, the British New Wave songwriter rocked an hour-long opening set and waved goodbye to an uproarious standing ovation.
His fans might be upset that Thug Motivation 103 was pushed back yet again, but Young Jeezy isn't losing a step in his stride. Linking up with his newly released partner-in-rhyme, T.I., Mr. Jenkins lashes out on those who have a habit of being less than real. The title, F.A.M.E., is an acronym which stands for Fake A*$ Mutha%^as Envy.
The track was produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, rumored to be behind the boards for most of TM103, which will get yet another release date next Monday.
Props to Nah Right.
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I’ve long considered Explosions in the Sky a band that’s just impossible not to like on at least some level. Even without an affinity for instrumental post rock, and it’s understandable if you don’t have that, this is a band that’s seemingly always done it right: record after superb record, show after epic show, tour after growing tour. It’s been a perfect, steady rise from humble beginnings for the pride of Austin, Tex. — one that’s well earned and never taken for granted by the foursome. EITS's Munaf Rayani talks about the new record (Take Care, Take Care, Take Care), his band’s stage philosophies and why the New York Knicks will rise again.
Now that you’re a few months into this tour, how has the reception been for the shows and for the record?
Munaf Rayani: The reception has been quite warm, and even perhaps a little exceeding of our expectations. Things have been going well for us the last few years, especially in regards to the type of music we make. We’re getting to play some great shows, great venues, great spots at festivals, we were on TV once already this year, and the album has been doing really really well. It’s a bit of a surprise and quite exciting that instrumental music can take us this far. All in all, it’s been really great and it seems like it’s getting better and better. We’re now a good two or three months into serious touring, and the shows seem to be getting better and better and going really well. I don’t know how much more we could ask for. This all feels pretty great.
Do you see Take Care, Take Care, Take Care as a logical step in your discography?
MR: It’s definitely the next step. In my opinion, it’s the most mature and most evolved record we’ve made. Some could argue that there are certain songs on other albums that are better than some songs on this album, but as a whole, this was the next step. It fell somewhat elegantly into the timeline. It seems like it’s been a constant move forward, and that’s something we were very conscious of in the writing of this record — to move forward, to mature, to blossom, to allow things to flourish that once perhaps didn’t.
You guys spent two weeks in the studio — which for some people is a short time, but for you guys was actually the longest you’ve ever had for recording, right?
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