Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message is a far more varied and interesting album than I would have expected. From the funky bassline of opener She’s Fresh to the electro beats of Scorpio, its influences are wide and clear. Dreamin’ is bluntly dedicated to Stevie Wonder (because “he’s the greatest”) and his R&B style oozes through the track, also spilling over into following piano ballad You Are.
There are some surreal moments on the record. The opening rap to It’s A Shame (Mt. Airy Groove) contains a series of why questions, wishy washy lyrics and dotty percussion. Despite it’s amateur feel, I kind of like it. The line “Are they really the future? Yeeeeeaaaahhh.” is hilarious, especially followed by such basic scratching! Scorpio is a terrific pre-techno classic. It’s computer vocals and spacey synth sounds have a fantastic, futuristic feel and showcase the talents of the band.
Final track The Message is the record’s magnum opus, certainly from a hip hop point of view. The rising then falling synthline is wonderfully catchy, the beats simple, and the pace well controlled. The lyrics tell of the pitfalls of life in the ghetto: neighbourhoods full of crime, without hope, where it is all too easy to find yourself on the wrong path. In a fortnight that has seen rioting across England, the relevance of the song resonates strongly today. Hip hop at its best, the lyrics not only provide a social commentary, but they condemn it. The intensifying final verse tells the tragic story of such a lifestyle, “your eyes sing the sad sad song of how you lived so fast and died so young”.