Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is This Record Underrated?

I don't like making bold statements just for the sake of an interesting blog, but if you know me, you know I champion Melle Mel's legacy more than the average Joe. I feel like a great deal of rap fans give a standard answer when it comes to Melvin Glover's back catalogue. It's on some "You have to respect Melle Mel. He's a legend!" stuff, but it seems like the people saying this are strictly acknowledging that you need to respect your elders. In other words, they show respect but usually aren't fiending to cue up a Sugar Hill 12". I get it... a lot of the songs are sooo long, so dated, they're mostly played with an in-house band (Wood, Brass &Steel) before the advent of a sampler, so they're not as cool to like. They don't always make you scrunch your face in the same vein a lo-fi recorded-in-the-basement track would (nerds), because they are a different style of recording altogether. But Melle Mel was always a beast on the mic, and in his prime was ferocious, with lyrics I want to describe as prophetic. Really, any epic word needs to be used to describe them.

"Minds are poisoned and souls are polluted
Superiority complex is deep rooted
Leeches and lice’s, and people got prices
Egomaniacs control the self-righteous
Nothing is sacred and nothing is pure
So the revelation of death is our cure
Hitler and Caesar, Custer and Reagan
Napoleon, Castro, Mussolini and Begin
Ghengis Khan and the Shah of Iran
Men spill the blood of the weaker man"

Seriously? In 1984? Nobody is touching those lyrics (From Beat Street). The way he delivers the lines... who could make the "Superiority complex..." line flow better than that? His voice is so powerful, it's almost hard to believe that's how anybody could really sound. That's fine though, my youth was comprised of many things that are hard to believe. The World Wrestling Federation. Nickelodeon cartoons. Superman comics. Melle Mel fit right in. The difference is, all the other things I mentioned ARE fictional. Melle Mel was a living and breathing super hero, an exciting personality who was a pioneer of a blossoming art form.

In my haste, I went on youtube to proofread the lyrics I copied and pasted above*, and even the youtube users know what's up. There's no "You're a fag, Melle Mel was gay" comments you'd expect to see below any video. That's how you know you got a gem on your hands (slight sarcasm). Instead, there's comments like:

This song is pure fucking genius. The beat is is hot, the lyrics are so poignant and powerful... these people were pioneers.


the greatest rap ever rapped


That's the verse that made me post this rap, and its still true today. wow! I dont think a lot of hip-hopers know how deep that verse is. be cool...

This is the first time I've wanted to hang out with anonymous youtube users. Nevermind, I still don't want to.
Anyways, let me get to the point of this post. Is the Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five LP (known as Work Party on some pressings) underrated? It's after the original Flash and the Furious lineup disbanded, so you're missing Kid Creole and Raheem (and you have a couple weirdos added), but there are some incredible tracks here.

Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five- The Truth-

Let's start with The Truth. I hate to bring Run-DMC into this post to compare, but this seems like the appropriate time. I've always believed most of Mel's fire on his verse is aimed at Darryl and Joe. The age of Sugar Hill was about to come to an end, and Run-DMC's self-titled LP was ushering in a more stripped-down sound of hip hop production. Mel wasn't going to lay down and die though. He knew he could rap circles around these dudes, and I'm sure the fact that Run and D came up listening to tapes of park jams instilled Mel with confidence, knowing these newcomers studied from his and his colleagues blue prints.

Yes, Run-DMC had a cooler edge to the them, the way they dressed is much cooler than how Mel's lineup is dressed on their cover, but Melle Mel is murdering them here. I started this post by saying I would never make outrageous claims for the sake of an interesting blog, but it's okay to have your own opinion. And I think it's safe to say I think The Truth has a harder drum track and harder cuts than Sucker MCs. blasphemy? Maybe, but I gotta say, that's what I truly think.

You got a little bit of fame and wealth
Now you think you did it all by yourself
I am you but you ain't me
because you didn't start rockin' 'til '83
Melle Mel is the best that'll ever exist
and if I gotta be a sucker, suck on this

I just always imagined those lines going in on Run-DMC, but my young mind could've been reaching. This really isn't a Melle Mel / Run-DMC battle for rap supremacy post, I'm just sharing my thoughts on this particular track. Something has to be said about Cowboy as well, who unfortunately passed away much too soon. He gets down on this one.

I've been rockin' that party 8 years of my life / got shot by a gun and stabbed by a knife / had to pay my dues, had to learn the rules / had to separate the smart from all the fools

There's some other bangers on the record also...

Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five- Hustler's Convention-

A reconstruction of Lightnin' Rod's Hustler's Convention, I feel like this is one of Wood, Brass & Steel's greatest in-house Sugar Hill sessions. They kill it. I never see this one on Best of compilations or anything, but I personally always loved blasting it.

This Record is dedicated to Kool Herc... Errahhhh!

Here's a selection from the original Hustler's Convention LP:

Lightnin' Rod- Sport-

As for this next one, if you can get past the odd flatulent-esque noise at the beginning, it's another keeper. I always loved it, but now, it's kind of hard to put a finger on why. The whole song's concept is somebody trying to page them with the group nowhere to be found. It pieces together lyrics and portions from previous songs on the album. All I know is I listened to this one quite a bit. That was possibly the worst write up I could ever assemble to introduce a song.

Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five- The New Adventures of Grandmaster-

So with all these tracks being exceptional, why don't people show love to this album more? How come I don't bring it up as much and passionately debate with people how good these songs are on a regular basis? Probably because a track like Hustler's Convention is followed up with this:

Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five- Yesterday

GuLllllLLLllL. I'm scratching my head too. Or am I?

I got nothin'.

* In regards to copy and pasting the lyrics, I did wind up changing one part. The internet had it as "Mixed with the blood of a weaker man," and I've always heard "Men spill the blood of the weaker man." I could be wrong, though.


  1. Melle Mel to me will always be G.O.A.T., he has the lyrics and the voice. I'll have to pull that record out and listen to it again....

  2. Re...The truth song
    Melle mels
    verse was a response to Run dmc's - sucker mc dis.He spoke about their beef on the old school radio hour blog interview. That song was sugerhills hardest in 84. The djs scratches are also exactly the same as Marley marl scratch.

  3. My previous post emerged incomplete....
    The scratching
    on Melle mels step off is the same as Marley marl scratch.Is there a connection between Run dmc's sucker mc's & Dimples D / Marley marls,sucker dj's?

  4. What up Rob?

    I'm pretty sure "Sucker DJs" is a loose answer record to Run-DMCs "Sucker MCs." Not in a battle sense, but kind of like a direct descendent and expansion of the Run-DMC track. Doesn't some of the percussion in "Sucker DJs" mirror that of "Sucker MCs" (mainly the claps)? As far as the cuts on "Marley Scratch" being the same as the cuts on "Step Off," I'm not exactly sure I follow. Please elaborate! Thanks for checking out the post.

  5. Hi will

    Melle mel step off at 6.30
    (Dj vicious lee scratching )with Marley marl scratch at 1.26 & 4.15.A very rare old school case of djs copying( biting )scratch patterns.

  6. Ohhh I gotcha. Good shit my man!

  7. Melle Mel's the king, sure is an underatted album.