Montag, 26. Oktober 2009

Untold Stories: The Message

Much has been said & written about how Afrika Bambaataa's Planet Rock came into being as an amalgamation of European electronic music and American funk traditions. In fact, you will find quite a few Planet Rock genealogies on this very blog. But how about that other seminal 1982 classic, Grandmaster Flash's "The Message"? With its origins far less documented, you could think this was a truly independent and self-contained creation on Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five's part.

Not really - here's some fun facts.

Common knowledge:
- Grandmaster Flash didn't like the concept of The Message's gritty street realism. Neither did the Furious Five, except for Melle Mel. That's why he ended up doing most of the raps and being the only member of the group who appeared on the credits. And although it is Flash's first and most important record, Flash himself wasn't even part of it.

Untold story:
- Duke Bootee and Doug Wimbish of the Sugarhill house band wrote the music and part of the raps. Most of the experimental edge - the sampled and electronic noises and sounds - can be traced to the influence of Brian Eno's collage masterpiece "My life in the bush of ghosts".

Even lesser told story:
- Most of the music can be traced to the influence of another contemporary record: One Way's "Cutie Pie".

So although The Message has a completely different aesthetic - the slow pace, the street/social topics -, it's actually quite similar to Planet Rock: not only as an appropriation of other existing music, but more specifically as a clash of funk and experimental electronics.

Further reading/viewing:
- youtube clip on Duke Bootee's role in composing The Message
- interview with Doug Wimbish, co-composer of The Message

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