Grand Master Fraud? Did A Hip Hop Pioneer Fake It To Make It?
Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five are most famous for their monumental Hip Hop classic “The Message”. Despite his name being on the record, Grand Master Flash doesn’t scratch, produce or rap on the record. As for any of the classic records you will ever hear with Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five, there are no contributions from Grand Master Flash. When the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, Grand Master Flash was inducted with them.
If you were in New York City in the mid 70’s you might know Grand Master Flash as a DJ, and The Furious Five as rappers, but for most of us who grew up listening to Hip Hop on the radio, or on MTV and not in the underground clubs of the Bronx – Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five are one entity. Like Kool and The Gang right? The guy rapping is Grand Master Flash right? He’s the one in the front right? Nothing is further from the truth. It sounds confusing.
You have to understand at the beginning of Hip Hop the DJ played a vital role with Hip Hop being mainly in the clubs. Once Hip Hop switched over to being on wax, the focus became the rapper. It’s very hard to market an album of all scratching. It’s very easy to market an album with the seasoned voices of Melle Mel and Scorpio, and that’s exactly what Sugar Hill Records did. The trouble is with no internet, and very few music videos, the public believed that Grand Master Flash must’ve put this all together.
He must’ve made all the music, I mean his name is on the record. Records like “The Message” have allowed Grand Master Flash to be critically acclaimed and placed into the upper echelon of Hip Hop royalty. Promoters want to book Grand Master Flash, the guy who made “The Message”. He just forgot to tell you that it was never his record at all.
Yaheard.com recently spoke with Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inductee and Furious Five original member Scorpio, who still performs with Melle Mel and keeps good relations with the rest of The Furious Five, minus Grand Master Flash. He tells a story of extortion, fraud and betrayal. He tells the story of a public eager to embrace Hip Hop and looking for Hip Hop heroes to believe in. A story of a man who knew the truth, but decided to push that to the side for money and fame. Scorpio and Melle Mel refer to Grand Master Flash as “the Milli Vanilli of rap”
Yaheard: Why do you call Grand Master Flash The Milli Vanilli of Hip Hop?
Scorpio: From “Supper Rappin”, from “Freedom”, to “It’s Nasty” to “Beat Street”… To every record we ever made. The Message was the most critically acclaimed record but it’s been everything. He’s not on any of them, that’s why we came with the Milli Vanilli thing
Yaheard: So during this time when the Message came out what was your relationship with Grand Master Flash? Were you friends? Was there no relationship and he’s just a name on a record?
Scorpio: At that time we were a group, but the biggest mistake the Furious Five made was to leave his name before ours. Being young kids we thought “we started as a group lets end like that”. We didn’t know that ultimately it would turn around where he would use the brand that we all helped build against us. We were still performing but Melle Mel brought it to our attention. Flash understood branding in our group before us. So once he understood after all of these records we put out and tours and people were starting to say Grand Master Flash and not the Furious Five but was associating it with our group… that’s when he started his shit.
Yaheard: Growing up outside of New York we assumed Melle Mel was Grand Master Flash because he was in the front rapping.
Scorpio: Of course absolutely most of the public still thinks that! The reason we are speaking on it now is because HE knows that. If you Google alert Grand Master Flash for two weeks anything that comes up is going to have something to with Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five. So people look at him like He’s Gladys Knight and we’re the Pips.
Yaheard: Now obviously Grand Master Flash is a pioneering DJ with talent. What would his incentive be to have his legacy tied with The Furious Five and their songs even though he didn’t contribute to them?
Scorpio: At the end of the day by having that name that we all helped build it gives him a clear path to all of the money without cutting in or bringing in fellas along who actually helped build the name. He claims that he wants his own legacy, and even though he’s out doing DJ gigs, its off of the name Grand Master Flash. But when was the first time you heard the name Grand Master Flash? Did you hear someone cutting on a turntable or did you hear the record? He’s trying to act like it was Grand Master Flash over here, and The Furious Five here and even though we came out with the record people knew it was two different things. Are you out your f**** mind? Once we crossed the George Washington Bridge and started recording in Jersey and it became the record industry. His name became associated with our voices.
Yaheard: So you’re all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame correct?
Scorpio: Of course because the name of the group is Grand Master Flash And The Furious Five.
Yaheard: Now with all members having such a legacy in Hip Hop, even if you had a so called “beef” obviously its not going to be like the kind of beef like The Game and 50 Cent have because you have a bigger cause then just beefing when it comes to Hip Hop, but is this a dialog you have with Grand Master Flash? Is it get me out of the room with this dude? Are both sides willing to converse?
Scorpio: The very last conversation that me, Melle Mel, and Flash had we had on the phone. First of all just to clear the record up. The Furious Five has ALWAYS wanted to work together. It’s Grand Master Flash that has a problem with working with The Furious Five, because he wants to keep all of the legacy and the money to himself. Last time me, Melle Mel, and Flash were on the phone we were talking about the same thing we were like ayo man we’ve been doing some things and the Furious Five is having a problems with getting different dates which is understandable because promoters being confused they want the “Marquee” name. They want to book us, but its harder for them to sell The Furious Five. But when you put The Furious Five next to Grand Master Flash, that’s like “oh shit” I’d love to book that”. “Yo I want that”. It comes alive. Flash says “I wonder why you’re having problems getting booked?” I’m like Flash why the problem? Everyone thinks Grand Master Flash, the name is you? When he didn’t have anything to do with the records. He wants to keep all of it to himself. The reason we’re coming out with it now you know is because we had hopes that maybe one day he would wake up and say, “let’s do these world tours lets do what Mick Jagger and them do. Even then they don’t get along, lets go out there and be professional. It’s just something the world would want to see. The world would love to see the reunion of the Furious Five!
Yaheard: Do you think Grand Master Flash can do anything independently that can be bigger then the legacy of Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five?
Scorpio: This is what’s important. There’s enough astute people out there who know the answer to that. Of course we are upset. This dude is running away with, not saying he’s not entitled to nothing but if you know that most of your fame came from being with us and you didn’t cut on any of the records, you didn’t produce on any of the records, you didn’t rap or sing on any of the records, come on you have to show the cats more respect than that. You cant look at them like you’re the master plan, you’re going around telling the earth you put the Furious Five together making it seem like he had a formula. It wasn’t no formula. Flash had nothing to do with putting our group together. When I came in the group he definitely wasn’t the one to say. It was all up to Duke, Mell, Creole and Cowboy. Then we got Rahiem in the group. He’s got the world thinking he put this together. “I got Melle Mell for his lyrics, I got Scorpio because he was the fly dude”. Not the truth. Flash had a lot of records out on his own after us, none of them did well. He got mad at Mel for using the name Grand Master. He stole his name from Grand Master Flowers. That’s where Grand Master Flash got his name from, but then HE got mad. One thing that came out in the court was when he wanted to leave he wanted to use the name Grand Master so no one can use it. But the judge says “look if they want to use Grand Master too it’s not a name it’s a title.” Like a Grand Master just mastered something like a grand master chess champ, it’s a title you can’t trademark that. Then for his album he gets Grand Master Caz, but was going at Mel for the name Grand Master. So much money comes to the table too. If he can’t take it and manipulate it for himself he deads it.
Yaheard: Can you give me an example?
Scorpio: Here’s a true story. Do you remember when Rakim had that big campaign with Hennessy? Where they had the posters, the billboards all around the country? They wanted to do us, the original Grand Master Flash And The Furious Five. And all that was, was just taking a picture for all the print adds and they were going to give us a half million dollars, just for the picture just to do the campaign. They didn’t know us personally but they knew Chubb Rock. Chubb Rock says he will get in contact with us. So the day Chubb finds out, Flash happens to walk into the club that day. Chubb sees Flash like “Yo, such and such is looking for you and told him about it and Flash calls and tries to get the shit for himself says “right now i’m not doing nothing with the fellas” you know trying to get the shit for him. Deads the whole deal just like that. Got hundreds of those stories!
Yaheard: So they gave Flash the deal?
Scorpio: No, no. They wanted all of us, he didn’t want none of us to have it so he deaded the whole deal. I got hundreds of deals like that. This aint about us hating. It’s just most of the whole planet really thinks that he was the marquee through this. It was really Mel’s voice and his hook. He’s doing like 300 shows a year and they’re thinking were the Pips. There’s a new radio station going across the country “Boom” they do different things. One of their ads is this, “is the station where you can hear Kurtis Blow, where you can hear Grandmaster Flash?” Do you think they are saying hear him cut? They’re talking about our music and our records. I’ve been trying to keep peace with this dude for years. Every year just hoping we can all get together and he just deads it. He says “I don’t see myself playing behind any emcees anymore”. So we do a show now and we stand behind you while we perform now? Well okay let’s do it then, but if he were to do it now he wants us to get up there and stand behind him. He told me that! So now The Furious Five we have some shows coming up now in June in Texas and we were just advertising Grand Masters Furious Five because if we don’t attach that it’s just a harder sell, but then you get the “Message” playing in the background you say, “okay now I know who you’re talking about.” He called the radio station and threatened to sue them. He called the headliner and tried to get us kicked off of the tour, and this is just a month ago! However when you go onto the internet and look when he gets the the high part and goes into overdrive he plays “The Message”. It doesn’t seem we’re going to be getting together so why not tell the truth?
Yaheard: Tell me about signing with Sugar Hill.
Scorpio: The day when we were signing to Sugar Hill Records Sylvia Robinson pulled me and Mel out of the studio and they was like “Fellas listen I know you know this guy this and that why don’t y’all put your name The Furious Five first, this and that, do y’all really need him?” They tried to kick him out right then and there! We were like, “nah, this and this that, this is our boy and you know we’re from the Bronx.”
Yaheard: So you’re not thinking about intellectual property rights?
Scorpio: Exactly but as man HE knows. If you look at every interview that he does he won’t even say our name. The first thing he will do is say “I won’t say nothing about old school. I’m not talking about The Furious Five”. When he got the Lifetime Achievement Award for B.E.T me and Melle Mel were going to go to the show just to go to the show and sit in the audience and this and that. I called and said we want to come to the show and he calls and says “I don’t want them in the building”. We couldn’t even get a ticket, and then the other year when they honored Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaata and Flash. Bam, even though he wasn’t rocking with Soul Sonic Force at the time he said “I’d like to thank my emcees”. Flash gets up there he doesn’t mention one thing about any of us, not Mel, the late great Cowboy. Like in his head he’s thinking he really did this shit.
Yaheard: Didn’t Cowboy invent the term Hip Hop?
Scorpio: You don’t have to believe me, it’s documented fact! When we got the VH1 honor so they wanted us for the show. So they call Flash. It took me, Melle Mel, and Mickey Bentson to get in the car, go to VH1 and say “listen we are being honored if he doesn’t want to perform we need to perform. We are going to perform all of our classics. When he finds out we’re going to perform we get a call three days later like, “great news guys, he said he’s going to perform”. He was going to get exposed then, because we were going to do all the records and they were going to sound exactly the same without him being there. When you look on the awards show we’re sitting on one side and he’s sitting on the whole other side. He wouldn’t sit with us. I’m feeling real good we’re getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m expressing my dreams. I’m like it would be great for the original Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five to get back together. He calls like, “Will you tell Scorpio to please stop saying he wishes the Furious Five would get back together.” I’m like yo this is my motherfuck** dream.. This is my dream! They’re interviewing me for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! How you going to tell someone about their dream?! This dude is so arrogant. People don’t know how arrogant this dude is. It’s not just us. So many things he gets all the credit for.
Melle Mel and Scorpio are willing to sit down face to face with Grand Master Flash in any forum, to discuss these events, public or private. Yaheard.com offers this same platform to Grand Master Flash in regards to anything related to Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five.
To the reader we ask you this. Are Hip Hop artist held to a higher standard of integrity than other genres of music with Hip Hop being a culture and way of life? Not just for people in the Bronx in the mid 70’s and a few Hip Hop dinosaurs preserving the culture but for human beings, of all races? Yes, the person in Japan who designed your Toyota knows “The Message”. Rolling Stone calls it the greatest Hip Hop song of all time. Are pioneers exempt from the rules that they helped create just because a Bentley is the new Def O.J? Does Cowboy’s estate get royalties for the term “Hip Hop”? We doubt it.