Grandmaster Melle Mel is unapologetic. The consummate legend and his partner-in-rhyme Scorpio have waged a war of sorts on Grandmaster Flash, another one of the pillars of Hip-Hop. There have been a number stories in circulation – rooted in fact and a lot of conjecture. There have been names thrown out like “The Milli Vanilli of Hip-Hop” and “Grandmaster Fraud.” However, at the root – Rock-N-Roll Hall of Famers Melle Mel and Scorpio have found it extremely difficult to take their show on the road because it is inexplicably tied to the group name: Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. This is the sort of beef Hip-Hop hates, but it boils down to men, not music. Melle Mel maintains many things in part 1 of this exclusive interview.
AllHipHop.com: A few years ago, I wrote a piece on you years ago and I consider you one of the greatest rappers of all time. Putting that out there. Now, we are here. I have a lot of people that don’t want me to talk about this , they don’t want me to interview nobody, they say I shouldn’t even be putting this on AllHipHop. They say some things shouldn’t even be public matters. From that perspective can you tell me why you and Scorpio decided to come forward in this manner against Grandmaster Flash.
Grandmaster Melle Mel: I mean its real simple. Its just plain economics. When we started out and was in the ground Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, we all basically came up together, helped build that name and then now – the way it is right now…. Flash was the first one to understand what branding was so he took that part and he set us all out. No matter what happens, if you say “Grandmaster Flash,” you think of “Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five,” but you never get to the “Furious Five” part. With that, he does like 200 shows a year and me and Scorp are lucky to do like 9 shows. But, we all based on the same group and the same music that Flash really never had a part in the music.
“As far as the group go, I did all the heavy lifting. I wrote every song. I’m the one that worked with Quincy Jones. I was the one that worked with Chaka Khan. I was the one that worked with Harry Belafonte. Flash is sitting on the side and he’s taking all the credit.”
It took a lot to build the group, first of all. We had a good group. Second of all, when we were with Sugar Hill Records, we had great promotion and we did some of the greatest records ever. That name – Grandmaster Flash was on all the records and after he left the group – for songs like “White Lines” – he wasn’t even on Sugar Hill Records. But, he gets credit for being on “White Lines.” Out of loyalty for Flash…I grew up with Flash..I’ve known him since I was a little boy basically.
We just swept it all under the rug. And he’s out there acting like he’s doing something that we never did. We bled Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. As far as the group go, I did all the heavy lifting. I wrote every song. I’m the one that worked with Quincy Jones. I was the one that worked with Chaka Khan. I was the one that worked with Harry Belafonte. Flash is sitting on the side and he’s taking all the credit. If you look at “The Message” video it ain’t like there is a DJ in the video. So, the average person would come out of to see the body of work that Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five did, the average person would come to the conclusion that I was Grandmaster Flash because I was the face of the group. Somehow, he’s holding that against me like I took something away from him. I changed it to “Grandmaster Melle Mel,” because we’re trying to sell records. He still benefited from it. No matter what we did, it still came back to Grandmaster Flash. When I see Grandmaster Flash, he looks at me like some kind of back-up dancer.
Why would he did that, I bled for this dude. Our names are so intertwined, if I found a cure for cancer right now, the headline would say, “Grandmaster Flash Finds A Cure For Cancer.” And he knows that. That’s why we have to go through a public campaign of publicly separating ourselves, because we haven’t worked with the dude in over 15 years. He won’t come out and publicly say that. So we coming with the new campaign and the new music. Let it be known, we don’t have anything to do with each other.
We’ve tried everything we could do to be loyal to Flash, everything from not cutting him off in the Sugar Hill Days. Everybody had DJ’s and they cut them off. Every after we didn’t work together, we stayed loyal to him, because we’re all from the same hood (The South Bronx). We wouldn’t want to have to come back to the hood and explain why we don’t work with Flash. But he don’t show any loyalty. For Flash to posture up on me like he invented toilet paper, that’s not the way to do things.
“When they inducted “The Message” in the Grammy Hall of Fame, they didn’t call Sugar Hill Records, they didn’t call me – they called Flash. And Flash was gonna induct the record in the Grammy Hall of Fame and they were gonna use LL (Cool J), Lupe Fiasco, Common and Rick Ross.
AllHipHop.com: Are you guys looking for a legal solution, because that’s what Scorpio said.
Grandmaster Melle Mel: Yeah, because we feel we should have the right to use the name “Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five,” because thats the only way we can get work. Nobody’s gonna book “The Furious Fives,” nobody’s gonna book “Grandmaster’s Furious Five,” nobody’s gonna book “Grandmaster Melle Mel And The Furious Five.” They are either gonna book “Grandmaster Flash” or “Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five.” Even if you take away the DJ, you still should be able to work under the name of the group.
AllHipHop.com: Does he own the whole name of the group – the whole name?
Grand Master Melle Mel: Not “Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five,” but his own name, because that’s who he is. You can do whatever you want with the Furious Five, because ain’t nobody gonna remember that anyway. In certain (international) territories we license “Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five.” At the end of the day, its worth fighting for. Its not like Flash was a great DJ and that’s how he’s known today. He’s known because he was in a great group that went on to do great music. That’s what he’s know for. Being a DJ didn’t get him that known. That’s why he’s the first DJ in the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame. Not because he was a good DJ, but because that’s the first (rap) group we want to put in the hall of fame. That’s what it is.
AllHipHop.com: Would y’all wanna work with him still to tour or is it just the fact that you and Scorpio just want to perform? Because, then people might feel cheated that they didn’t get the whole group if Flash is not a part of it.
Grandmaster Melle Mel: And you’re 100% right, but the reality of it is that Flash don’t work with the group. Like when we did the Grammy Hall of Fame. When they inducted “The Message” in the Grammy Hall of Fame, they didn’t call Sugar Hill Records, they didn’t call me – they called Flash. And Flash was gonna induct the record in the Grammy Hall of Fame and they were gonna use LL (Cool J), Lupe Fiasco, Common and Rick Ross. And the only reason we got on to do the record was because they had to call Joey (from Sugar Hill Records) to get the rights for the publishing. We were working with Joey at the time and he said they wouldn’t give them the rights unless we would be on the program to do “The Message.” Other than that, he would have done “The Message” with Common and them and that’s that. He don’t wanna work with us. And, at this point, I’m a grown man, I don’t necessarily wanna work with him either. Flash stands behind me, he always did.
“Nobody never kicked Flash out the group. Flash left the group after we did the Gold album for Elecktra. We all met out in the park. His exact words were: he’d help us do an album, but he didn’t want anybody using his name.”
If I don’t have no problem with that, he shouldn’t have no problem with that. In the past 15 years, he’s done thousands of shows, did about three albums – none of them you could wipe your a** with – that’s how garbage they are. At the end of the day, we deserve to work how he works, because I put in my work to make Grand Master Flash Grandmaster Flash. I don’t think he put in any work to make Melle Mell Melle Mel.
AllHipHop.com: What about the fact that Flash is a DJ and DJ’s tend to have more longevity. Like DJ Jazzy Jeff, he still does mad shows. Fresh Prince is now an actor, but as a rapper, he’s no-so-hot. Rappers have a different cycles than a DJ. If Flash is playing music, shouldn’t he be able to eat off that?
Grandmaster Melle Mel: I never said that I was mad at Flash for doing shows. If you go see Flash for doing a show, and the high point of his show is when they play “The Message,” he taking money out of my pocket. Because I could have been on that show. Flash is a little different than Kid Capri and Flex and all these guys. Flash is known for doing good records that he really didn’t do. Flash comes from a different paradigm. He comes from a great Hip-Hop group. If he does 200 shows, can’t nobody tell me at least 50 of them the promoter says, “What can we do to get the whole group here?” It has to happen, because every time that I do a show, they ask for Flash! It happens and he shuts it down. When you see the dude, he act like he’s Gladys Knight and I’m one of the back-up Pips. He treats me like I’m not even one of the original Pips. And I grew up with this dude. It almost makes me feel he’s not from the Bronx and he doesn’t have a connection on what’s going on there.
Its not like I ever had any cross words for Flash. Its like if he’s doing as good as he’s doing an I know I had something to do with him doing that good, he should show some kind of loyalty. And I’m not saying he should being doing it now, he should have done it 10, 15 f**kin’ years ago.
AllHipHop.com: Some of this is what I am hearing. So many people are hitting me up. Somebody told me – and I didn’t read this myself – that Flash wrote and autobiography where he claimed the Furious Five kicked him out the group and “left him for dead.” From there, he started doing a lot of drugs and almost died. From there, he got himself together and started DJ’ing again. Did that happen?
Grandmaster Melle Mel: No, that never happened. Nobody never kicked Flash out the group. Flash left the group after we did the Gold album for Elecktra. We all met out in the park. His exact words were: he’d help us do an album, but he didn’t want anybody using his name. From us being as close as we were, we didn’t even kick him out the group when it was brought to our attention that we should kick him out the group. Joe Robinson wanted us to kick him out the group when we did “Freedom.” Even when he was doing drugs, we kept that under the lid. Missed a couple of shows, we go do the show, nobody ever put him on blast. We never said we had to kick Flash out the group because he’s cracked up. Nobody would never do that.
He don’t work with Rahiem, Kid Creole or anybody. He’s doing shows all over the world, he’s getting credit for making “White Lines” and “The Message” and he wasn’t in the state of New Jersey (when they were recorded). Flash heard the records when everybody else heard the records – when they came on the records. None of the Sugar Hill records got scratching on them. “Flash one time, Flash two times” was me writing him into the record. That’s how the records came out like that. He knows that. He’ll take the glory, but he don’t wanna be a part of the grind. You’ll never hear Flash say, “I didn’t have nothing to do with ‘The Message.’ I didn’t have nothing to do with ‘White Lines.’ I never physically scratched on a Sugar Hill record other than ‘Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels of Steel’.”
AllHipHop.com: Rahiem (a member of the Furious Five at odds with Mel and Scorpio) had a lot to say on Facebook. Did you see that?
Grandmaster Melle Mel: No. A couple of people told me about it, but no. Its hard to buy into what Rahiem says. I never had a cross word with Rahiem, my brother (Kid Creole) – nobody. I think he’s just doing it to get some likes on Facebook. He has my number. And, anytime you see Rahiem – it ain’t like we have an argument.
AllHipHop.com: One thing he did say that was interesting – I ain’t gonna lie, a lot of what he said was interesting. But he said he was trying to get royalties back from Sugar Hill (Records).
Part 2 coming soon.