|GRANDMASTER MELE MEL INTERVIEW PT 2 with Jayquan|
JayQuan: At the groups height (around the time after the Message) how did you compensate for some of the songs that only featured you – like “New York, New York”,”Survival” , “The Message” etc during live performances ?
Mele Mel : I would do my parts & Rahiem used to do all of Duke Bootees’ parts. As long as we was out there we was workin’ & the money was the same. As long as the records was hittin we all got paid the same thing so no one was trippin’. There were a lot of theatrics in the show. We created different situations to get the crowd sucked up into the drama of it.
JQ: When do you think drugs began to affect the performance/friendships in the group?
Mel: The thing that made us different from everyone else was our creativity. I think even early on before the drugs started to physically hamper what we were doin’ , we got caught up in getting high , and we stopped makin new routines. We used to make new routines weekly before we made records , but it got to a point where we did the same show for years. With Cowboy he didn’t get really bad until we started hangin’ out at the Fever. The Fever was the downfall of a lot of guys , and Cowboy is one who got caught up in that whole Fever era......unfortunately.
JQ: Did everyone in your new Furious 5 lineup get along after the split?
Mel: There were no problems , everyone got paid & it was cool. At first I was gonna put a whole new group together , but Scorp & Cowboy started goin’ out with me. We were splitting the money 3 ways , and then when the new members came they got paid real well , so it was probably the best gig that they ever had.
JQ: Im gonna name some songs , and as I name them gimme the first memory ,thought or bugged out story associated with the song…..
Freedom – When we first recorded Freedom Flash was cryin’ in the studio , and we thought he was buggin’ out. I guess since he didn’t do anything on the record he had a problem. We ‘bout to blow up and he is cryin’ like somebody did something to him. Sylvia and them wanted to kick him out of the group right on the spot ! We couldn’t do that cus that was our boy , and in the street Flash was the man.
It’s Nasty – When we did that “Genius Of Love” was a hot record , and Jeckyll & Hyde had a record out with the same beat . Their record was hot in the tri state area , then ours came out and broke nationally. I think that’s why Andre Harell don’t f*ck with us till this day.
The Message – Best rap record ever made….hands down. Sugarhill Gang was supposed to do that record. At the time nobody on the label had a big record , and everyone was in between records. Sugarhill Gang needed it more than us , but they didn’t wanna do it. We didn’t want to do it either. It was more like a poem than a song at first , and it had different music. Everything was there except the “Child Is Born” verse. Duke Bootee had written 2 songs – one was “Dumb Love” & the other was “The Message”. He liked “Dumb Love”. Sylvia said that she wanted The Message” for one of her groups , and she promised him Dumb Love on a solo record. He could have done the Message by himself , ‘cus no one else wanted to do it. But she really wanted it for one of her groups.
JQ : That “child is born" verse is a hella verse man. Moe Dee even gives it props in his “50 Greatest Emcees” Book .
Mel : Yeah that’s the Ghetto Bible man. All these cats runnin’ around tellin’ these stories ; that’s what they don’t tell. It’s the blueprint.
JQ: I know that Spoonie G wrote “Message II Survival” , are there any other joints written by someone else?
Mel : Ed Fletcher (Duke Bootee) wrote New York , “New York” ; but I re wrote some of the lyrics because they weren’t tight enough. Same thing with “Survival” . Spoonie wrote the initial song , but Sylvia didn’t like some of the lyrics , so I rewrote them.
JQ : So “the sky was cryin – rain and hail , when you put your baby in the garbage pail” who wrote that verse?
Mel : That’s my verse. The whole last verse was mine. I rewrote over half of “New York , New York”. Ed was a lil sketchy with that one. It was really unfinished. He may have had some of the first verse and the middle. He definitely had the hook.
JQ: Im 34 , so when you were droppin’ some of your heaviest verses I was 13 or 14 years old. It was heavy sh*t then , but it seems more relevant now , ‘cus a lot of the stuff came to pass. Like the clones & new world order stuff in “World War III”. Also when I listen to your verse on Beat Street Breakdown about Mussolini , Ghengis Khan etc etc. Those 3 songs (Beat St Breakdown / World War III / The Message) should be put in a time capsule for future generations. Isn’t "The Message" in the library of congress archives?
Mel : Yeah along with the first recordings of Edison , some former presidents ,The Beatles - the Message is the one rap song.
JQ : Like I said in my last interview with you , you were writing some dope sh*t around ’84 .Was there anything special happening around that time period?
JQ : Seriously?
Mel: (silence) ….basically…..back then we were doin our thing but a nig*a wasn’t burnt out. I could do the drugs and still think clearly. I had a lot of years to go before I would be burnt out….I guess it was just being creative , the drugs didn’t hamper that , and if you gave me an idea , I could just knock it down. I was just fortunate….World War III didn’t do that well commercially and Beat Street is Beat Street , but they were pretty good pieces.
JQ: I probably listened to the “Truth” more than anything on that lp back then. I remember wishing that you had done all of your production on that lp like that song. It was closer musically to what Run Dmc was doin’. But you went deep on some joints even later…like “Gangster Movies” , the verse about why brothers wear gold , and then you quoted some bible verses….dope sh*t.
Mel: I guess when you have talent , even when you are drinking, doing drugs or anything negative that talent is God given so its still there. You can still always think and create.
JQ: How do you feel that you are represented historically , as far as your contributions lyrically. Do you feel that you are in anyway underrated?
Mel: People will try to repackage it , and say who did what , but all the credit will go to the group anyway. People can break it down to individual group members , but I don’t put myself above the group. I was listening to Superrappin the other day , and I was damn near surprised myself at how we were passin’ the mic without a mistake & just flowin like one Emcee. So I don’t look at it by what my individual legacy is. But I will say that a lot of the younger rappers don’t really care to look back and get any history , because it will make them look smaller. If they see what we created from nothing then it makes their accomplishments seem not as big. Russell (Simmons) and all of ‘em wanted to be us. Andre Harrell and the whole group. Now they do everything they can to write us out of history. They want it to start with Run Dmc. I can’t even get those guys on the phone. If they did get on the phone with me it would just to be able to say “yeah I talked to Mel , there's nothin’ I can do for him”.
JQ: What (if anything) don’t you like about your catalog of music on the Sugarhill label?
Mel: After Beat Street everything sounded dated. Beat Street Breakdown was produced by Reggie Griffin so you could hear that different sound , but it seems like after that everything was dated. Sugarhill wanted to operate the same way that they did in the sixties. They wouldn’t shoot videos and promote. I remember DJ A.J. wrote “If I Ruled The World” and he wanted me to record it. Sylvia wouldn’t pay $5000 for the song. Stuff like that.
JQ: Heds always say that Mele Mel doesn’t like any Emcees. Is there anyone out there today who gets your respect on the mic.
Mel : The thing is , that some of these guys have good rhymes , but I don’t feel that they are entertainers. Like Nas I think he writes good , but he just stands on stage. Like if you could get 360 degrees as an Emcee , I see these guys as having 90 degrees. Same with Jay Z. He writes good. Biggie was a good writer , but the most he ever opened up was “Me & My B*tch”. Tupac was more talented than most as far as subject matter , but he lost points because he introduced that thug life & it brought the streets to its knees , and people are still imitating it.
JQ: People always talk about the difference between an Emcee and a rapper. Is there a difference , and what are your definitions?
Mel : Yes there is a difference. Emcees talk about rocking the mic , they motivate the crowd and they write rhymes. Rappers make songs/records; they are just recording artists.
JQ: I know that you just finished a new lp. Is there any social commentary , or is it mostly party songs?
Mel : I cover some of everything , party , social , boasting. I don’t have any guests because I am trying to show people me & where I am , and really just reinvent myself. Having a lot of guests will just cloud that up.
J.Q. Many people that I have talked to speak of times when “Flash wasn’t speaking to Furious” or “Furious had left Flash again”. Why were you guys and Flash always splitting up back in the days?
Mel: Because Flash always had his own salary from day one. Flash would get paid , and we had no idea what he got , he always set it up separate from the rest of us. He has always set his own salary . It’s almost like he wasn’t part of the group because he did his own thing as far as that went , and he consistently did this. We were on our own.
J.Q. Do you think that Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 will ever get back together?
Mel : Yes , there are just some things that we all have to take care of as men. But we will get back together us -WITH Flash !!!
© 2005 5 Mic Media /Furious Entertainment
As Told to JayQuan 4/3/05 No part may be copied or reproduced without authors consent.