February is African American Heritage Month and WERS AT NIGHT is honoring one artist or one song every day this month that helped contribute to social consciousness, political responsibility, or civil rights. At WERS, we believe that these songs are always bigger than just entertainment; music can be used to drive a movement or even motivate a nation.
Make sure you check back every day for a new song or artist that helped contribute to the success or the consciousness of African Americans.
Today we have Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five with “The Message.” This song was released on July 1st, in 1982. At this time, hip-hop was new and still searching for an identity. The interesting thing is that up until that point the majority of hip-hop songs were dedicated to parties and rightfully so. There were so many bad things going on in inner city neighborhoods, that this new form of music was used as a release. People just wanted to have fun and get away from their troubles.
“The Message” became the first song to address issues going on in the ghetto that people were trying to ignore or just didn’t want to risk talking about to the public in fear of people hating the song. Melle Mel was the only rapper on this song but it was credited to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Melle Mel starts out the song with two of the most iconic bars in hip-hop history: “it’s like a jungle sometimes; it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.” He then goes on to iterate things he’s experienced growing up in the inner city projects while inserting his frustration on the hook by saying “don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head. It’s like a jungle sometimes; it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.”
Dealing with junkies, women becoming prostitutes, family members with lack of motivation, and black men being trapped into the prison system are some of the things that were touched on in other hip-hop songs but usually in a light way. Melle Mel used this song to really address these issues and make people think. It was done at the perfect time because hip-hop started spreading to the suburbs and mainstream media at this time. It allowed people with no experience of the ghetto to find out what it’s like from the safety of their record players and radios.
This song reached 62 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and Rolling Stone named it the #1 hip-hop song of all time. Melle Mel used the new and emerging platform of hip-hop to narrate what life growing up in the ghetto could be like. He created mass awareness to issues that were being ignored or neglected and started a conversation across the country about living conditions in the inner city.
Tune into 889@night at 10PM tonight to join us in celebrating this classic hip-hop song!