Rap Enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The rap group Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five made music history Monday night, becoming the first hip-hop artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1982, their single The Message became rap's first mainstream hit.

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(Soundbite of song, "The Message")

Mr. GRANDMASTER FLASH (Vocalist, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five): (Singing) It's like a struggle sometimes. It makes me wonder how I keep from going under.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

When I was just a wee lass in New York City, people on the subway dressed like Parliament-Funkadelic but a new sound was coming. And by the time I reached elementary school in Baltimore, rap hit big time.

(Soundbite of song, "The Message")

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) A child is born with no state of mind. Blind to the ways of mankind. God is smiling on you but he's frowning too because only God knows what you'll go through. You'll grow in the ghetto, living second rate and your eyes will sing a song of deep hate. The places you're playin', where you stay looks like one great big alley way.

CHIDEYA: That's "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, one of the early hits of the hip-hop era. Member Melle Mel paints a picture of how the music came alive in urban New York.

Mr. MELLE MEL (Member, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five): It was us. You know inner city-based music but we used everybody's music. I mean we were playing "Walk This Way" and Bob James and, you know, Bob Marley, the Brecker Brothers. We played it all and we dance to it all and we rapped to it all. So, of course, it's appropriate for us to be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

CHIDEYA: And this week the pioneering rappers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with artists as diverse as R.E.M, Patti Smith and The Ronettes. Here's Grandmaster Flash on the honor, the first to go to a hip-hop group.

Mr. FLASH: I can remember at a point when I would look - when I would think about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame it was like this building that had a mote with sharks around it. You know, you could see it but you just couldn't get too close to it.

(Soundbite of song, "The Message")

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) It's like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.

CHIDEYA: Hip-hop music has longed since crossed the mote separating it from wider pop culture, and rap music has evolved plenty since the Furious Five recorded their anti-cocaine rap, "White Lines."

(Soundbite of song, "White Lines")

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) The more I see the more I do.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Something like a phenomenon…

Mr. FLASH: Baby

Unidentified Group: Tellin your body to come along, but white lines. Blown away.

CHIDEYA: But in an era of bling their music still influences hit-makers today and encapsulates a critical moment in rap's history. Congrats to the old school.

(Soundbite of song, "White Lines")

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) Ticket to ride white line highway. Tell all your friends they can go my way. Pay your toll, sell your soul. Pound for pound costs more than gold. The longer you stay, the more you pay. My white lines go a long way. Either up your nose or through your vein with nothing to gain except killing your brain.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Freeze. Rock. Freeze. Rock. Freeze. Rock. Freeze. Rock. Go.

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) Higher, baby.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) High.

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) Get higher, baby.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) High.

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) Get higher, baby, and don't ever come down.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Freebase. Orang dang diggedy dang di-dang. Orang dang diggedy dang di-dang. Orang dang diggedy dang di-dang diggedy dang di-dang diggedy dang di-dang pipe line.

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) Pure as the driven snow.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Connected to my mind.

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) And now I'm having fun, baby.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Pipe cries.

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) It's getting kinda low.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Cause it makes you feel so nice.

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) I need some one-on-one, baby.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Don't let it blow your mind away.

Mr. FLASH: (Singing) Baby.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) And go into your little hideaway

CHIDEYA: That's our show for today. And thanks for sharing your time with us. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Tomorrow, leading lady Alexis Herman on getting ready to take charge.

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