*Grandmaster Melle Mel whose most recent recording is “Some Kind of Sorry,” will be appearing at Lehman Center in the Bronx, for the Hip Hop Fever concert on Saturday, May 6th, at 8pm as part of the 40th Anniversary celebration of the nightclub Disco Fever, discussed with me his thoughts on the current direction of rap music.
“The current rap is too violent. I think there is not enough maturity in current rap. It is not necessarily hip hop in its truest form. Our version had nothing to do with violence. The hip hoppers of my time were having fun and being positive. We were out there partying and entertaining the crowd,” remarked Melle.
The genre of Hip Hop is part of a culture. DJs played all kind of music with obscure beats while the B-boys danced off the beats. The third element was the MCs who rapped off the DJ music making it more of an event, putting Hip Hop culture on the fast track. Now Hip hop is basically Pop culture.
When Melle and the artists of his era did Hip Hop it was part of a sub culture.
“Rap is just one discipline within the hip hop culture. The rapper just raps off music tailor-made for him. It is basically one type of music. In my day, Hip hop used everyone’s music. There was jams, jazz, RnB, reggae. Our version of hip hop even had soul music,” claimed the Grandmaster.
Melle Mel started his career rapping along with DJ Grandmaster Flash. It was Melle Mel, Kidd Creole, his brother, his schoolmate Scorpio and Cowboy from the same neighborhood. In fact, Cowboy is credited with originating the term “Hip Hop” which he used to describe the group’s technique of scat singing rap in a hip hop cadence. Rahiem was with the Funky Four but joined Melle’s group and that is how the Furious 5 was formed. “I have done some things more recently with Scorpio but basically the group went its own way. Cowboy passed away some years back. Although we have been talking about doing something together as a group in August. We’ll see if it really happens,” said Melle Mel.
“Where I find fault in rap music today is how African Americans are defined. It’s in a negative connotation. It’s too violent. All that gangster rap and sagging. That is not how Black people necessarily are. Where is the rap about a man taking his son to the park, working hard to get his child through college, working full time jobs? Black people do that everyday but rap makes it sound like Black people are out gang banging, doing drugs and violence. That does not represent Black people at all as a whole.”
Melle is socially involved working on school programs. He tells children there is opportunity if they work hard for it. “You cannot hustle your way out of the ghetto. We tell children they wont find success wearing ghetto urban wear, using ghetto names, speaking ghetto speak. That is not reality. If you want to make it in America you have to deal with folks outside of your race. You cannot go to jobs with your pants hanging down or speaking in ghetto lingo. You can survive and live in the ghetto but you cannot get out of the ghetto thinking you can make a success being ghetto. Among ourselves that is fine but if you want a real job, real success, you will have to conform.”
Mel, who is doing a European tour in May-July, narrated a book for children entitled The Portal In The Park with Lady Gaga contributing music toward the album that is included with the book.
FYI, Melle Mel’s hit song The Message was the first hip hop recording inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Melle Mel will be appearing with Rakim, The Sugarhill Gang, Rob Base, Sweet G, Grand Puba of Brand Nubian, Black Rob, Mr. Cheeks of Lost Boyz, Keith Murray, Black Sheep, Peter Gunz, Roxanne Shante, Cash Crew, Fonda Rae, Grandmaster Caz and Spoonie G at the May 6th Hip Hop Fever concert (sponsored by Fever Records in association with Lehman Center for the Performing Arts), located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY. For Tickets for HIP HOP FEVER call 718-960-8833 or go online at www.LehmanCenter.org.
Deardra Shuler has experience in theatre, music, concert promotion, television and publishing. She was affiliated with the Negro Ensemble Company and is a former manager of the children’s theatre,”TADA.” She has produced and promoted concerts in Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, and Radio City Music Hall.
Ms. Shuler is the former Editor and Managing Editor of three New York City minority newspapers. Presently, she is the Entertainment Editor of The Black Star News. As a freelance writer she writes for several New York City newspapers; including the Examiner, Amsterdam News and EURweb. Deardra has a column in California and is the former PR chairman for the FESPACO film festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Africa. She is presently program manager for BlakeRadio.com where she also hosts her own show “Topically Yours.”