Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five - The Message - 1982

Primarily purchased for title track "The Message," there are other reasons to listen to this LP, and some reasons not to ever, ever, ever.  First, if you are reading this here blog, the VVers have confidence that you know "The Message" and don't have to indulge.  It is epic, with lyrics and beats that have been sampled over and over in the three decades since its release.  "It's like a jungle sometimes / It makes me wonder how I keep from going under."  For the first time, social commentary enters hip-hop; no longer just party/dance anthems a la the disco era.  Get reacquainted with "The Message," it handily surpasses your memory of the song.

Good reasons to listen to the rest of this LP:
"She's Fresh" starts with some energetic horns followed by some sweet synths over their name call-outs.  "Sock it sock it so I can sock it to ya!"  Most of these lyrics have been sampled a million times, but generally they are just plain bad.  "You're supposed to be on the dance floor not thinking about it," says VVer #1.

Next track, "It's Nasty," may just have you completely forget what you're listening to because it starts with a straight lift from Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love."  That sampled track, from only a year prior is prominently featured throughout this one.  "It's Nasty" manages to conjure Funkadellic with some disco and talking/laughing overdub.  This works well while also incorporating some pretty legit individual solos in a proto-Wu Tang style: everyone gets a solid verse and shout-out.

It's like hip-hop discovered the vocodor for the first time in "Scorpio."  This one is just completely relentless.  Vocodor!!!  Super computerized vocals with an abundance of laser-beams blasting your brains to putty leads to uncontrollable weird break dancing.  The dancing can't be stopped, but you may want to stop the music before this track is over to save your ass from getting hit by a laser-beam being shot out of your speakers.  Pyow pyow ZAPPP!

The Bad:
"It's a Shame" is mediocre.  It isn't good; the clap-track and weak singing really hold this one back.  There are some thoughtful lyrics, but meh.

"Dreamin'" and "You Are" start off the B-side and are worthy of a Kurtis Blow B-side.  This is not the sort of thing to be bragging about.  In fact, "Dreamin'" is actually worse than a KB B-side (the VVers almost went directly into a coma listening to it).  Thoughts that come to mind: mute buttons, dying cat, running into rush-hour traffic, testicular cramping.  The crooning on this is stupendous-horrendous.  Apparently, the group's got a monster man-crush on Stevie Wonder because they're "dreamin about you Stevie."  This song is a joke, right?  Why would they keep this on the LP?  GMF + FF: don't you have friends?  Maybe they should have stuck with the EP and skipped these filler tracks that were so common in the early days of the hippity-hop.  Following this up is "You Are": schmaltzy R and B at its worst.

These two tracks singlehandedly made the VVers want to listen to some bad KB B-sides because in comparison, it sheds a new positive light on them.  Were bad B-sides a thing in the early 80s?  VVer #2 wants to take knife to these two tracks so they can never be played again.  What's sad is that they hid "The Message" at the end of side B and you have to listen to all this shit before you get the goods.  Is this a metaphor for their socially conscious "message" that after a lot of bad could come good?  Ugh, furious VVers.  The VVers got the message, which is -- this LP has got to go.

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