Revisiting the Furious Five's Unsung Classics With Rahiem & Kidd Creole

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Saturday night, B.B. Kings will be rocked by one of the most important hip-hop groups ever when the Furious Five take the stage to perform their iconic and infinitely important hits and classic routines. While plenty of hip-hop retrospectives in the past year have revisited and celebrated "The Message" and "White Lines (Don't Do It)" as mandatory hip-hop listening, it would be a huge mistake to forget how many great singles the group released. We spoke to members Rahiem and Kidd Creole on the making of five of their other classic singles.

"We Rap More Mellow," 1979

Rahiem: Around that time, the climate of the still pretty new hip-hop culture had producers who hung out at local hip-hop events and began to approach certain prolific hip-hop artists to make records. We were very eager and excited to release a record. We were approached by a small relatively unknown label called Brass Records. I found out it was released while shopping in Fordham Road in the Bronx when I heard it blasting out of the speakers at a record shop. I ran in as it had just finished playing, asking the guy behind the counter for a copy. I asked for the new single by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, he said he didn't know who that was and that the song was made by "The Younger Generation."

Kidd Creole: When we first started, we didn't have any concept of recording. We were so outside that concept, we didn't understand we could just take one of our routines and make a record. We didn't know how to condense an eight hour party into a single. After "Rapper's Delight" came out, we realized we could make one of our routines a song. We signed with Brass Records' Terry Lewis (NOT to be confused with the Terry Lewis of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis fame) and he wanted to change the name to The Younger Generation. I don't know why, it didn't make any sense, we already had our reputation. We started as the Furious Four and whenever we got into a conflict with another group or management, we got ferocious and got into a fervor.

Rahiem: We went to the producer's apartment, he lived in a housing project called Moore Houses in the Bronx. The locks were missing, and one of us leaned on the door as it swung open and there was no furniture there. The fake Terry Lewis was never seen or heard from again.

"Superrappin'," 1979

Kidd Creole: We looked at "Superrappin'," the original joint as 12 minutes long. We still didn't get the concept of taking one of our routines and making it into a song, so we took a few of our routines and made some rhymes, and instead of making three or four minute song, made a 12 minute song. It's still condensed from eight hours, but was mad long.

Rahiem: This was the summer of '79. We found out about Enjoy Records because we had heard Spoonie Gee signed to Enjoy and he had put out "Spoonin' Rap." We were eager to put out another record after not having been in complete control with Brass where I don't recall having a contract, just a studio and a band. We actually did "Superrappin'" and "Freedom" in one-take, because those lyrics were lyrics we would perform every weekend, so in the studio it was second nature to perform. They set up five mics in the studio, so we went in the booth collectively and put our lyrics down for our "Switch overs," [the technique of rapping in succession to "make five MCs sound like one."]

"Freedom," 1980

Rahiem: This was the first single on Sugar Hill. For the productivity of the group at the time, we could have recorded more than one song at the studio, but that wasn't the focus. We wanted to do the best one recording that we could, mixing it and mastering it to tweak it in a way so it would be radio ready. Initially we weren't focused on recording an album, we were doing singles as a litmus test for later releases.

Kidd Creole: That's when we started to come up with some original switch-overs and legitimate records. Not just recording routines. "Freedom" is my favorite. We were able to exhibit all of our styles. When we made "Survival" or "New York, New York," that was just Melle Mel and Duke Bootee trying to re-create "The Message." But when we made "Freedom," we had switch-overs, ad-libs and everybody was on the record.

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