Melvin Glover, better known by his stage name Melle Mel and Grandmaster Melle Mel, is a pioneer of hip hop music as he was the lead rapper and main songwriter for Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Melle Mel was the first rapper to call himself an “MC”, an abbreviation of “Master of Ceremonies.”
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five signed to Sugar Hill Records, and released numerous singles, and toured. In 1982, Melle Mel began to turn to more socially aware subject matter, in particular the Reagan administration’s economic and drug policies, and their effect on the black community. A song entitled “The Message” became an instant classic and of the first glimmers of conscious hip hop. Melle Mel is the only member of the group to appear on the record, but the song was still attributed to the group. Mel would go on to write songs about struggling life in New York City, and making it through life in general. Grandmaster Flash split from the group after contract disputes between Melle Mel and their promoter and label head Sylvia Robinson, in regard to royalties for “The Message”.
Mel became known as Grandmaster Melle Mel and formed the group Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five. The group went on to produce the anti-drug song “White Lines (Don’t Do It)”. The record was falsely credited to “Grandmaster + Melle Mel” by Sugar Hill in order to fool the public into thinking Grandmaster Flash had participated on the record. Mel then gained higher success after appearing in the movie Beat Street, with a song based on the movie’s title. He became the first hip hop artist to ever win a Grammy award for “Record of the Year” after performing a rap on Chaka Khan’s smash hit “I Feel for You”, which introduced hip hop to the mainstream hip hop audience. Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five had further hits with songs such as “Step Off”, “Pump Me Up”, “Vice” and “Jesse”.
Mel won two more Grammy awards for his work on the Quincy Jones albums Back on the Block and Q – The Autobiography of Quincy Jones. In March of that same year, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip hop group ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In his acceptance speech, Mel implored the recording industry members in attendance to do more to restore hip hop to the culture of music, art and unity that it once was, rather than the culture of violence that it has become.