Melvin Glover (born May 15, 1961), better known as Melle Mel and Grandmaster Melle Mel, is an American hip-hop musician – one of the pioneers of rap as lead rapper and main songwriter for Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
Melvin Glover was born in The Bronx, New York City, New York. He has stated his mother is Cherokee.
Glover began performing in the late 1970s. He may be the first rapper to call himself MC (master of ceremonies). Other Furious Five members included his brother Kid Creole (Nathaniel Glover), Scorpio (Eddie Morris), Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams) and Cowboy (Keith Wiggins). While a member of the group, Cowboy created the term hip-hop while teasing a friend who had just joined the US Army, by scat singing the words "hip/hop/hip/hop" in a way that mimicked the rhythmic cadence of marching soldiers.
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five began recording for Enjoy Records and released "Superrappin'" in 1979. They later moved on to Sugar Hill Records and were popular on the R&B charts with party songs like "Freedom" and "The Birthday Party". They released numerous singles, gaining a gold disc for "Freedom," and touring. In 1982 Melle Mel began to turn to more socially-aware subject matter, in particular the Reagan administration's economic (Reaganomics) and drug policies, and their effect on the black community.
A song "The Message" became an instant classic and one of the first glimmers of conscious hip-hop. Mel recorded a rap over session musician Duke Bootee's instrumental track "The Jungle". Some of Mel's lyrics on "The Message" were taken directly from "Superrappin'". Other than Melle Mel, no members of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five actually appear on the record. Bootee also contributed vocals (Rahiem was to later lip sync Bootee's parts in the music video).
"The Message" went platinum in less than a month and would later be the first hip-hop record ever to be added to the United States National Archive of Historic Recordings and the first Hip Hop record inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Mel would also go on to write songs about struggling life in New York City ("New York, New York"), and making it through life in general ("Survival (The Message 2)"). Grandmaster Flash split from the group after contract disputes between Melle Mel and their promoter Sylvia Robinson in regard to royalties for "The Message". When Flash filed a lawsuit against Sugar Hill Records, the factions of The Furious Five parted.
Mel became known as Grandmaster Melle Mel and the leader of the Furious Five. The group went on to produce the anti-drug song "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)". An unofficial music video starred up-and-coming actor Laurence Fishburne and was directed by then-unknown film student Spike Lee). The record was falsely credited to "Grandmaster + Melle Mel" by Sugar Hill Records in order to fool the public into thinking Grandmaster Flash had participated on the record.
Mel gained greater fame and success after appearing in the movie Beat Street, with a song based on the movie's title. He performed a memorable rap on Chaka Khan's smash hit song "I Feel for You" which introduced hip hop to a wider and more mainstream R&B audience. Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five had further hits with "Step Off", "Pump Me Up", "King of the Streets", "Jesse", and "Vice", the latter being released on the soundtrack to the TV show Miami Vice. "Jesse" was a highly political song which urged people to vote for then presidential candidate Jesse Jackson.
In 1988, after an almost 4-year layoff, Mel and Flash reunited and released the album On The Strength, but with up-and-coming new school artists such as Eric B. & Rakim, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, and Big Daddy Kane dominating the hip-hop market, the album failed miserably. Mel performed with The King Dream Chorus and Holiday Crew on "King Holiday" aimed at having Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday declared a national holiday. Mel also performed with Artists United Against Apartheid on the anti-apartheid song "Sun City" which was aimed at discouraging other artists from performing in South Africa until its government ended its policy of apartheid. Mel ended the decade by winning two Grammy Awards for his work on Quincy Jones' Back On The Block and Q – The Autobiography of Quincy Jones albums.
In 1996, Mel contributed vocals to the US edition of Cher's hit "One By One". Their version is only available on the maxi CD format.
In 1997, Melle Mel signed to Straight Game Records and released Right Now, an album which features Scorpio (from the Furious Five) and Rondo. This album took more of a harder rap style. It barely sold at all in the US and the UK.
In 2001, under the name Die Hard, he released the song "On Lock" with Rondo on the soundtrack of the movie Blazin. Die Hard released an album of the same name in 2002 on 7PRecords.
On November 14, 2006, Mel collaborated with author Cricket Casey and released the children's book The Portal In The Park, which comes with a bonus CD of his rapped narration. It also features two songs, "World Family Tree" and "The Fountain of Truth", by a then unknown Lady Gaga performing with Mel. The book was re-released in 2010. Also in 2006, Melle Mel attended professional wrestling school. In 2007 (at age 45), he stated in an interview with allhiphop.com that "I'm going to try to take some of John Cena's money and get with WWE and do my thing".
On January 30, 2007, Mel released his first ever solo album, Muscles. The first single and music video was "M3 – The New Message". On March 12, 2007, Melle Mel and The Furious Five (joined by DJ Grandmaster Flash) became the first rap 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 and art that it once was, rather than the culture of violence that it has become. He added, "I've never been shot, I've never been arrested, and I've been doing hip hop all my life. I can't change things all by myself. We need everybody's help, so let's do it and get this thing done."
On October 10, 2008, Mel appeared on Bronx-based culinary adventure show Bronx Flavor alongside host Baron Ambrosia. In the episode "Night at the Bodega", he appears as a spiritual mentor to sway the Baron from his over-indulgent ways and get him on the right path to success.
In April 2011, it was revealed that he would take part in a new hip hop/pro wrestling collaboration, the Urban Wrestling Federation. Its first bout "First Blood" was recorded in June 2011.
Mel also appeared in Ice T's 2012 hip hop documentary Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap.
In August 2015, Mel appeared with Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Caz in Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's song and music video "Downtown".
In May 2016, Mel and Scorpio, performing as Grandmaster's Furious Five ft. Melle Mel & Scorpio) released their single "Some Kind of Sorry".
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