Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five – The Message


The Message is the debut studio album by American hip hop group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, released on October 3, 1982 by Sugar Hill Records. It features the influential title track and hip hop single “The Message“.

Release and reception

The Message was released in October 1982 by Sugar Hill Records. The album charted at number 53 in the United States and at number 77 in the United Kingdom.

Reviewing in December 1982 for The New York TimesRobert Palmer hailed The Message as the year’s best album and explained that while the emerging rap genre had often been criticized for confining itself to “bragging and boasting … The Message is different. It’s a gritty, plain-spoken, vividly cinematic portrait of black street life…social realism has rarely worked well in a pop-music context, but The Message is an utterly convincing cry of frustration and despair that cannot be ignored.” Robert Christgau ranked it as the 21st best album of 1982 his list for The Village Voices annual Pazz & Jop critics’ poll. In Christgau’s Record Guide: The ’80s (1990), he wrote that, although “She’s Fresh” is the “only instant killer”, each song’s attempt to experiment and “touch a lot of bases with a broad demographic … justifies itself”.

According to music journalist Tom Breihan, The Message was a “singles-plus filler cash-in” that proved “a fascinating time capsule of rap’s early attempts with the album format” as well as “a full-length artistic breakthrough, a rap album that earned respect on its own terms”. In a retrospective review, AllMusic‘s Ron Wynn called it the “ultimate peak” for Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, naming the title track as its highlight. Miles Marshall Lewis, reviewing the album’s 2002 British reissue in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), cited “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” as the “clincher” and “the only prime-period example of Flash’s ability to set and shatter moods, with his turntables and faders running through a collage of at least 10 records that sound like hundreds.”Mark Richardson from Pitchfork said that The Message featured “two absolutely essential songs”—the title track and “Scorpio,” which he dubbed “the greatest early electro track.” However, he felt the rest of the songs were inferior. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Retrospective professional reviews
Review scores
Source Rating
Christgau’s Record Guide: The ’80s A–
Encyclopedia of Popular Music
The New Rolling Stone Album Guide
Pitchfork 6.4/10
Tom Hull – on the Web A−