Melle Mel & Big Daddy Kane Vouch For Macklemore & Say Other Rappers Should “Hang Their Heads”
Throughout the last 10 days, a lot of attention has fallen upon Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Downtown.” Already a video single from the Seattle, Washington, Grammy Award-winning, platinum act, the pair performed the song to open the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards two Sundays ago (August 30). Perhaps most pertinently, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis included the song’s guests, three pioneering Hip-Hop MCs: Grandmaster Caz (of the Cold Crush Brothers), Kool Moe Dee (of the Treacherous Three), and Grandmaster Melle (of the Furious 5).
Upon the performance, an air of speculation surrounding Macklemore’s motives for calling upon the Rap pioneers prompted Big Daddy Kane (who played a role arranging the collaboration) to speak out. The often even-keeled, smooth Brooklyn, New York lyrical legend showed anger on Instagram, as race and appropriation was called into play. In response, XXL magazine featured a powerful round-table discussion with Kane, Kool Moe Dee, and Caz.
Macklemore’s song guests reveal they are recording a Three Kings album to accompany their recent touring, and Moe Dee is back in the lab with Teddy Riley. Meanwhile, K.M.D., Mel, and B.D.K. made some powerful remarks about the perception of pioneers, ageism, and why Macklemore & Ryan Lewis made a conscious decision to do what their gold and platinum peers allegedly aren’t.
“I know for a fact that J. Cole or Kendrick Lamar or Rick Ross or Jay Z or any of these cats, they would not have done [what Macklemore & Ryan Lewis did]. Ever,” said Bronx, New York legend Melle Mel. “And all those other so-called ‘real cats,’ they should hang their heads. Because somebody should have done it by now. They could have reached back to any of us.” In 1989, 26 years ago, Melle Mel (and Kool Moe Dee) worked extensively on Quincy Jones’ Back On The Block album. While many of his musical achievements and songs have been adapted in contemporary times, the feature work has been limited. The 1970s alum born Melvin Glover continued, “If you’re making records and you say you’re Hip-Hop, you’re supposed to have a connection to what Hip-Hop really is. And nobody made that connection until Macklemore made the connection.” Mel stated that this point is paramount to the perception that “the white boy used the O.G.’s,” an opinion he says he’s heard.
In 2007, Melle Mel was inducted into Cleveland, Ohio’s Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame care of the estranged Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 band. They were the first Hip-Hop group to earn this distinction. In the interview, the BX native values his place alongside The Beatles and Chuck Berry. Mel stressed that Hip-Hop, as an industry and as a culture needs to recognize “Downtown” as a trend. “It’s gonna get to a point where to go forward, you’re gonna have to reach back,” he deduced. “We’ve been getting a lot of work that we’ve never got in years because of the simple fact of radio stations switching over their format to classic Hip-Hop and R&B. It’s like Hip-Hop has gone into ‘oldie-but-goodie’ mode. So the genre is being cherished from the beginning as well as the end. [It’s] almost like you got a second shot at greatness.”
Big Daddy Kane, who rose to prominence in the mid-1980s, following Mel, Caz, and Moe Dee’s late 1970s and early 1980s breakthrough, says that the industry tends to have a short stick in pointing backwards. “Whenever a new artist reaches out and says that they want a legend on their song, they’re normally talking about Jay Z or Nas. If they use the term ‘old school artist, they’re normally talking about me, Rakim or Kool G Rap, somebody like that,” explained Kane, who has worked with all the artists he mentioned, in varying capacities. “What this brother [Macklemore] did was he reached out to the real legends.” Kane, who also was involved in Q’s Back On The Block, contextaulized, “When you’re talking about [Grandmaster] Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz, you’re talking about the Ray Charles’, Quincy Jones’ of the game. We’re talking about the inventors.” Kane pointed to the discographies. “No other rapper in this current era of Hip-Hop has done that: reached back to the people that invented this thing that everybody else is getting paid off and paying homage this way.”
On 2001’s Kanye West-produced “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” Jay Z rapped about the Cold Crush Brothers, claiming he over-charges for his services because Caz and his band were not properly compensated. Additionally, the very same multi-platinum album, The Blueprint, sampled Mel’s Sugar Hill Records peers, the Crash Crew on “Girls, Girls, Girls.” Two years prior, Will Smith and Dru-Ha heavily sampled a 1999 rendition of Moe Dee’s “Wild Wild West” into a Top 5, gold-certified chart hit. Moe Dee re-performed his vocals in Smith’s soundtrack hit. But perhaps to Kane’s point, that was more than 15 years ago.
Do you think Hip-Hop’s current stars are doing enough for the first generation pioneers?