Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Duke Bootee Dead at 69

Duke Bootee, the pioneering rapper who co-wrote and appeared on Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s classic “The Message” — Number One on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time — died Wednesday at the age of 69.

Born Edward Fletcher, the rapper died at his home in Savannah, Georgia. The cause was end-stage congestive heart failure, his wife, Rosita, confirmed to Rolling Stone.

Fletcher served as a member of Sugar Hill Records’ house band alongside fellow New Jersey funk veterans like bassist Doug Wimbish, guitarist Skip Alexander, and keyboardist Jiggs Chase, the latter of whom recruited Fletcher for Sugar Hill Records.

Fletcher originally wrote the song in 1980, detailing the struggles of inner-city life amid a New York transit strike that year. Although “The Message” is credited to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the song — then titled “The Jungle” — was the brainchild of Fletcher, who submitted a demo of the track while a session musician for the Sugar Hill Gang. Grandmaster Flash and Co. were initially reluctant to record the song due to its lack of club appeal, but Sugar Hill Records label head Sylvia Robinson persuaded Furious Five member Melle Mel to write verses for the track. Soon after becoming a hit in 1982, the song would singlehandedly give mainstream hip-hop music a social and political consciousness.

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