Edward Fletcher, who under his pseudonym Duke Bootee largely created the founding hip-hop hit The message, died Jan. 13 at his home of heart failure in Savannah, Georgia, according to his wife. He was 69 years old.
The message was a huge breakthrough hit for Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, one of the first hip-hop groups to gain mainstream attention. The song was one of the first to look at serious issues, starting with its opening lines: “It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder
How I do not go out.
Fletcher began writing the song in 1980 while working at Sugar Hill Records as a studio musician. The label released the first records of Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, becoming one of the first big hits of the genre. Fletcher toured with the artists, contributed recordings, and composed music in what is considered the beginning of the commercial rap music business.
Raised in Elizabeth, NJ, Fletcher was inspired by the gritty industrial town and used his experiences in his music. He incorporated this into The message, write most of the song lyrics and melody.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were said to have been initially put off by the song. But pressure from the label led to her recording. The work has been credited
The song was an instant hit and has since been sampled hundreds of times, with Rolling Stone calling it the greatest song in hip-hop history.
Later in life Fletcher returned to teaching. He received an MA from the New School in Media Studies and Rutgers University in Education. He retired in 2019.