Kidd Creole was part of the legendary hip hop group Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five — a defining force in the early rap scene, who became the first hip hop group to land in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Creole, 57, whose real name is Nathaniel Glover Jr., was charged with murder in the stabbing of a homeless ex-con in Midtown, after he allegedly thought the man was hitting on him.
This is the first time Creole has found himself at the center of public attention since his hip hop group’s heyday back in the 1970s and ’80s. He most recently worked as a handyman and security guard in Manhattan.
But there was a time when Creole and his pals were New York City’s lyrical legends, defining the hip hop scene that has become so prominent today.
Here’s a look at Kidd Creole’s established music career in hip hop:
In 1976, DJ Grandmaster Flash recruited Creole, his brother Melle Mel and a friend, Cowboy, to form a music group. At this time, the trio called themselves the Three MC’s — soon after, they brought on Mr.Ness/Scorpio and Raheim and took on the name, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five.
Creole’s brother Melle was better known in the group, for his rhythmically precise rap lines. However, Kidd Creole was credited on a several of the group’s tracks as a composer and writer.
The five rapping MC’s plus Flash’s first record was “SuperRappin,” in 1979 on their first label, Enjoy. The South Bronx-formed group was known for the unique mix of rapping and the use of a DJ, which featured turntable and mixing equipment on the tracks (something typically common today). Flash was a pioneer of the break-beat DJ style.
The trio calling themselves the “Three MC’s” was reportedly the first time rappers used the term “MC” — or “Master of Ceremonies.”
The ’80s hits
The group’s establishing hit came in 1980 with “Freedom,” which landed on the R&B chart at #18 and ended up selling more than 50,000 copies, according to iTunes. This hit came after they had signed on to Sugar Hill Records.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five broke through to the mainstream with the 1982 single “The Message,” which landed at #5 on the hip hop charts and reached the Top 100 pop charts — proving hip hop had a home in the mainstream.
“‘The Message’ was (the first record) to prove that rap could become the inner city’s voice, as well as its choice,” Rolling Stone reported.
Flash himself questioned why people wanted to hear the record in a 1988 interview.
“It’s the only lyric-pictorial record that could be called ‘How Urban America Lived,'” he said.
“The Message,” which openly served as a commentary about life in the ghetto, was labeled an “acknowledged masterpiece” by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and is considered one of the top hip hop songs of all time.
Breakup and brief reunion
Legal disputes slowed the group’s success.
Grandmaster Flash sued Sugar Hill Records for $5 million in royalties in 1983. The legal battle, among other business disagreements, caused the band to split in two — one side led by Melle Mel and the other by Flash.
Eventually, they reunited in 1987 for a charity gig hosted by Paul Simon at Madison Square Garden and the six decided to put out a new album called “On the Strength” as a result. However, “On the Strength” was a flop and the band quickly dissolved after its lack of commercial success, according to iTunes.
In 1994, they reunited once more for a tour with a number of rap artists. Flash and Melle Mel — despite past bad blood — also reconnected to appear on a cover of their song “White Lines” by Duran Duran in 1995.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 — the first hip hop group to receive the honor. Two years prior, they were honored at the 2005 VH1 Hip Hop honors. Grandmaster Flash himself, thanks to his innovative ways of spinning, was honored with the BET Hip Hop Awards “Founders Award” in 2003.
“The origins of the DJ techniques of cutting, back spinning and phasing can be traced to the “steel wheels” of this innovative artist,” Billboard reported at the time.
The subjects of the group’s songs, mainly inner-city life in America, were mimicked by artists like Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, N.W.A, the Notorious B.I.G, according to Rolling Stone.
“Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge/I’m trying not to lose my head,” they rapped on “The Message.”
Jay-Z had the honor of inducting the group into the Hall of Fame 10 years ago and recited the famous line.
“Thirty years ago, the shot heard around the world was fired out of the South Bronx,” Jay-Z said of the Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s break out onto the scene. “It would change musical and cultural landscape forever: this thing was called hip hop.”
After the group was done for good, Kidd Creole drifted away from the music world. His only credited song after the band’s dismemberment is collaboration on “Heat Seeker Cipher” by DJ K Wiz in 2011.