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"The Message" deemed greatest hip hop song ever

Inductees Grandmaster Flash (Joseph Saddler) (back) and The Furious Five perform during the 22nd annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction
Inductees Grandmaster Flash (Joseph Saddler) (back) and The Furious Five perform during the 22nd annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The 1982 hit "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was named the greatest hip hop song of all time on Wednesday, in the first such list by Rolling Stone magazine to celebrate the young but influential music genre.

"The Message," which tops a list of 50 influential hip hop songs, was the first track "to tell, with hip hop's rhythmic and vocal force, the truth about modern inner-city life in America," Rolling Stone said.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, a hip hop collective from the south Bronx in New York, was formed in 1978 and became one of the pioneers of the hip hop genre.

The full list spanned songs ranging from Sugarhill Gang's 1979 hit "Rapper's Delight," which came in at No. 2, to Kanye West's 2004 hit "Jesus Walks," which landed at No. 32.

"It's a list that would have been a lot harder to do ten or 15 years ago because hip hop is so young," Nathan Brackett, deputy managing editor of Rolling Stone, told Reuters.

"We've reached the point now where hip hop acts are getting into the (Rock and Roll) Hall Of Fame... it just felt like the right time to give this the real Rolling Stone treatment."

Rolling Stone's top 10 featured mostly hip hop veterans, such as Run-D.M.C.'s 1983 track "Sucker M.C.'s," Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's 1992 hit "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang," Public Enemy's 1990 song "Fight The Power" and Notorious B.I.G's 1994 hit "Juicy."

Other influential artists in the top 50 songs included Beastie Boys, who came in at No. 19 with "Paul Revere," and recordings by Jay-Z, Eminem, Missy Elliot, Outkast, Lauryn Hill, LL Cool J, Nas and the late rapper 2Pac.

The list of 50 songs was compiled by a 33-panel of members comprising Rolling Stone editors and hip hop experts. They included musician Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson of The Roots, who Brackett described as "an incredible encyclopedia" of both old and new hip hop knowledge.

Brackett noted that some songs considered to be one-hit wonders, such as Audio Two's 1988 hit "Top Billin'," made the final selection.

"The references in those songs become the building blocks of all these other songs down the road ... they become touchstones, really part of the meat of hip hop songs going forward," Brackett said.

The full list will be released online at RollingStone.com and in the pop culture magazine on newsstands on December7. The issue will feature four different covers of Eminem, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac.

(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant)

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