Duke Bootee — Co-Writer of Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" — Dead at 69
Published Jan 15, 2021Duke Bootee — co-writer and rapper on Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's early hip-hop classic "The Message" — has passed away. He died from end-stage congestive heart failure on Wednesday (January 13). Duke Bootee was 69.
Born Edward Fletcher, the artist died at his home in Savannah, GA, as confirmed by his wife Rosita to Rolling Stone.
Best known for his work as a member of Sugar Hill Records' house band, Fletcher's work on the politically charged 1982 song "The Message" (previously titled "The Jungle") inspired samples by numerous artists over the years, including Canadian vaporware producer Blank Banshee on "Teen Pregnancy," a remix of Ice Cube's "Check Yo Self" and the 1997 song "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" by Puff Daddy. The song was also featured in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
"The neighbourhood I was living in, the things I saw — it was like a jungle sometimes in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Even though we lived in a nice area, I'd sit in the living room and watch things happening across the street in the park. The lyrics were sort of cinematic: I tried to hold a message up to society," Fletcher said of the career-defining track in an interview with The Guardian.
"The Message" would later be the first hip-hop song to be added to the National Registry.
In 1983, Fletcher and Furious Five member Melle Mel reunited to record "Message II (Survival)." Listen to both of the classic tunes below.
During his music career, Fletcher produced and mixed works from Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Diddy, Dr. John and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones.
In his later years, Fletcher would go on to earn his teaching certification and became an educator at Savannah State University in Georgia. He began teaching Critical Thinking and Communication at the school in 2014.