Macklemore & Ryan Lewis brought “Downtown” to downtown L.A. at the 2015 VMAs, but they didn’t come alone. Aside from singer Eric Nally, the Seattle duo were also accompanied by super influential rap vets Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel and Kool Moe Dee.
The three MCs have been inspiring rappers like Jay Z and Nas for decades but we can’t blame those who aren’t familiar with them. After all, these legends made their names in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s — long before many of us were born. So, we put together a little rundown of who these pioneers are and why you should get familiar.
Hometown: Bronx, NY What You Need To Know: Grandmaster Caz made his name ghostwriting long before Drake and Meek started beefing. In fact, he reportedly penned a portion of Sugar Hill Gang’s classic “Rapper’s Delight.” You might recall Jay Z also name checked Caz’s Cold Crush Brothers rap crew back on “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).” And now, thanks in part to Macklemore, it looks like his influence is as strong as ever.
Grandmaster Melle Mel
Hometown: Bronx, NY What You Need To Know: Long before Melle Mel flexed his muscles in the Macklemore clip, the MC rocked mics as a member of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. You might remember them from the forever classic “The Message,” which has inspired so many rappers — from Ice Cube to Diddy — that it’s hard to count. He’s even been in films, showing up in “Beat Street,” the 1984 film that helped introduce the world to the elements of hip-hop.
Kool Moe Dee
Hometown: New York, NY What You Need To Know: Kool Moe Dee is a trailblazer. He was one of the first MCs to win a Grammy and the first rapper to ever perform at the annual event. Born Mohandas Dewese, he also opened the doors for battling thanks to feuds with Busy Bee Starski and LL Cool J. Both are still known as some of the biggest beefs in rap history — and this was way before Jay Z and Nas went at it.