LOS ANGELES — The fourth annual Grammy nominations concert Wednesday night (November 30) will include a special performance nearly three decades in the making. Rappers LL Cool J, Common and Lupe Fiasco will join Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five members Melle Mel and Scorpio for the group's classic "The Message" during "The Grammy Nominations Concert Live!! Countdown to Music's Biggest Night."
The generations-spanning ensemble hit rehearsals hard Tuesday afternoon at the Nokia Theatre, using every minute available to practice. That meant squeezing in extra rehearsal time in a lower-level lobby before they even jumped onstage. While Rick Ross had previously been announced as a performer, he was not present at Tuesday's rehearsals. Ross' absence was hardly felt however, as the cast of all-stars had plenty of energy to fill the massive theatre.
"Rehearsals [are] a lot fun," said LL Cool J, who's pulling double duty, also acting as the show's host.
"Been rehearsing with Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, Scorpio, Common and Lupe Fiasco working on this 'Message' thing, and it's an honor."
Lupe Fiasco seemed to have no qualms with doing another tribute performance (you know, after that VH1 Hip Hop Honors situation a few years ago), which can most likely be attributed to the confidence-boosting of the group's maestro, Grandmaster Flash.
"You'll see, my position is to make sure that everything's moving, everything's flowing," Flash said. "Make sure rappers are entertaining all sides of the room — center, left, right. Everybody got their lines: We have new rappers that are doing the lyrics to the song, to make sure that they're quite comfortable with it. I had a deep conversation with Common, and I had a deep conversation with Lupe, like, 'Are you guys comfortable? Do you really, really feel comfortable?' It's the way that I used to do it when it was Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five as a group."
Lupe Fiasco joked, "Grandmaster Flash is like a drill sergeant. He's like, 'Let's do it again, do it again, let's do it again, do it again.' He's like, 'You got it? No? Let's do it again. Hold up — let's do it again, let's do it again.' So, that was cool." For LL, who remembers first hearing "The Message" on a boombox in his neighborhood as a youngster, taking part in the performance is like reliving his childhood. "I liken it to a kid who's in a rock band in the garage and now he's onstage with [Mick] Jagger," he said. "That's what this is like for hip-hop."
While LL and his counterparts were ecstatic to be part of this special performance, Melle Mel and Scorpio, founding members of the Furious Five, were equally excited to be sharing the stage with their successors.
"They took a song that even ultimately wasn't their song, but they're so passionate about it," Scorpio said. "They wanted to keep practicing and practicing, and just to see that blew my mind because that's our natural format — Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five — practice, practice, practice. But for them to keep doing it to wanna get it right, it's an honor."
Catch the special performance — along with Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Usher, Ludacris, Sugarland and more — at 10 p.m. ET/PT Wednesday night (November 30) on CBS.