Rapper Duke Bootee, Who Co-Wrote The Hip-Hop Classic ‘The Message,’ Is Dead At 69

Duke Bootee, born Edward Fletcher, died this past Wednesday at the age of 69 following end-stage congestive heart failure. His wife Rosita confirmed the news as well as his cause of death to Rolling Stone. Fletcher was best known for co-writing and appearing on Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s classic record, “The Message,” a song that has been widely celebrated in the hip-hop world since its release in 1982. Two decades later, in 2002, it became the first hip-hop record to be added to the National Registry and a decade after that, Rolling Stones ranked it at No. 1 on its list of the 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs Of All Time.

Fletcher would speak about “The Message” during a 2013 interview with The Guardian. “The neighborhood I was living in, the things I saw — it was like a jungle sometimes in Elizabeth, New Jersey,” he said. “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.” He added, “Rappers then were in their late teens and made feel-good, upbeat songs to party to, so this was completely new.”

He would eventually step out of the music business in the 1990s and take up teaching. He began as a high school teacher and college professor in New Jersey before he moving to Savannah, GA, in 2007. There, he became a Critical Thinking & Communication lecturer at Savannah State University up until his retirement in 2019.

(via Rolling Stone)