Songfacts®: You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.
This old-school rap song is famous for the chant, "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. We don't need no water, let the motherf--ker burn." While the chant has been used in movies, dance competitions and live shows by various Funk or Rap artists (It's a staple of P-funk shows), the song remains fairly obscure, as it took years for the chant to enter the pop culture landscape.
The group was from the Bronx, and gained notoriety performing around the East Coast and at local block parties. They recorded just three songs: "It's Life (You Gotta Think Twice)" in 1983, followed by "Request Line" and "The Roof Is On Fire." One of the members was Greg Wigfall, who left in 1985 and became a Connecticut state trooper, while the other members continued to perform. When we spoke with Greg about the song
, he told us: "Back in the early part of '83, as a group, we came together and we put the song together, wrote the lyrics and everything. And that was it. It was a real simple song. It wasn't a difficult write."
This song first appeared as the B-side of of the group's 1984 single "Request Line." This first version of the song had the famous "burn motherf--ker burn" chant, which meant radio stations couldn't play it - the label on the record even warned club DJs about the explicit ending (the chant doesn't come in until about 4:20). In 1985, the song was released as "The Roof Is On Fire (Scratchin')" on the A-side and "The Roof Is On Fire (Jivin')" on the flip; both of these were clean - one member of the group says they did a clean version in an attempt to get on Soul Train. Subsequent remixes of the song usually contain the R-rated chant, sometimes at the beginning of the song instead of the end. Subscription services and satellite radio don't have to abide by those pesky broadcast regulations, so "burn motherf--ker, burn" is allowed.
The group wrote this song with their producer/manager Jerry Bloodrock. The Dynamic Three were Charles Pettiford (Charlie Prince), Gregory Wigfall (MGB, aka Master Blaster Greg) and Richard Fowler (Slick Rick). Their DJ was Mark Scott, who Jerry Bloodrock dubbed "Rock Master Scott" after the "Rock" in his name. Scott doesn't appear on the writing credits for any of their tracks, although Bloodrock and the rappers do. Whose name got on those credits was often rather shady and political, and it's unclear why Scott was left out - Wigfall tells us that Scott did help with the song. "The Roof Is On Fire" became a big earner when the song found its way into movies and was frequently sampled.
It was Jerry Bloodrock and Charles Pettiford who came up with the "roof is on fire" chant. From the start, it had the "let the motherf--ker burn" line in it, even though this poisoned it for radio. When they released a clean version of the song, it got airplay on WBLS, where the pioneering DJ Mr. Magic (John Rivas) had the "Rap Attack" show. Rivas worked with Bloodrock at his previous radio station, WHBI in Trenton, New Jersey.
In 1984, the DJ was still king, and much of this song follows the template of the rappers hyping the DJ (Rock Master Scott). Wigfall says, "Back then you had Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Rock Master Scott and the Dynamic Three. It was the DJ's name who led the secondary name, which was the rapper, and that's just how we did it back then. We always led with our DJ. There were many times we did shows and nobody even mentioned the Dynamic Three. We were called Rock Master Scott and that was it. So we would go places and that was our name, Rock Master Scott."
The Bloodhound Gang used the chant as the basis for their 1996 song "Fire Water Burn
." This song was used in the Michael Moore movie Fahrenheit 9/11
Some of the song that have sampled this: "Hey Boy Hey Girl" by The Chemical Brothers, "Cool Breeze On The Rocks" by De La Soul, "More Than U Know" by Prince Paul.
The Slick Rick in this group is not the same Slick Rick of "La-di-Dah-di We Like To Party" fame. The Dynamic Three Slick Rick billed himself as "The Original Slick Rick" - he sounds very different from the other Rick, who is British.
The country sweetheart opines about the demands of touring and talks about writing songs with her famous father.
Andy McClusky of OMD
Known in America for the hit "If You Leave," OMD is a huge influence on modern electronic music.
They Might Be Giants
Who writes a song about a name they found in a phone book? That's just one of the everyday things these guys find to sing about. Anything in their field of vision or general scope of knowledge is fair game. If you cross paths with them, so are you.